Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Leaves and Branches


This is the first time that I'm joining Rain's Thursday Art Date because the prompt - leaves and branches - spoke to me. Any kind of  creativity is welcome on Rain's blog, and mine, of course, is photography (and you don't have to follow the prompt if you don't want to).

Let's start with branches. Those of you who have read my blog for some time know that I love crooked trees, and they of course have - crooked branches.

Most of these branches pictures were taken over the years in Yosemite National Park, some still on film. We call Yosemite the national park in our backyard and it certainly is the park that we have visited the most often.

During our first or second visit 20 years ago we climbed Sentinel Dome, a ganite dome on the south wall of Yosemite Valley. From the top you have a gorgeous view over the valley, but it is not half as crowded as Glacier Point. There used to be a lone Jeffrey Pine that became iconic through the photograph by Ansel Adams (among others). It died during the drought of 1976, but remained standing until August 2003 when it finally collapsed. This photo just shows one branch of it; I was drawn to it because it framed famous Half Dome - can you see it?

I also love dead branches on the ground that still offer "housing" to all kinds of insects and tiny critters.

I hope you don't think I only like dead or crooked branches - no, I also love them when they're full of life, like this California Buckeye (but then the buckeye can be a rather crooked tree as well...).

Low hanging branches with leaves on them like this gingko last fall - and that brings us to leaves.

I will concentrate here on leaves in regards to wildlife - what would a caterpillar do without leaves?

The grasshopper is soaking up the sun on the sedum "Autumn Joy".

A snail is taking a liking to the leaves of Salvia nemorosa.

The ladybugs love to hide in and crawl along the delicate leaves of yarrow.

And look here - a cicada sitting on a peony leaf.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Sunday Wine Tasting

Last Sunday we went to our favorite winery in Healdsburg, Sapphire Hill Winery. We have been members of their wine club for several years and their wine seldom disappoints us. The winery doesn't have its own vineyards but buys the grapes from different vineyards and then makes their wine. It is owned by Chris and Lisa, and in addition to offering really nice wine, Lisa is also a great and experimental cook. Their wine tastings are always accompanied by food (at least for the club members). They used to do sit-down wine and food pairings (entire dinners) in their barrel room, but since the pandemic this unfortunately is a thing of the past (we hope that eventually they will come back). On Sunday we wanted to pick up our winter and spring shipment and since the weather was wonderful - sunny but not hot - we decided for a tasting on their patio.

We started out with a delicious warm brussels sprout dip - oh my lord! - paired with three sparkling wines (white, rosé and red).

We then had a potato leek soup with a dry Gewürztraminer followed by a red beet salad that had been pickled in the rosé that we were drinking with it. This was so refreshing!

On to the main "course", meatloaf sliders paired with a Zinfandel - I could have had more than one, to be honest. Zinfandel is my favorite red wine; the grape was brought to California in the mid 19th century and is genetically equivalent to the Croatian grapes Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag as well as the Primitivo variety that is grown in Apulia, Italy. However, even though it is grown across the United States, Zinfandel is essentially a California grape, and Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley is one of the very best locations to grow it (aren't we lucky). 

The only thing left was the dessert - a warm brownie with salted caramel sauce. Lisa bakes these with ther raspberry-jalapeño jam in the centre that then oozes out when warmed. No, there is no heat and no taste of raspberry, just rich chocolate. This was paired with a full-bodied Old Vines Zinfandel.

You can probably guess where I am linking to - Elizabeth's T Tuesday and Kathy's Food Wednesdays. Thank you, ladies, for hosting!

Friday, April 22, 2022

California Poppies


As its name already suggests, the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is California's state flower. You can find it anywhere in the state, it loves dry and sunny conditions, perfect for a part of the country that so often is short on water. The orange flowers make happy, vibrant spots in the landscape and can hardly be overlooked.

They also love to settle in gardens and since they freely self-sow it's almost impossible to get rid off them. I welcome them in my yard because it seems the entire garden is smiling.

But they also thrive in a less welcoming environment like sidewalks.

It's starting to unwrap its beauty...

Its orange color is the most known color of the California poppy, but did you know that it can also appear in other colors? When you compare the following picture with the one on top you will notice that the color here is a bit lighter.

Let's take a different look - it's orange at the center and turns lighter toward the edge,

This pale yellow one turned up in my garden a few years ago and has made an appearance every year since.

I love the pink ones, called "dusky rose". Aren't they pretty?

My favorite California poppy beside the "normal" ones are the "copper pot" variety. I simply love their rich color.

I leave you with a collage of the 2019 California superbloom how we saw it - I wrote about it here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Tuscan Butter Salmon


We love to eat salmon, it's a very tasty fish and it's good for you (all those Omega-3 fatty acids). There are many ways to prepare it, however, we are picky in one regard - it has to be Pacific salmon, and we especially love wild caught sockeye salmon with its rich color and even richer flavor. Compared to that, Atlantic salmon which is often farm raised appears pretty bland. 

Usually I cook salmon without following any recipe - you can fry it, bake it, broil it, grill it. You can make wonderful salmon dips with hot smoked salmon (here is a recipe). Cold smoked salmon is tasty on bagels or mixed into a pasta dish and had been our traditional Christmas Eve meal. When I found the recipe for Tuscan Butter salmon, I had to try it - it has become a favorite dish and a nice glass of a dry white wine completes the meal.

Fresh sockeye salmon is expensive, so I usually buy the frozen one at Trader Joe's which is much more affordable (I don't know whether only the Trader Joe's on the West Coast carries it or you can get it all over the country). Thaw overnight in the fridge and it's good to go for your dinner.

Since it already has the veggies and the cream, I often serve "blitz"-focaccia with it that I had baked in the afternoon (recipe here).

Sometimes I put lemons on it, sometimes I don't - it depends on my mood (and whether I just ran out off lemons...),

If you're interested in the recipe, you can find it here. This is one of the recipes that was perfect from the start, so I never had to change anything.

We have salmon fairly often and if there is a special occasion I even get fresh sockeye from the farmers market. For a regular weeknight meal I sometimes grill it in my grill pan and serve sautéed veggies on the side.

Another favorite way is covering it with a mixture of breadcrumbs, olive oil or melted butter, garlic, herbs and parmesan, then bake it in the oven.

When I was making it this way the last time, I had too much of the breadcrums-mix, so I just threw it in with the zucchini for the last couple minutes of sautéeing. It was delicious.

I'm linking up to Kathy's Food Wednesdays.

Monday, April 18, 2022

The Spice Bazaar


The Grand Bazaar is probably the most famous bazaar in Istanbul - it is huge with little alleys that it is easy to get lost in it. But the smaller Egyptian Bazaar - MısıÇarşisi - is not only easier to navigate but somehow has a more laid back feel as well. Located in the Fatih district close to the Galata Bridge with all its restaurants that spans the Golden Horn, this is a 17th century covered market that is better known as the Spice Bazaar. Opened in 1664 it has been to this day the center for spice trade in Istanbul. The scents and fragrances are delicious, there is an endless selection of spices, herbs, dried fruits and vegetables, tea and sweets.

I came mainly for the spices, but then I got carried away with all the other offerings as well.

Do you see the little silver and copper pots hanging behind the dried fruit and vegetable in the picture above? This is for Turkish coffee - and my first ticket for Elizabeth's T Tuesday.

My second ticket is this:

And the third ticket is the pots that tea is served in. Aren't they pretty?

But as I mentioned, you can also buy sweet things in the bazaar - funny sweet balls, nuts and dates, and of course Turkish baklava which is not quite as sweet as the baklava that I ate in the Middle East. This was way more agreeable with me and I admit that we bought a good selection of it.

I fell for these cute slippers and I still regret that I didn't buy a pair. At least they're making a colorful picture.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour in the Spice Bazaar. We spent quite some time here, tasting baklava, spices and tea and having some wonderful conversations with the merchants. I hope we can go back one day.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Barbed Wire


Several years ago, I joined a weekly blog meme called "Good Fences" where we would show and write about fences. Since I love to photograph fences I miss this meme - it ended around 2016, I think. But that doesn't prevent me from still blogging about fences every now and then.

Today it's barbed wire. Horrible if you get hurt by it and photogenic at the same time. I'm not talking about the rolled barbed wire that is used to keep prisoners inside camps or to create a barrier against different thinking people or to divide countries. I'm thinking of the barbed wire along meadows, pastures and the like. The often rusty kind.

If something is entangled in the fence, it's even more interesting and often prettier.

It makes a great foreground for a Hawai'ian sunset. 

Often you can find grasses hanging over it, softly waving in the wind, or the young mustard in the background.

It becomes fascinating with snow on it, frozen from the wind.

Barbed wire winds around fence posts and functions as supporting actor in a shadow play.

Irresistible with the background of a stunning sunrise.

Photos were taken during the last ten years, most of them in Sonoma County, but some on the Big Island of Hawai'i and in Northern Arizona.