Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Drought and feasting in the desert

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

March began with Pacific storms bringing high winds and much needed rain to San Diego (and rainbows to Tucson), but not enough to relieve the historic drought in California as our Airstream Safari settled in to bask in the Anza-Borrego sun.  California’s water supply is dependent on the snowpack, which is only 24% of average.  Late Sunday afternoon, we arrived at Agua Caliente County Park and saw a sign saying, “Due to loss of power, the pool is closed”.  We learned that the campground was without electrical power all weekend due to high winds in the mountains that brought down utility poles and lines.  New utility poles were helicoptered in and power was restored to the park Sunday afternoon.

DSC_0001 Windswept sky over dry desert

Scant rainfall has diminished the display of green leaves and spring wildflowers normally seen here at this time of year.  I photographed the meager display of Brittlebush flowers in back of our Safari, while our Corgi, Mac, kept an eye on me from inside the trailer.

DSC_0037 Agua Caliente campsite 2014

Recent sprinkles here enabled ocotillo to produce crimson flowers even though their stems had minimal foliage.  This is in sharp contrast with the blankets of spring wildflowers that we saw in Anza-Borrego 6 years ago.

DSC_0035 Crimson ocotillo flowers, few leaves

In the lower part of the campground that receives more water runoff, I spotted a Beavertail cactus with showy flowers.

DSC_0083 Beavertail cactus flowers

We enjoy incorporating themes into every camping trip as a fun way to celebrate a variety of seasonal events through feasting and setting up of festive displays. On Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, we celebrated by cooking blueberry pancakes on our Volcano Collapsible Stove.*

DSC_0010 Cooking blueberry pancakes

Larry dusted the pancakes with powdered sugar.  (The lush oleander seen in the background is slated for removal because it is considered non-native and poisonous, even though in California and Texas it is naturalized as a median strip planting.  We will miss the privacy and shade that this plant provides.)

DSC_0014 Larry dusting pancakes

Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day,* is associated with the Mardi Gras custom of eating richer, fatty foods just before the beginning of Lent.

DSC_0020 Fat Tuesday pancakes

This scrumptious pancake dish was so good, I could eat it with a fork in each hand! Topped with maple syrup, butter, and bacon, these pancakes were the perfect way to celebrate Mardi Gras,* while taking in the beauty of the Anza-Borrego Desert and sky!*

DSC_0030 Scrumptious pancake dish

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Cooking up in the desert

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Georgia was having an ice storm, a foot of snow was accumulating in the Northeast, and others were making their way to Alumaflamingo through unexpectedly freezing temperatures while our Airstream Safari was settling in under balmy desert skies and a waxing moon.

DSC_0203 Safari in candle & moonlight

Despite the currently worst drought in California since 1977,* creosote bushes near our Agua Caliente campsite managed to put on a display of their bright yellow flowers.

DSC_0276 Creosote bush blooms

Bert and Janie drove down from their campsite at Pegleg for a day of feasting and conversation.

DSC_0265 Bill & Larry, Janie & Bert

Larry fired up our 18″ wok and stir-fried shrimp, pork, choy sum, baby Shanghai bok choy, celery, and onion with oyster sauce, which was tossed with shirataki noodles,* utilizing extra long handled wok shovels.

DSC_0260"Just look like you're cooking"

DSC_0263 Stir-fried shrimp & pork

Janie is seen smiling in the photo above because I had just commented that Bert’s crouching to get his shot reminded me of Francis Ford Coppola’s acting cameo in Apocalypse Now,* when he said, “Don’t look at the camera…just go by like you’re fighting,” which prompted me to say, “Make like you’re cooking!”

DSC_0200-2 Helicopter practice

Military helicopters also spiced up the day by making practice fly-bys and nighttime landings in the dark.

Temperatures were also cooking up in the desert as the week progressed, requiring us to turn on the air conditioner on most days, but by 4 pm the sun sank below the nearby mountain ridge and we enjoyed dinners at the picnic table while taking in the desert landscape and sky at dusk.

DSC_0241 Desert dusk

We raised our glasses and toasted to our 43rd anniversary of being together as a beautiful full moon rose above the nearby ocotillo on the eve of Valentine’s Day.

DSC_0282 Desert full moon & ocotillo

As darkness fell, moonlight lit up the desert and our imagination of far away, exotic and romantic places.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

 

Safari hunt for wild horses

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Auspiciously, our relaunch of desert camping and return to Borrego Springs occurred on the two-year anniversary of our first photo shoot of sculptor/designer Ricardo Breceda‘s The Serpent with a Chinese dragon’s head, when Bert Gildart (“Year of the Dragon”) and I (“In pursuit of dragons and pearls“) photographed Larry offering a pearl (symbolizing wisdom) for the dragon to chase.*

The Serpent is one of many metal sculptures by Ricardo Breceda* on the Galleta Meadows Estate owned by Dennis Avery* (who sadly passed away on July 23, 2012).  Although I have photographed many of his sculptures (See “Springtime in Galleta Meadows“), there are many more that we have not seen, so upon our return to Borrego Springs, we wanted to find, visit and photograph the horses, especially since Chinese New Year 2014 marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse in the Chinese Zodiac (Find your fortune).*

DSC_0093 Borrego Springs' horses

When we first arrived at Christmas Circle, we spotted two horses pulling a stagecoach, but we wanted to do a photo shoot with the wild horses, so we checked the Sculpture Installations Map and drove down S3 to find them.  We were not disappointed.  As we arrived, a sabertooth cat was attacking one.

DSC_0035 Attacked by saber-tooth cat

I set up my camera while Larry put on his Chinese peasant outfit of the 1880′s consisting of a tunic, trousers, coolie hat and sandals.  He then offered a wedge of cabbage to the first horse, which appeared skittish.

DSC_0040 Offering to skittish horse

He was more successful when he offered two wedges (Number 2 is a lucky number in Chinese culture).

DSC_0058-2 Offering 2 for good luck

Larry illustrated one of the themes of the I Ching hexagram 34, Ta Chuang / The Power of the Great, “Perseverance furthers“.

DSC_0082 I "Perseverance furthers"

“Perseverance brings good fortune.”

DSC_0075-2 Acceptance

DSC_0095 Happiness

We are hopeful for good fortune as we gallop into this Year of the Wood Horse, but it might be a wild ride!  For good luck, we cleaned and decorated the house with Chinese symbols and red and gold colors.  Our Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner featured roasted Chinese duck, Chinese mustard green/ham egg flower soup, and jiaozi, Chinese dumplings (See “Where Dumplings Came From and Why Eat Them on New Years,“* which has a quick image of jiaozi in our trailer)!

DSC_0190 CNY 2014 dinner

Time passes, but our hearts remain young as we celebrate life!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Desert camping relaunched

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

We stayed home for the holidays in December as we followed the activity progression schedule prescribed for Tasha by the Veterinary Specialty Hospital* following her hemilaminectomy due to a ruptured disc last November.  She has made an excellent recovery and has resumed her normal routine and activities so we relaunched our monthly camping trips and returned to Borrego Palm Canyon where we had made our maiden cruise seven years ago this month.

DSC_0162 Borrego Palm Canyon 2014

Tasha quickly learned to use the gangplank (Mr. Herzher’s Smart Ramp) that we recently purchased for our corgis to embark and disembark our Airstream Safari without injuring their backs.

DSC_0152 Tasha & telescoping ramp

As I unhitched and set up the campsite, I heard a drone hovering high above me, which turned out to be a DJI Phantom Quadcopter with a GoPro camera* controlled by Airstreamer, photographer Rich C, who we first met here seven years ago.  (See his driving and aerial video tour of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park* that includes a brief clip of me setting up camp!).  According to Rich, he “is currently on the road contracting and consulting in his ‘other career’… network and data base design.”

DSC_0139 DJI Phantom Quadcopter

The DJI Phantom Quadcopter elevates scenic photography to a new high!*

Last Friday our governor declared a California statewide drought emergency.  Our severe drought has limited the growth of plants, flowers, and seeds that sustain birds.  We were amazed, mesmerized and entertained by the numbers of birds (especially house finches and White-crowned Sparrows) that fought over the seeds from our Soda Bottle Bird Feeder by Channel Craft.  White-winged Doves and Gambel’s Quail also visited and added to the chorus of bird sounds.

DSC_0014 Soda bottle bird feeder

We also feasted. Larry is seen below preparing vegetables for a stir-fry using Zha Jiang Mian Sauce and Shirataki (sweet yam) noodles.

DSC_0024 Vegetable prep for Japchae

Rich and Jodi joined us for dinner on Monday.  On Wednesday, I joined them for a hike up Palm Canyon.

DSC_0113 Hiking with Rich & Jodi

Rich has a good eye for getting that perfect picture.  He is seen here setting up his camera on a tripod placed in a creek for a time exposure image of a waterfall.  (See Rich’s images in his post, “Palm Canyon, Anza Borrego“.)

DSC_0117 Rich, tripod & falls

We were all happy campers during our five days of glorious sunshine.  (See Rich’s video wrap-up*)  Even our dogs had happy faces as they trotted on the 0.6-mile sidewalk to the Visitor Center.

DSC_0156 Happy Tasha & Mac

Indeed, Happy days are here again!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Safari is home for the holidays!

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

This is the first December in seven years that we have not taken our Airstream Safari out to the Anza-Borrego Desert to bask in the sun and celebrate the holidays.  Last month our Corgi, Tasha, suffered a ruptured spinal disc necessitating an emergency hemilaminectomy and a prescribed period of rest.  She is now making a remarkable recovery, walking well, and gradually increasing her daily activities as she follows the activity progression protocol set up by the Veterinary Specialty Hospital.*  According to her Discharge Instructions, she can return to her normal routine and activities after the post-op 6th week (on Christmas Day), which is really all I want for Christmas!*

DSC_0315 Tasha Post-op Day 31

Our Safari is our home when we are away from home and it’s so nice when we’re all home for the holidays!*  (We appreciate having the trailer refrigerator nearby to store the holiday food.)

DSC_0297 Home for the Holidays '13

Being home for the holidays also gives us a chance to enjoy time in our backyard patio and work on projects, such as a deck for the gas grill.

DSC_0330 Larry works on grill deck

DSC_0383 New gas grill deck

While Larry was working on the deck, I was writing this post while savoring the aroma of simmering Christmas potpourri* as Larry’s no-knead ciabatta (Italian slipper bread)* was baking nearby.

DSC_0352 Homemade ciabatta

Larry set up and decorated our multi-use bamboo easel as a Christmas tree on the patio.  It made its debut last December in the Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0356 Patio Christmas display

DSC_0311 Merry Christmas 2013!

We have so much to celebrate and be thankful for during this magical holiday season!

DSC_0372 The nutcracker and bell

Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe.“*  (The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg)

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Shifting sands at Agua Caliente

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

We had just finished celebrating Día de los Muertos* and brought along Larry’s homemade anise pan de muerto for our return to Agua Caliente County Park for five nights of camping in the sunny Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0029 Larry's Anise pan de muerto

DSC_0114 Desert bound

It was not so sunny here in late August when a weekend of heavy rains unleashed flash floods, rock slides, shifting sand and mud, causing damage to roads, parks, and homes.  When we made our November reservations for this park at the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation Administrative Office in September, an administrator there told us that about $10,000 worth of damage had occurred and that the park was closed for repairs,* but would be expected to be open at least by November.  When we checked in, Supervising Park Ranger, James Stowers, said that a lot of sand had washed down onto our reserved site, but we should be able to go in and out OK.  But as I backed the trailer up into this site, the trailer tires sank into and pushed against dry, very loose, uncompacted sand (about 5″ deep), while the rear truck tires spun.

DSC_0039 Too much loose sand

Since I got the trailer far enough into the site to be workable, I unhitched, and the next morning I reported my concerns to James about the large amounts of loose sand that might make it difficult for our 2-wheel drive truck to pull our trailer out on departure day.  I was pleased that he personally got on a tractor with a front-end loader* and scooped up buckets full* of sand and placed them in eroded areas in the sites above us.  This made us smile.*

DSC_0093 Ranger removed excess sand

Beautiful sunny weather with day temperatures in the 70s also brought smiles to our faces and even my rescued childhood doll, Howdy Doody*, seemed happy as Larry worked on Howdy’s major cosmetic and clothing makeover.

DSC_0144 Desert smiles and vistas

I again hiked the Moonlight Canyon Trail, and although I did not see the bighorn sheep that I had seen in January, 2011, I did see interesting plants… and peculiar rocks.

DSC_0129 Interesting plants & rocks

I also spotted a large black widow spider on the fleece lining of our trailer tire covers!  (I always carefully inspect the covers during their removal since previously finding various spiders, a scorpion, and a field mouse!)

DSC_0149_2 Black widow spider

The spider had found a comfortable, albeit temporary home, while we were at home in the trailer.  We were cozy and content and had no idea that the sands would continue to shift for us when we got home, but at least wherever we are, home is where the heart is.*

DSC_0101 home is where the heart is

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Summertime illuminations in the Cuyamacas

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

After cooling off at the beach, and rinsing off the salt deposits, our Airstream Safari was ready to get high again in the Cuyamaca Mountain Range that we visited just two months ago.  Last April, after a three year absence, we were curious to see how William Heise County Park fared after trees were damaged by wind and wet snow, and oak trees were killed by the Goldspotted Oak Borer.  We were pleased to see that there were plenty of oak trees still surviving and many improvements have been made, including new picnic tables, beautiful cabins, and the surprise that dogs are now allowed on park trails.  So on the eve of summer before temperatures peak, we returned for five days of camping in this beautiful forest setting surrounded by pine, oak, and cedar trees.

DSC_0041 Cedar fire damage to Cuyamacas

Ten years ago the devastating 2003 Cedar Fire* burned approximately 70% of William Heise Park, which is now a showcase of a forest in various stages of re-growth.  Chaparral is rapidly recovering, even though bleached white skeletons of black oaks and manzanitas are still seen on surrounding hillsides.  With rainfall just 65% of normal, San Diego County firefighters are preparing for yet another potentially dangerous wildfire season.

DSC_0032 Our Wm

We positioned our Safari in our favorite non-hookup campsite for optimal sunbathing, which enabled our two factory installed solar panels to recharge our two Lifeline AGM batteries to 100% by mid-morning each day.  We had full sun all five days and the solar panels delivered a total of 193 amp-hours by the fifth day.

Each day began by walking our Corgis, Mac and Tasha.  The ranger explained that the recent decision to allow dogs on trails in this park is based on the premise that it is better to have people enjoying hiking on trails with their dogs on a leash, than having dogs left alone at campsites.

DSC_0135 Larry walks Mac & Tasha

While our trailer soaked in the rays, we enjoyed relaxing in the shade of the nearby Coulter Pine and Canyon Live Oak trees as cool breezes flowed up the forest hillside.  This was an excellent location for reading, bird watching and listening to relaxing bird sounds.*  Our peace was only interrupted by biting flies that Tasha snapped at before retreating under the truck. (Larry killed 18 flies in one afternoon.)

DSC_0025 Relaxing in shade

DSC_0018 Bird watching at Heise

Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana

My summer reading included Illumination in the Flatwoods – A Season Living Among the Wild Turkey, by Joe Hutto. (Appropriate reading in a park known for its turkeys!)

DSC_0011 My summer reading

Our summer eve feasting included hamburgers, corn on the cob, and Mexican Zucchini steamed in a cast iron Japanese nabe.  It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy!*

DSC_0036 Summertime feasting

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Ocean safari fiesta, part two

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Our fiesta by the sea had begun on Cinco de Mayo and continued as Larry featured Mexican cuisine, such as his savory Caldo de Mariscos, which contained squid, shrimp, and scallops cooked in an enameled cast iron Japanese pot that provided even heat, as well as heat retention.

DSC_0008 Larry's Caldo de Mariscos

Near our Airstream Safari is a stairway to the beach below, which is one way of going “down the shore“, as we would say in New Jersey.

DSC_0047 Stairway to the beach

I descended these stairs in the late afternoon to get a closer look at those beautiful crashing waves* that we continuously heard during our stay here.

DSC_0052 Ocean waves crashing

As I listened to the ocean, it seemed to talk to me.  I was lulled into a meditative and contemplative state.  I thought about its beauty… its vastness.  Then I remembered disturbing images that I saw on this beach three years ago.  At that time, I saw litter and signs of pollution and was hearing news and seeing the images of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico*.  Since then, I have learned that people are working together to create a healthier ocean and track progress towards that goal by calculating and issuing an annual Ocean Health Index Score* in 133 countries.  Listen to renowned oceanographer, Greg Stone*,  discuss the importance of creating an Ocean Health Index and see how your country scored on the Ocean Health Index Score!  See the recent BBC video, “Antarctica: Engine of ocean life“, which illustrates why the seas around Antarctica play an important role in the wealth of life found throughout the world’s oceans.

As I ascended the stairs, I continued to contemplate how people working together could overcome obstacles and achieve a better world.

DSC_0057 Stairway up the bluff

I also thought about the life that this bluff supports.  California ground squirrels thrive here and burrow into the bluff to make homes.

DSC_0046 California ground squirrel

They are also quick in finding any food left unattended by campers!

DSC_0038 Squirrel hunts for food

This “San Diego on the ocean side” environment also supports Brown Pelicans that are often seen flying together (which has benefits*) as they soar along the bluff.  Brown Pelicans almost became extinct in the 1970s due to the pesticide DDT, but environmental protections since then have resulted in their comeback and removal from the federal endangered species list in 2010.  Increased numbers have also meant increased odoriferous excrement that is having an impact on upscale seaside tourist spots such as La Jolla, California.   

DSC_0111 Pelican teamwork

Whether our world’s oceans will have a bright or dark future depends on all of us working together for a better tomorrow.

DSC_0086 Ocean sunset

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Ocean safari fiesta, part one

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

We secured the feral side of our San Diego backyard and towed our Airstream Safari to our favorite campsite on the bluffs of South Carlsbad State Beach on Cinco de Mayo* for five days of sun, surf, sea breezes, soaring birds, feasting and celebrating San Diego on the ocean side.

DSC_0053 South Carlsbad sand & surf

Sea breezes blew up and over the bluff fifty feet above the beach where our Safari rested just a few feet from the edge.

DSC_0095 Our beachside campsite

The sea breeze has sculptured the thick hedges on each side of us, which provide wonderful privacy, enhanced with Larry’s sunscreen that he began making last year.  Homegrown Bird of Paradise flowers on our table gently moved in the breeze, as if looking at the pelicans gliding by.  We have seen as many as 35 pelicans soaring* by single file in long lines or in V-formation.*

DSC_0018 Soaring pelicans

Cinco de Mayo* is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.  We invited our dear friend Beverly to join us for a lunch fiesta featuring Mexican cuisine, starting with a strawberry margarita.*

DSC_0069 Beverly & Larry chatting

Larry prepared Camarones de Gobernador in a pot on our Volcano Stove, which contained camarones* (Larry used large shrimp), red peppers, poblano peppers, onions, garlic and rice wine.

DSC_0079 Camarones de gobernador

This mixture was then placed into grilled corn tortillas and became delicious tacos.  Here is another variation of Tacos de Camarón Gobernador.*

DSC_0081 Lunch with Beverly

The festive day was capped off by sipping on margaritas in glasses rimmed with Tajín seasoning.  “The margarita is the number one consumed cocktail in the United States,” says Greg Cohen in “Cinco de Mayo Is Hot“.*

DSC_0027 Margarita cheers - Larry

Many now consider Cinco de Mayo as the kickoff of the summer season*… and I’ll drink to that!

DSC_0033 Margarita cheers - Bill

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Cuyamaca Mountain high

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

While high winds roared through Southern California last Monday, causing power outages and damage in Borrego Springs and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and dust storms in Arizona,* we were hunkered down in our Airstream Safari 4,200 feet above sea level in a pine and oak forest along the northern extremity of the Cuyamaca Mountain Range on our first full day in William Heise County Park after a 3 year absence.  By the following day, the wind and rain had stopped and we set up camp and enjoyed beautiful sunny weather the rest of the week.

DSC_0021 Heise campsite setup

On Wednesday, our good friends Bert and Janie came up from Borrego Springs for a day of hiking, photography, feasting, conversing and having a good time.

DSC_0039 Bert with new Nikon D800E

Bert brought along his new Nikon D800E.*  Bert and I promptly took our Nikon cameras on a hike on the Cedar Creek Trail, while Janie and Larry enjoyed chatting at our campsite.  As soon as we got on the trail, we were happy to spot a couple of mule deer.

DSC_0042 Deer on Cedar Creek Trail

We enjoyed photographing the rich textures of this oak, pine and cedar forest and delighted in the play of light and shadows.

DSC_0051 Bert shooting bench & trees

We returned to camp just in time for lunch that Larry was preparing:  Caldo de Mariscos (based on a recipe by Chef Rick Bayless*), a medley of squid, catfish, shrimp, and baby Bok choy (Chinese cabbage) simmered in a tomato-based soup, seasoned with guajillo chilies.

DSC_0090 Larry's Caldo de Mariscos

This savory dish brought smiles to all.

DSC_0094 Lunch with Bert & Janie

This is the second time this month that Bert has been observed slurping the last drops of soup out of his bowl (Japanese style).  The first time was recorded in Aluminarium’s blog post, “Bottoms Up!”

DSC_0096 Drinking soup Japanese style

We sipped on wine and shared our thoughts during this mellow afternoon.  We celebrated our wonderful times together this camping season: at Agua Caliente County Park last October and then celebrating life with a lunch, hike and photo shoot in November.  This truly was a mountain high* and we look forward to many more in the future!

DSC_0201 Mellow afternoon at Heise

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

About the Author

BILL, along with partner, Larry, were first-time RV'ers when they purchased their custom-ordered 23' 2007 Airstream Safari SE. Bill (a retired RN) and Larry (a retired pediatric Occupational Therapist) enjoy bringing history alive in the area of San Diego, CA.