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Archive for San Diego

Hotel Del – Coronado Island, San Diego – 2012 Christmas Tree

Visiting some of the more famous trees at Christmas time is such a pleasure. Click the tree several times to see the full image and zoom in on some of the decor. Happy Holidays, everyone!

This is a photo of the main Christmas tree in the lobby of the Hotel Del, Coronado Island, San Diego, CA.

Hotel Del Christmas Tree 2012

Urban Foraging in San Diego, CA – “Annie’s Rose Canyon Wild Mustard”

My friend and neighbor, Kieth Beatty, who is a retired biochemist, causally invited me to go pick mustard down the street in Rose Canyon here in San Diego. What a strange idea, I thought at first, then I got excited about the notion of a short hike into the canyon down the street from where we live. I’m not a big mustard fan, but I was game to try my hand at foraging in Nature; after all, 2012 is right around the corner and maybe it’s time I learn a thing or two about living off the land…heh-heh…and to learn what the expression “it doesn’t cut the mustard” means.
Watch Kieth cut the mustard!

This is a photo of mustard growing in Rose Canyon Mustard, San Diego, CA.

Keith contemplating where to start picking.

This is a photo of Kieth Beatty picking mustard flowers in Rose Canyon, San Diego, CA.

30 minutes of picking yields about 5 oz. of mustard.

At 8AM we marched down the street with brown paper bags in hand and Keith began educating me on mustard. It’s been in the human diet for as long as scientists and researchers can determine. It has few predators, snails for one, and returns each year.

Mustard stems are delicate and when they die back, the stem is fragile and breaks easily. If something couldn’t cut the mustard, it was generally useless as a tool.

This is a photo of wild mustard growing in San Diego, CA.

The patch of mustard flowers I harvested.

Keith tends to think in terms of anti-aging, antioxidants, vitamins and getting enough natural stuff in his diet to be healthy.  He looks at plants for their concentrated goodness as only Nature can provide. In particular, he seeks out sources of lutein which is a yellow pigment found in fruits, veggies and other plants like mustard which are critical for the well being of the eyes. A mere 6 mg of lutein per day is all you need to greatly reduce your risk of macular degeneration. Why not have healthy eyes?

This is a photo of the mustard plant.

Mustard Up Close and Personal

Mustard is delicate and the flowers and seeds at the top of the stem are lovely and soft. It is easy to pinch them off and just as easy to harvest the large spiky leaves at the bottom. Most animals won’t touch mustard as it is bitter. Humans have figured out that adding vinegar to the leaves neutralizes the bitterness and makes the greens palatable. Most gourmet mustard today has wine vinegar in them and today I used a white wine vinegar from Italy to make my mustard.

This is a photo of the nettles we crushed getting to the mustard.

Crushed Nettles; Collateral Damage in Rose Canyon.

To get close to the mustard we had to trample young nettles. At least, Keith and I think these are nettles. They’ve taken over the field we were in and according to Keith have taken over the area where he has harvested mustard blossoms in previous years. I did read in Wikipedia that a mustard seed can survive up to 60 years underground if it is at the right depth and somehow, I think this patch will make a comeback. And for all you urban foragers out there, this area has enough nettles to feed an army.

This is a photo of nettles from the point of view of my knee.

Young Nettles about to burst into bloom.

This is a photo of a yellow nettle flower.

Yellow is always the color to warn you of danger.

This is a photo of a glass bowl full of freshly picked, bright yellow mustard flowers.

WARNING: Hot, spicy mustard flowers!

This is a photo of the ingredients in my mustard flower recipe.

This is just guesswork for me: I read the ingredients on a jar of store bought mustard and am leading the way with courage and confidence!

At the risk of sounding redundant, here is my:

3 cloves raw garlic
1 tablespoon turmeric (for flavor, color, health)
1 tablespoon coriander powder with cumin in it 1 to 1 ratio
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
6-8 tablespoons of water
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
3 huge handfuls of fresh picked mustard flowers

In a food processor, put the vinegar, spices and garlic and pulse it until it is minced fine. Add a handful of flowers at a time until all flowers are minced into the seasoning before adding water a little bit at a time. NOTE: The mustard is rough, not smooth. This is a high fiber mustard in case you were wondering.

This is a photo of a mini-food chopper with mustard making ingredients in it.

Step 1: Garlic, Spices, Salt and Vinegar

The turmeric will stain plastic and silicon spatulas so use old ones if you care about staining your kitchen ware. I used a mini food chopper for the task and it was perfectly fine.

This is a photo of mustard flowers in a food processor with spices.

Add a handful of flowers at a time and pulse.

This is an image of a food processor with ground spices and mustard flowers in it.

Don't be scared. Something good can still come out of this. Just add water.

Outcome: I’m not sure if this is edible or not. I lifted the lid to my mini-chopper and the way the scent hit my brain can only be described as a pick axe that was suddenly inserted up my nose with intent to split my brain in two. The intense burning in my sinuses only served to make me take a step backwards and say, “Whoa!” On exhale, my sinuses relaxed and I stopped for a moment to consider the following: store bought mustard is over processed; this is undiluted mustard flowers, picked two hours ago in Nature. Old fashioned plasters and poultices for chest colds and coughs came to mind and the medicinal smell that singed my nostril’s mucosal lining made me race over to my computer to search the internet on mustard flower for warnings and recipes. Guess what? There are no recipes for “mustard made from mustard flowers” that I could find in a reasonable amount of time. That was a bit unnerving. There are books for sale with foraging recipes, but overall a few pages in to this subject and I was done with research.

Basically, mustard flowers aren’t toxic and they won’t kill me. I moved on to storing it. There is one tool in my kitchen, besides the power tools, that I just LOVE and can’t do without: a wide mouth funnel. Treat yourself to one and let it be your forever-kitchen-friend.

This is a photo of a Kerr jar with a metal wide mouth funnel on it.

Wide mouth funnels are in my top ten kitchen items to love.

There are countless sites stating that mustard flowers are edible and have been used in love potions, salads and garnishes and even given as gifts to symbolize spring and abundance. Some sites remind us to be careful because some people are highly allergic to mustard. Other sites tell delightful and charming stories of how paths were created by explorers to use in the springtime to return from whence they came.

This is a photo of the jar of mustard I produced from the flowers I found in Rose Canyon.

Annie's Rose Canyon Wild Mustard

This wild mustard is down right SPICY HOT! Think horseradish. My mouth was on fire from just a little teeny-tiny taste. I’m not prone to getting hysterical when my mouth is on fire from the occasional chili pepper in food, and in fact, I do enjoy a bit of heat in my food…but this…this was off the charts hot. This reminded me of the spicy hot Chinese mustard that I don’t enjoy because it is just too hot for my liking.

In the end, I am thrilled that I foraged and made something unusual and gourmet.  I will make sure that everyone who visits my home gets a taste of my first batch of homemade garlic and white wine vinegar mustard.

So, be honest with me: Is this something you would make and eat? I’d like to know.

“The Flower Fields” in Carlsbad, CA – Part III

This is a photo of a sign on the ground in a flower bed announcing that you are in "The Flower Fields" of Carlsbad, CA.

Welcome to The Flower Fields

I didn’t see this sign in the flower bed until we were almost exiting The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA; and I always take photos of signage in the event that I might want to create a scrapbook of a trip (Hey, it might happen, you never know!), create something like a colorful invitation for someone to join me at that place, or remember my day by.

There were other things besides flowers that I will never forget from this first trip to the flower fields. My two year old daughter’s enjoyment of the flowers; my friend’s (Ralph and Marjorie) joy as they knew I would be happy here and in my element among the rows of flowers; my mother-in-law (Sheela) who enjoys gardening and how her mind was blown by the sheer scale of the fields; and, last by not least, these three monks (below) who I now refer to as The Lemonade Tasters.

This is a photo of three Asian monks in long brown gowns drinking lemonade. Behind them is a fiberglass shack shaped like a lemon that measures 15 by 20 feet.

The Lemonade Tasters

The Flower Fields are generally seen from a distance in broad stroke of solid color. There is no detail. There is nothing to indicate what it is that you are looking at. The impression of solid color is down right stunning. What could possibly do this? Who thought of it?

This is a photo of a man working in The FlowerFFields of Carlsbad, CA. He is positioned between two very large grower beds of yellow and orange flowers.

Blue, Green, Orange, Yellow

This is a photo of a row of dark purple ranunculus next to a row of sunset colored ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Between the rows of Ranunuculus

Upon getting closer, the eye slowly adjusts to take in the details of the beds, the dirt paths and drainage rows that separate the flowerbeds for the workers to walk and the tractors to drive on. The rows that have bloomed or peaked and the rows about to bloom. The quantity of each plant by color is the next thing that registers in the brain and believe it or not, it’s stunning how quickly your eye can find the rogue plants that don’t belong. A yellow Ranunculus growing in among the pink ones…how did that get there?

This is a photo of a row of pink ranunculus next to a row of yellow ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Rows of Ranunculus Color

Sometimes there is the urge to just see one plant (and not every member of its family or extended family). Then it’s like a moment of meditation; focus within the experience happens and all else ceases to distract or cause awe. With each glance through the lens of my camera, I focused and honored the beauty before me. Whether is was on the many stems or the deep center of the flower, it was so peaceful to simply be in the flower fields communing with the plants.

This is a photo of a row of multicolored ranunculus next to a row of red ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Multicolored Ranunculus (Multicolors growing on one plant)

Some of these are favorites simply because of the color, shape, texture, patterns or lighting. I hope you enjoy the colors as much as I did!

This is a photo of a peach ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Peach Ranunculus

This is a photo of a pink ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Pink Ranunculus

This is a photo of a white ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

White Ranunculus

This is a photo of a bouquet of white ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

White Ranunculus in a bouquet

This is a photo of cut ranunculus in a white bucket.

Fresh Cut Ranunculus

One day, when I have time, I will paint something from The Flower Fields and post it here for your enjoyment. In the meantime, make an Artist Date with yourself for March or April and buy your ticket online before heading over to the fields for an hour or two of beauty, inspiration, awe and tranquility. You deserve it!

“The Flower Fields” in Carlsbad, CA – Part I

This is a photo of a golden ranunculus.

Gold Ranunculus

In San Diego’s north county region, there is a glorious spectacle that comes only once a year each Spring. The growing fields, a full fifty acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus,  start blooming in waves under warm southern California sunshine around the first of March like clockwork.

The Flower Fields, face the Pacific Ocean just east of Highway 5. Getting there is very easy from The Five and parking is free. The fields offer more than just show stopping Ranunculus; they have a miniature rose garden, an artist garden that changes every year, a Sweet Pea maze, tractor ride to the top of the field, a children’s playground featuring the darling play structures from the old Santa’s Village in Lake Arrowhead, the world famous Ecke poinsettia collection for history buffs and believe it or not, you can pan for gold on site.

This is a photo collage of some Sweet Pea flowers taken at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

As an oil painter witnessing the fields, my first thoughts went to Holland and the images I have seen of their Tulips…and there is no comparison! There is no way Holland could ever capture such a dazzling display of color due to the structure of tulips which only has one flower per bulb (unless it has become irregular).  Tulips provide a pale green background for “spot color” which can become more dramatic depending on the viewing angle. Tulips displays often use harmonizing ground covers such as Pansy and Johnny-Jump-Ups to hide the dirt between bulbs. Ranunculus, in contrast, have multiple sprays of flowers per plant which accounts for the broad sweeping strokes of color on the hillsides.

This is a photo of yellow Tulips in Golden Gate Park, SF, CA.

Tulips in Golden Gate Park, SF, CA

From a distance, the flowers merge into horizontal stripes of fantastic length. Part of me was hesitant to visit The Flower Fields it seemed too touristy, contrived, paying to walk through someone’s flower business seemed overrated –and ten bucks to roam around dirt roads near The Five? ….yeah! Well, it was the best bang ever for ten bucks! Guess who will be buying a visitor pass in 2011 so I can return with family and friends multiple times it’s that incredible!

This is a photo of the ranunculus growing in rows at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Broad Strokes of Color at The Flower Fields.

I took over three hundred photos that day with my digital camera. I did not want to leave but I was a guest and had my daughter and mother-in-law with me this day and I was holding up lunch plans. There is no need to rush once you are inside The Flower Fields and I recommend that you come early when the light is good for photography. Of my photos, I can’t say I have one favorite, no, I have at least 20 to 30 favorites! Each time you think you have found a beautiful shot of the fields, you turn to the other side of the road between growing beds and discover something else equally beautiful.

This is a photo of cut ranunculus in a white bucket.

Fresh Cut Ranunculus

I felt ALIVE out there amongst the beauty of these flowers. The ocean breeze was delightful and fresh.

The workers appear to be from Mexico and are mindful of their work. They ignore the tourist and actually add to your photos in a way you probably never imagined…let’s go back to Holland for a moment. Remember all those beautiful 15th through 19th century oil paintings of people cultivating the land? For example, Piet van der Velden’s “Workers in the Fields With Tulips” shows two figures planting tulip bulbs in the empty fields. Workers have always been featured in oil paintings and photos. Here are my visions of a modern day painting of workers in a field:

This is a photo of workers in The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Like an oil painting of days gone by: "Workers in The Flower Fields"

This is a photo of workers and a truck in The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

The Flower Field Workers

This is a photo of workers and tourists in The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Workers and Tourists Mingle in The Flower Fields

The Santa’s Village playground equipment and structures adds more to the play area for children and makes for great photo opportunities.

This is a photo collage of some of the playground equipment from Santa's Village in Lake Arrowhead that was sold to The Flower Fields of Carlsbad, CA.

Santa's Village Playground - Photo Collage

Here is my daughter smelling a flower.

This is a photo of a little girl smelling a flower.


The dazzling array of colors from white, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple and chocolate brown is best seen in person.

Dazzling, Colorful Ranunculus at The Flower Fields

Make sure your camera battery is charged and put it on your calendar for March 1, 2011. The Flower Fields are not open very long –just as long as the flowers are blooming which may be anywhere from 45 days to 60 days.


Moonlight Beach looking south, Encinitas, CA, January 16, 2011

Moonlight Beach looking south, Encinitas CA Jan 16 2011

An image of peace from a California morning at the beach.

Christmas in San Diego, CA – Little Italy by Day

This is a photo of India Street signage proclaiming "Little Italy".

Retro signage for the Little Italy neighborhood

The charm of a large city lies in its many neighborhoods that are formed by the cultural influences of a unique group of people. In Little Italy, San Diego, CA this little neighborhood was crafted over the years by fishermen and their families, restaurateurs, grocers and bakers from Italy. Of late, the addition of art, festivals and general tourism have brought a resurgence of energy, money and even more local color into this retro/modern area and brought about a charming revitalization.

Here’s the approach into Little Italy from India Street of all things! The signage has been the neighborhood landmark.

This is a photo of India Street as you drive towards Little Italy.

Little Italy on India Street

The corners are festooned with lovely ‘wooden’ soldiers playing a variety of musical instruments in wine barrels filled with red poinsettias.

This is a photo of a wooden soldier blowing a trumpet in a flower barrel.

The Trumpeter

Windows are dressed for Christmas and storefronts look inviting. The general atmosphere is warm and cheerful. Red “Buon Natale” flags are atop the lampposts and line the blue sky. White, sparkly snowflakes dance nearby.

This is a photo of the Christmas decor along India Street in the neighborhood of Little Italy.

Christmas Decor in Little Italy, San Diego

For a quick and amazing bite of pizza by the slice, visit Landini’s Pizzeria. Lightly browned thin crusts, divine red sauce, delicious toppings and heated to piping hot perfection before being served with Peroni draft beer to wash it all down!

This is a photo of Landini's Cafe

Dine here for delicious pizza by the slice!

This is a photo of a sandwich board advertizing pizza prices. Ha, ha!

A sandwich board that advertises everything but sandwiches! OK, I'll give you "Paninis" but it is a glorified sandwich!

The buildings in the area have been modernized and new, European-style, condo-mixed use buildings have popped up in recent years. Many are full, many still looking for buyers and lessors in the depressed housing market.

This is a photo of a modern building on India Street in the Little Italy neighborhood.

Modern Architecture in a Retro Neighborhood

This is a photo of a modern building in the Little Italy neighborhood.

"It's A Grind" coffee cafe on the right (unseen) and a lovely fountain in front creates terrific ambiance.

Walking down India Street in Little Italy is like walking in an outdoor museum. The utility boxes on the streets have been painted by local artists with Italian motifs. The buildings’ walls have large paintings adorning them and it becomes a visual treasure hunt looking around for other pieces.

This is a photo of a utility box painted with an Italian motif to hide its plain and ugly exterior.

This is a photo of a utility box painted with an Italian motif to hide its plain and ugly exterior.

Utility boxes wrapped in artwork

This is a photo of a large Italian themed image painted on a cafe building in Little Italy.

Exterior Wall Painting in Little Italy

This is a photo of a large Italian themed image painted on an office building in Little Italy.

Exterior Wall Painting in Little Italy

It’s a lovely place to spend a couple hours before hoping over to the airport which is just a couple minutes away by taxi. I do hope to return at nighttime to see the lights and mood of the people in cafes as they get into the Holiday spirit!

Christmas 2010: “Hotel Del Coronado”, Coronado Island, CA

This is a photo of Tina Benino sitting in a chair in the lobby of the Hotel Del Coronado. The hotel is decorated for Christmas and everything is merry and bright. Including the visitors!

The Incandescent Tina Benino Waiting for Santa

On a whim, my girlfriend Tina and I, who were hoping to see the December Nights in Balboa Park but got stuck in the worst traffic imaginable trying to get there, hung a u-turn and headed over to Coronado Island and were rewarded with a magical night of Christmas lights. From the dramatic and colorful display of living trees uniformly lit down the center divide on Orange Avenue to the roof line of the Hotel Del Coronado illuminated with miniature white lights, Coronado Island is worth a visit in December, after sunset.

As you draw near the Hotel Del Coronado, the pleasant sound of the ocean crashing onto the stretch of beach outside the hotel adds to the excitement. It’s almost winter here in San Diego, CA but the atmosphere is beach resort all the way. The mood is young, festive and lighthearted. Families split up and go their own ways; Children take to the ice rink while parents hang out at the bar within sight of the rink.

This is a photo of the famous Christmas tree in the lobby of the Hotel Del Coronado. It is at least twenty feet tall and heavily decorated with candy- and Christmas-themed ornaments and white lights.

Candy-themed Christmas tree in the Hotel Del Coronado lobby.

Rather than take photos without a tripod outside, I opted for using my Flip camcorder to take some brief clips of the sights and sounds as it is more forgiving without a tripod. The photos posted here are from my 2009 visit.

One of my favorite trees is the aqua colored tree in the passage way between the shops and restaurants. It has an underwater theme and I just love it!

This is a photo of a starfish Chrsitmas ornament in aqua blue and pearl colors.Behold! A star…fish…shining in a tree!
This is a photo of a fish Christmas ornament with glitter stripes.

A rare specimen of Glitter Fish

This is a photo of a gold sea horse Christmas ornament.

Giddy-up, horsey! Let's go to town!

This is a photo of a toddler reaching up to pull on Frosty the Snowman's big red pom-pom buttons. Frosty is a six foot tall stuffed toy.

Ooooooo! Belly button!

I hope you are enjoying the sights and sounds of the Holidays where ever you are in the world!