Monday, December 31, 2012

We found Davenport's hidden Glass Beach

When my friend Mike posted a photo on Facebook of piles of seafoam at a beach I was intrigued. "Are you in Santa Cruz?" I asked on Facebook. "Glass Beach in Davenport," he replied. I found references to Glass Beach on Google but no actual directions to where it is located or how to get there.

I showed Michael's picture to Hubby and he said "Let's go now!" So we hopped into the car and headed "over the hill" towards Davenport on Highway 1 just nine miles past Santa Cruz. We figured we'd stop at the Davenport Roadhouse for Hubby's 3:00 mocha break and ask at the restaurant if they could tell us where Glass Beach was.

While hubby had his mocha, I ordered this Caramel, Walnut Brownie.

It was the best brownie ever. And I reaaaaaally mean it. What made it the best?

The ooey gooey caramel in every bite. The cake was rich, moist, and chocolatey and the caramel was luxuriously decadent! We hadn't even found the beach yet and I was done. LOL. This brownie was the highpoint of my day. My only regret was not getting a second one to bring home for later. Ah, well, it gives me a good reason to return to Davenport in the future.

As we placed our order at the coffee bar we asked, and were told, how to get to the beach. I could tell you but I really think finding it is part of the adventure. I'd suggest if you ever want to visit Glass Beach just stop in at the Roadhouse for a bite or a drink (they have a restaurant, coffee shop, bar, and wine tastings so there's bound to be something you'd enjoy) then ask about the beach's location.

I will show you that the way there is neither close or easy. You don't just pull into a parking lot along the beach. First you walk down an uneven trail for a short distance. Then you cross some railroad tracks. That's the easy part. Next you have to hike down a very steep and rocky path to the beach below. When you get almost to the bottom the path becomes uneven, large rocks that are quite slippery when wet or muddy. Some were both as we've had recent rains. Suffice to say you'll want to wear hiking shoes or boots of some type as opposed to any kind of flip flop or dress shoes with slick soles or high heels.

And then we saw what we came to see. Sea foam!

Each time the waves came into the shore a new batch of foam washed up onto the sand. It was pretty windy so a lot of the foam then went air born like fluffy white tumbleweeds rolling down the beach. It was really cool!

The foam was hard to photograph though. Between the wind moving and blowing the piles around and the waves rushing up onto the beach I gave up after I got a few shots and my foot got soaked and my tripod bag was washed over by a wave I didn't see coming. Thankfully I had time to grab one bag. Of course I lifted my camera bag up just seconds before the wave hit. After that I kept both bags on my shoulder the rest of the time. It was cumbersome but definitely the smart thing to do.

The beach is also dog friendly. We saw a few dogs which of course meant paw prints in the sand.

A man I chatted with told me it's called Glass Beach because there used to be a glass factory nearby that would discard pieces of colorful glass in a nearby creek allowing them to wash down to the ocean where the sand and surf would smooth and polish them over time.

But just like getting to the beach, finding glass is no easy feat. You literally have to dig in the sand (between the waves rushing in) to find some. It definitely takes some effort and a small shovel if you decide you want to try to find a piece.

We waited a bit for the sun to set. It was gorgeous. I don't think I'll ever get tired of photographing sunsets.

As the sun went down I finally saw some birds overhead. This image captured some soft lens flare. I hope someday you can go there. The air is so fresh, it's peaceful, and beautiful, and timeless.

I've always known I'm not the kind of person who likes to tan on a beach. But this year I discovered I really like being there at sunrise or sunset and not so much in between.

As the light ebbed away it began to get cold. But hubby wanted to take some long exposure shots so we broke out our tripods and hung around past dark.

It was much darker than this but because I left the shutter open for so long it appears lighter out than it really was. This is the beach on the other side of the bluff that runs along Glass Beach. The long exposure gave the water a soft and misty appearance smoothing together the motion of the waves.

On our way back to our car we passed the Roadhouse Restaurant and Inn again. But now it was dark. Wanting to practice just a bit more long exposure photography I took a few 20 second shots of the restaurant and inn with different aperture settings. The light trails from the cars driving along the highway added some drama.

By then I was chilled to the bone. We left Davenport around 6:00 PM and no kidding, I was cold until 10:30 PM even with the heater on in the car and even after piling two blankets on top of me once we got home. It took turning up the furnace and having a big bowl of hot soup to thaw me out. But it was worth it. I'm usually not so spontaneous so this was a whole new kind of adventure. Perhaps 2013 will bring more of them :)

Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant and Inn - Website
1 Davenport Avenue
Davenport, CA 95017 - Map
Tel: 831-426-8801

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My wine lover status has been confirmed

For Christmas hubby got me a case of my favorite wine.

He had it shipped to his office because our neighborhood has experienced at least one stolen package that I'm aware of in recent weeks and I didn't want to have to go to desperate measures to protect my wine like the woman who recently set a trap for her local package thief up in San Francisco. When he struck, she chased him down with a wooden sword, incapacitated him with bear spray, then made a citizens arrest and held him until the police arrived to take him to the hospital. It would make a great, adrenaline filled blog post but I really don't need the drama.

My case arrived safely and in good condition albeit a bit late. It didn't arrive until after hubby left work the Friday night before the holiday so I didn't receive it until the day after Christmas after he returned to work.

It was worth the wait. 12 bottles all for me! Along with the case came a handwritten note letting us know that only 78 cases of their 2010 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc were made and that it's the kind of wine that will keep for decades. Decades?

Hmmm. I was planning on drinking a bottle a week for the next 12 weeks. Guess maybe I should pace myself.

Not only does Malm make a delicious wine, I love their attention to detail. Their monogrammed corks are sealed with a rich, red wax instead of foil.

There was also a postcard about the Wine Road's upcoming WInter WINEland event January 19-20, 2013. CLICK HERE for more details. Meet the winemakers, sample some food pairings, or take a winery tour. If you've never been to Sonoma's wine country before it would be a great time to go.

If you're interested in ordering some you can contact Malm Cellars at:

Ph 707.364.0441
Fax 707.473.9830

Malm Cellars
P.O. Box 1524
Healdsburg, California 95448

Friday, December 28, 2012

A DIY, French Apple Tart, Daring Baker's Challenge

Remember when I joined the Daring Bakers in January 2011? I did several challenges before giving up when my health failed a bit and I just didn't have it in me to spend a day in the kitchen each month.

Yesterday I came up with my own challenge. I baked an apple tart. But not just any apple tart. It was a French apple tart with vanilla custard beneath the apples and a shortbread style crust. All made from scratch. It wasn't overly sweet. It was a nice, light dessert that I suspect would be excellent with a dessert wine.

I was in a hurry to take it to a friend's party but it was so pretty I snapped a few pictures with my iPhone before heading out the door.

This recipe is from the "Bistro" cookbook which is from one of my favorite series of cookbooks: Casual Cuisines of the World.

The only thing I want to change in the future is adding an apricot glaze to the top to make the apples shiny. Next time.

The tart was a little time consuming but quite easy to make. I say easy IF you have the proper tools for the job. With the right ingredients, tools, and attention to detail, baking is not as complicated as most people seem to think it is.

If you try to make a tart like this and want those very thin and even apples slices I can tell you that using a mandolin is the best way to uniformly slice the apples to a 1/8" thickness. I purchased mine around 20 years ago so it has a catch tray beneath it that doesn't seem to be available with current models.

The front platform between the blade and handle is adjustable so you're able to vary the thickness of what you're cutting.

The smaller rectangular piece is a hand guard so that when you get past the thickest part of the fruit or vegetable you're slicing you can lay the guard over the remaining portion and the pointy teeth on the underside will hold the fruit or veggie in place so that you don't risk slicing off the tip of your finger. NEVER try to hold the last bit of fruit or veggie in your hand to get those last slices in. You will cut yourself. For sure. Everyone I know who owns a mandolin has done it.

Tin plated steel tart pan with a removable bottom

And to bake a perfect tart shell with the beautifully scalloped edge you'll need a two part tart pan. The difference between it and a one piece pan is that the bottom separates from the sidewall. So after the tart has baked you can hold the pan from the bottom and the ring will fall down your arm allowing you to set the tart on a rack to cool with the tart shell exposed. Any kitchen specialty store should have them. If no one does where you live, you can also purchase them online.

You can see in the photo of the tart I baked how the crust shrank down and away from the pan itself making it even easier to separate the two.

So go forth and bake! I'm thinking of renewing myself in 2013 and taking on the monthly challenges with the Daring Bakers once again. It was both fun and delicious. A win-win.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How to get home when you've drunk too much

I just saw this video on Facebook. As expected the moment of and aftermath depiction of the kind of accidents caused by DUI drivers is graphic but, imo, not gratuitously so. Every portrayal is an accident I've read about in the news over the years whether it was caused by alcohol or inattentive driving. Which really brings home that on New Years Eve you can celebrate, but be responsible.

I care.

For the sake of the person or people you are going to maim or kill, for your own sake, and the sake of your family, friends, and loved ones who will mourn you when you die, have to visit you in prison, have to care for you the rest of your life if you're severely disabled, or have to give you rides to and from work each day for a year after you lose your license, don't do it. Don't drive drunk.

In this day and age there are no excuses left. We all know better. We can even purchase keychain breathalyzers. If you've celebrated too much you have plenty of choices to get yourself (or a friend) home safely:





 Call 1-800-AAA-HELP to see if Tipsy Tow is available where you live.

AAA’s Tipsy Tow Program offers a free tow for drinking drivers in Northern California – members and non-members alike – from 6pm on New Year’s Eve 2012 (Monday, December 31, 2012) until 6am the next morning, in Northern California, Nevada and Utah.

For Tipsy Tow in Northern CA call (800) 222-4357 (AAA-HELP) and tell the operator “I need a Tipsy Tow” for a free tow of up to 10 miles. Service is restricted to a one-way ride for the driver and his or her vehicle to the driver’s home.

5. CALL FOR A FREE "Safe and Sober" CAB RIDE HOME.
Serving San Francisco and Sacramento

Berg Injury Lawyers will be offering a Safe and Sober Free Cab Ride Home from 10pm on Monday, December 31, 2012 through 4am on Tuesday, January 1, 2013 through Luxor Cab and Yellow Cab companies.

San Francisco (within city limits), call Luxor Cab at (415) 282-4141. Tell them Berg Injury Lawyers is picking up the tab ($35 Limit)

Sacramento, call Yellow Cab Company of Sacramento at (916) 444-2222. Tell them Berg Injury Lawyers is picking up the tab ($35 Limit)

Cab rides are made available to area residents who otherwise might attempt to drive home after drinking. Rides are provided from bars & restaurants (not from house parties) to an individual’s residence and not to other drinking locations.

Muni will run free service from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Caltrain and SamTrans will be free from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.

If you do drive, cause an accident, and get arrested I also know a bail bond company you can call: 1-866-677-BAIL (2245).

You may wonder why I'm friends with a Bail Bond company. It's because I built their website a few years ago and have stayed in touch ever since. I probably know far more about the bail industry than you would have thought I did. Maybe I'll do a post about how bail works sometime next year.

For now, have fun but please stay safe. The world needs you and the person or people you could take out if you DUI. And be safe not just on NYE, but every single day.

The Best Christmas lights in San Jose

You be the judge.

On Christmas evening hubby and I just happened to drive past a winter wonderland. It had more lights than any house we've been to in the past when we intentionally went out specifically to photograph Christmas lights. One look and I hollered "PULL OVER." And hubby did.

I simply had to photograph this extraordinary yard.

There was a lit nativity scene in the driveway that reminded me of the ones I remember seeing as a child.

And plenty of other characters from Santas to a lit sleigh horse, a drumming bear, a snowman, reindeer, a rocking horse, and colorful candy canes.

The lawn was even covered with faux snow.

I'm not sure how long the yard will stay decorated but here's the address in case you want to visit it this year (if there's still time) or next year for sure. You can read more info about this location on the Lights of the Valley website.

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a very Merry Christmas and to all a happy holiday season.

Cross Street: El Camino Real

1451 Lincoln Street
San Jose, CA 95050 map

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Stunning street art in San Francisco

His name is Apex, and he painted this incredible mural in San Francisco. He's a street artist, a painter, and a sculptor.

Hubby and I were driving south on Masonic in the rain today when this breath of energy, a piece of public art comprised of layers and layers of spray-painted color, caught my eye as we approached the intersection at Haight.

We doubled back, found a parking spot, and there in the rain and wet I took these photos.

His signature reads @Apexer. It's his Twitter handle.

I'm actually glad I saw Apex's work for the first time on a cloudy day. The drab greyness that hung over the city, more quiet than usual because it was Christmas day, only made his painting even more vivid.

Do you love public art? I do. I think it's great when it's out in the open for everyone to enjoy.  We're very fortunate that SF is a city where art in all forms seems to thrive and you can literally stumble upon it when you least expect it.

If you're ever in the neighborhood you should swing by and enjoy this mural, visit his website, and read more about Apex in this SF Weekly blog post. In the post it's mentioned that the painting isn't a permanent work. The store that commissioned it will update the mural from time to time. If you look at the street view of the intersection on the link below you'll see it used to be a completely different painting. So if you want to see this one, don't wait too long.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Oh My Hubby: The Bread Crumb Incident

"Hey, come see the grand finale of the secret, time lapse video I made when I left for my coffee break this afternoon," he said.

Me: See! This is why you have to run things by me before you do them.

Hubby: No! This is exactly why I don't tell you ahead of time or you wouldn't let me do it.

Me: WHAT were you thinking?

Hubby: That some birds would come eat them or maybe a squirrel and I'd have a neat video.

Me: It seriously never occurred to you the dog would eat them?

Hubby: He just went outside before I left to go get coffee so I didn't think he'd want to go out again that soon.

Me: If the dog gets sick it's going to be all your fault. Those crumbs are swelling up in his stomach as we speak. Wait. Are those the 5 YEAR OLD BREAD CRUMBS you were supposed to throw away last week? (I made him fresh crumbs for the burgers he was making himself for dinner.)

Hubby: Yes.

Me: You HID the old bread crumbs?

Hubby: Yeah, I wanted to do something cool with them. (Really, who says that?)

Me: Now you need to go sweep those up before the rats come and eat them tonight. (Every neighborhood in the Bay Area has rats. I know this because a professional exterminator told me so.)

Hubby: I think it'll be ok to leave them there.

Me: The morning dew is going to turn them into a big, soggy mess, and they're going to swell up so it'll be harder to clean tomorrow.

He thought that would be cool. At my insistence he, begrudgingly, went out and swept up the rest of the crumbs. Then he came inside and asked if he had to sweep them into a dust pan or could he just leave them on the patio.


A fun and flirty Christmas fail

Christmas fail. Hubby is always a Scrooge when it comes to decorating our house for the holidays. He hates decorations and never wants me to put up a tree. Last year I did and it was beautiful.

It looked like this. And it had a cute mouse king ornament I got when I went to see The Nutcracker for the first time in 2010.

But since I didn't take it down until sometime around May, he said no tree this year. When I set out a strand of lights on a chair to practice the bokeh photography I blogged about two days ago, he came home from work and asked if this was my solution to not having a tree. LOL

On a related Nutcracker note I purchased this ballerina ornament to give as a gift but never did. I got it for a little girl I know who had been taking ballet lessons. But then I found out she'd stopped taking ballet and had moved on to ice skating. So I never gave it to her. And I never packed it away. It was sitting right on a kitchen side counter for 2 years. So, I hung it on the chair.

At that point I decided to go "all in." I also had this Christmas fabric panel I sewed over 15 years ago when I was trying to decide if quilting could be a fun hobby. I never finished it so it's safe to say quilting wasn't my thing. But it seemed like a great accent for the Christmas chair so I dug it out of my craft closet. It's kind of a sad, lame, patchwork doily.

From our chair to yours: Merry Christmas!

And I just happened to have this wide, red, gold edged ribbon handy that I'd saved from I can't remember when because I always save fabric ribbons to reuse.

Pretty festive right?

And in keeping with our deadbeat Christmas theme, turns out my gift from hubby didn't arrive even though he sent the payment on the 8th of December. When he contacted them last week he found out it hadn't been shipped even though the item was in stock. He was promised it would be, but he doesn't think it was because he never received it so there'll be no pillowcase wrapped gift under the Christmas chair for me on Christmas morning. *Dabbing my imaginary tears away with an imaginary hanky.*

Not to worry though. Christmas for me isn't about trees and gifts. It's about our annual one hour drive to San Francisco where we spend the day in the city before driving home on El Camino Real because that was the tradition hubby started for himself before we met. BTW, it takes around 3 to 3.5 hours to get home.

Know what? I take back what I said earlier. Christmas this year is going to suck. :P

Except for Kitai. He has presents to open and he loves opening presents. Knowing he'll enjoy the magic of Christmas will have to be enough to make my day:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How to make a DIY bokeh filter

I have a new photography skill I want to share with you. This morning I tweeted:

So what is bokeh? Bokeh is the blurred, out of focus effect in the background of a photo when you shoot with a short depth of field.

And how do you pronounce it? I've read it originated from the Japanese language (boke) which means it's pronounced bow-kay. ETA: Hubby just suggested this is confusing because bow can sound like bow tie or bow wow. It's pronounced like bow tie.

Here are two examples of bokeh taken from my couch. Note how the white Christmas lights are soft and blurred instead of clearly defined.

But there's also something called a bokeh filter. It's where you have a circular shaped filter with a cutout in the center. The light passes through the cutout and any out of focus light source reproduces the shape of the cutout in the filter. Here's an example of how I made a bokeh filter, and a paper tube to hold it in place:

  1. Take a piece of black construction paper and cut a circle the same size as the end of your lens.
  2. I used an X-acto knife to cut out the tree shape. Or use a small paper punch shape like the kind used for making die cuts for scrapbooking. 
  3. I cut out my shape from a smaller piece.
  4. I then cut out the center of the circle and positioned and taped the cutout section into place using Scotch tape to keep it centered.
  5. I wrapped some of the construction paper around the lens and used Scotch tape to hold it in place using the tension of wrapping it tightly to the lens.
  6. I took the cutout section and slipped it into the end of the tube aligning the cutout against the lens.
  7. Set your camera on the widest/largest aperture setting you can. I set my macro lens at 2.8 then used auto focus on something in the foreground so that the lights behind it took on the bokeh effect. I could have used manual focus to do this as well but the paper tube prohibited my ability to use my manual focus ring.

Does that make sense?

Here's a picture of the paper bokeh I made.

It nestled into place by tucking it into the paper tube around the lens.

It made Christmas lights like this. . .

Look like this!