Friday, January 24, 2014

PHOTO ESSAY: More from Yosemite

It's hard to take a bad shot in Yosemite and it's also hard to cull pictures for our article. There's just so much to choose from. Here are some leftover shots from our recent trip to one of the most beautiful spots on Earth.

Yosemite is about more than just high cliffs and waterfalls. There are also thousands of trees. In fact, there are some great groves of Giant Sequoias here too. Here is one of the trees on the valley floor.

Tim and I take in the view on a bridge over the Merced River.

Even though the weather was warm, it was still winter. You can see some snow in the upper reaches of the mountains surrounding the valley, like these next to Taft Point.

While Yosemite Falls is featured heavily in our report and video, Yosemite has many other spectacular falls too. Here is Bridalveil Falls on the western end of the valley.

This relief map shows the layout of Yosemite Valley.

I'm taking a break from filming for a picture and then to take in the incredible view.

Entering the park from the west, coming in from Mariposa, you need to drive through this tight, little hole in the rocks.

Letty takes some time to take in the scenery at Tunnel View.

And we'll end with another reminder that it was still winter when we were there, a giant frozen waterfall.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick and Letty Musick
All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Winter Wonders

OK, it's official...our governor has declared a drought emergency. We've known we've been in a drought for over a year and with not a drop this January, I guess Mr. Brown could not deny it any longer. 

What this means is that we're heartily encouraged to cut our water use by 20%. This will soon become mandatory should this very dry winter continue. The water company will tell us how much we can use and any amounts over that will be charged at double or triple the rate...something like that.

It's good that I put in the drought-tolerant lawn this fall. Now, we'll see just how tolerant it is. 

In the meantime, this hot, dry weather has fooled some of the roses into blooming again. Look at the front garden, up at the top, and this Mr. Lincoln.

'Magic Moment' is spectacular right now.

Enjoy it, flowers, because pruning time is coming very soon.

Oh, almost forgot...we got our first orchid bloom of the year this weekend with this cymbidium.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

January's Jewels

Just a quick hit to show you this week's harvest...

Still a lot left on the plants but this week we've got a couple of Cara Cara oranges that are just perfectly sweet and juicy, a couple of Meyer Lemons, tomatoes, guavas, and a bell pepper plus a pepperette.

The bell peppers are done with this week's picking but the hot chile peppers just keep going and going and going...

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Winter's Burdens

One thing those of you who live on those frigid tundras up to the north or back can skip a lot of gardening chores during the winter. 

Here in Southern California, gardening season may take a short break but it never really stops.

The roses in the front yard have decided they'll have one more hurrah before pruning time starts.  Since they look so happy, I'll start at the other end...the far side of the backyard...and work my way towards these, letting them be last on the pruning schedule.

I thought I'd taken a before picture of this Angel Face and Moonstone before pruning, but I guess I was mistaken.  You can see more about how I prune in this pruning post from last year.

The plumerias, tender as they are, are shedding their leaves as the cooler evenings set in.  I'll sweep these up.

This one, in front of Mr. Lincoln, has gone completely bald for the winter.

Finally, I'm waiting for the grapevine to shed it's leaves completely, as it will when the temps drop into the 20's later this month, so I can give it a trim. The wife and I are currently debating exactly where those cuts will go.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Ethnic Foods of the San Gabriel Valley: 626 Night Market

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, Nepalese, Lebanese, Thai, Basque, Argentinian, Cuban, Vietnamese, English, Belgian, Spanish, Jewish, Greek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, Salvadoran, Iranian, Armenian, Afghani, Indonesian, Korean, Cambodian, American, California Cuisine, Soul Food, Japanese, Filipino, Barbecue, French, Italian, Polish, Hungarian, Pizza, Mongolian Barcbecue, Pakistani, Indian, Peruvian, Malaysian, Burmese

We're almost there...this is the penultimate post in this series. Next week, we'll tackle the 800 pound gorilla of the San Gabriel Valley ethnic food scene but this week, we'll take one little detour before wrapping it up.

In Asia, night markets draw lot of people late at night to gatherings of food booths mingling among other merchants, kind of like a late night flea market.

Taiwanese immigrant Jonny Hwang missed the markets and thought the SGV, with it's large Asian population, would be ripe for such a venue. The 626 Night Market was born (the name is taken from the area code of the San Gabriel Valley).

While the first version got off to a shaky start in Pasadena back in 2012, the night market has had much more success after moving to Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia.

It's a mostly Asian flavor, although there are some food trucks bringing in other cuisines.  Stands ranging from cheap to expensive sell all kinds of different Asian goodies.

There's Indonesian roasted chicken, stinky tofu, intestine stew, Sriracha lobster balls, and even a Chinese stand selling incredibly delicious Belgian Liege waffles.

Starting at it's afternoon opening time, the market steadily crowds up. After dark, it can get quite crowded and is very busy. If you like that kind of Asian nightlife, you'll love it. If you're more of a quiet, reading-a-book-by-the-fireplace kind of person, come early and you'll love it too.

Since it takes place at the racetrack, you are free to slip over to the grandstand, partake in a little off-track betting, get a drink at the bar, and even eat at the racetrack restaurant but most come here to eat the myriad varieties of Asian cuisines and try their hand at new, exotic, and sometimes scary new stuff.

It's highly recommended. Parking is free and the general admission price of the racetrack, which is less than $5, is all it takes to get in.

Come try a nice slice of Asia plopped right into the middle of the San Gabriel Valley.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Musings on a Perfect Citrus

I love citrus, especially those of the orange variety. There's almost no dessert that can compare with a perfectly ripe orange, picked from the tree, and eaten on the spot. No soda can compare with the lemonade you make with the fruit you just harvested from the tree. A cocktail just isn't a cocktail to me without a squeeze of fresh lime in it.

Our house resides in a former lemon grove. All traces of that farm are long gone, although some of our neighbors still harvest and sell their oranges.

While I don't get the quantity of fruit I'd like, the quality is sure there. 

We have three trees...a navel orange, a tangelo that I rescued from a trash pile, and a Meyer lemon. All three are dwarf trees.  

I definitely have my idea of what a perfect fruit from each tree will be...

On the orange, it has to be round. Like a globe, not oblong like an egg. The navel has to be small...almost non-existent (this gives you a bonus of a large, interior navel made exclusively of tasty, juicy pulp). The skin should be rather thick to make peeling easy, I like to peel and eat the sections more than I like to cut it up into pieces with a knife. The color should be a dark orange, signifying that it has absorbed all the UV the sun could pour on in and converted that into life-giving ascorbic acid.

The orange at the top of this post looks like it meets most of these qualifications, I think I'll pick it today.

A tangelo should also be dark orange for the same reasons. They're easy to peel naturally, so the skin doesn't have to be as thick but it helps to have a large head of rind on the top. Now, you pop that off like the pin of a hand grenade and strip of from top to bottom. 

This last fruit from this year's crop meets that criteria. It's coming off today too.

The Meyer lemon needs only to be a deep yellow. It's naturally sweeter than most lemons. I don't have a use for it this week, so I'll leave them on the tree a couple of more days before we take them off and make lemonade or maybe lemon cake.


Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Grass is Not Greener...and That's a Good Thing

If you've been following the saga of our lawn, you know that last summer it was scorched earth. My neighbor has professional gardeners who care very well for her lawn and it is the envy of the neighborhood.

In the winter months, however, the St. Augustine goes a bit dormant. That's her lawn at the top of the post.

After all my work, my lawn has finally filled in and it actually greener that hers.  For once, the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence...that's the lawn before on the left and what it looks like now on the right. Keep in mind, these pictures were taken on New Year's Day in the middle of winter and, yes, our plants are affected by the cooler temperatures even here in California.

I'm very happy and satisfied with the seed I've sewn and how lush it has filled in (below is an Amazon link if you'd like to give it a try). It's supposed to be drought and heat tolerant so I'll be very interested in how it looks in 9 months after 3 months of extreme heat.

It's a mix of tall fescue, rye, and bluegrass that is supposed to be bred to send roots up to 4" deep. We'll see but, for now, it looks fantastic and I'm thinking of doing another overseeding once the cooler weather subsides.

Since I'm the Cheapskate, the price was right too. $20 for the grass seed and a lot of free sweat equity in aerating the lawn to prepare for it.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Ethnic Foods of The San Gabriel Valley: ...and All The Rest.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Matthew Levine under CC BY 2.0 license

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, VietnameseEnglish, Belgian, Spanish, JewishGreek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, SalvadoranIranian, Armenian, AfghaniIndonesian, Korean, Cambodian, American, California Cuisine, Soul FoodJapanese, Filipino, BarbecueFrench, Italian, Polish, Hungarian, Pizza

Before we get to the 800 pound gorilla of San Gabriel Valley's ethnic cuisine, I just want to go over what's left on our list.

These are cuisines that you can find here in the Valley except we haven't had a chance to try them yet, save for one. Let's start with that one...

I don't think what we know as Mongolian Cuisine is anything like you'd actually find in Mongolia. From what I can gather, it's something that actually developed in Taiwan. Nevertheless, it is an ethnic food and it is served here.

There are several Mongolian barbecue places scattered around the valley. It's been a long time since we've tried any of them but the setup is basically the same. You walk down a buffet of ingredients and take whatever looks tasty to you. At the end of the line, you give your ingredients to a chef who stir fries it up for you.

Not bad but nothing we'd keep going back to.  Golden Palace at Colorado and Rosemead in Pasadena and Mongolian Hashen in Duarte are the two we've tried.

Now, on to the cuisines we have yet to try...

Pakistani Food is usually served alongside Indian food at many restaurants. In fact, in searching, I cannot find one standalone Pakistani restaurant in the valley but there are several Indian restaurants that serve it.

Which brings us to Indian Food. My wife is a big fan but I'm not so much. Noor's Indian Bistro in Monrovia is her favorite and people rave about Nirvana in Arcadia.

Borneo and Yazmin restaurants in Alhambra serve Malaysian Food.

There are a handful of places serving Burmese Food such as Daw Yee in Monterey Park and the Golden Owl in La Puente.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Hugomon under CC BY 3.0 license

I have loved what little Peruvian Food that I've tried at Inka Trails, outside of the SGV in Claremont, such as the classic lomo saltado. In the SGV, you can find it at Choza Mama in Pasadena.

We're almost there, we have two more entries in this series before we get to the end...

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A New Year...New Chores

Spending a little time on New Year's day doing a little gardening in the 70 degree, California sun.

The grapevine is starting to shed its leaves and has dropped enough to work on getting the critter net off of it.

First, some pruning shears to cut off the branches that have grown through the netting.

Next, some scissors to cut the net in half. Then, it's just some muscle power to pull the two halves off.

Outside of the laundry room, some of our hanging baskets are getting pretty long.  It's just a simple matter to park the green waste bin underneath it...

...and just slice it off at the right length. The cut part falls right into the bin and is ready to be hauled away.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 Year in Review

Seemed like a slow travel year for us but we still managed to get in quite a few trips and even stepped out of the country a tiny bit. We've now hit 40 (43 for me) out of the 50 states and made it back to the Caribbean, too, without stepping out of the country. Look below to see our activity for the year and click on the links to visit our reports for each item...

We started with a trip south of the border into Ensenada, Mexico, which has been the recipient of a lot of bad press and cruise cancellations lately due to drug cartel activity, to see if it was really that bad or dangerous. Conclusion?  Not even remotely...can't wait to go back.

Cocktail Hour suggestion: Margarita Madness.

Barely averting a traveler's nightmare...getting the wrong date down in your hotel booking...we managed to squeak out a parent's getaway to the Danish-themed town of Solvang, California where we spent a few days with hundreds of greyhounds.

Cocktail Hour suggestion: Chilled Chardonnay.

Unfortunately, this year we didn't get to add any new stadiums to our list of accessible ballparks in our Fields of Dreams reports.

We found a new contender for our best hotel chain of the year, Hyatt, with great hotels, easy accessible reservations, and an awesome loyalty program. Then, Marriott, not wanting to give up the title so easy stepped up with the best rooms we had in Tennessee and a really outstanding suite in Arizona..although they did dilute their loyalty program last year.  We'll just say that both chains top our list at the end of 2013.

Spring found us back on the beach in the Caribbean, this time on the lovely U.S. territory of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands at one of the world's great independent hotels, the Buccaneer.

Cocktail Hour suggestion: A St. Croix Drinking Tour.

Just like John Fogerty, we really did get a little stuck in Lodi, California, which instead turned into a nice trip to Sacramento, the Gold Country, and great wine tasting in the Sierra foothills.

Cocktail Hour suggestion: Sierra Foothills Wine Taste Off.

A lot of my travel friends say American Airlines is no fun anymore, and they have dropped quite a bit in their service, we still had good flights for St. Croix on them but we still have to say Southwest is the best as they flew us with great spirits and comfort to Nashville, Tennessee.  Still our favorite airline as we enter the New Year.

Summer found us in a dispute with a festival operator in Monrovia, California, which turned into an opportunity to document the steps to take in an ADA dispute. Complaint resolved, we still visit the festival regularly.

We added some new video to a couple of old trips, a night time helicopter flight over Las Vegas and some newly found footage of our time in Puerto Vallarta back in the 90's.

On a more somber note, Tim and I took a trip to Palm Springs to say goodbye to my aunt, who had her funeral there in the fall.

While we started working on a new foodie video this year, we have yet to finish it (gives you something to look forward to this year) but we did start a new mid-week series when we figured out our home of the San Gabriel Valley has around 40 different types of ethnic foods being served here. We're still going strong with our series, The Ethnic Foods of the San Gabriel Valley, but will be wrapping that up soon.

Finally, this fall had us checking off items on our bucket list as we headed out on the grand Tennessee Tour and the Elvis Trail.

Cocktail Hour suggestion: Beale Street Pub Crawl.

Thanks for making us your stop for accessible travel in 2013, I hope you'll stick around to see what's in store for 2014.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved