Monthly Archives: October 2013

What?! Where’s the next mosaic guitar tutorial?

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After receiving 28 emails from readers across the globe, I felt it was time to mention why I have not put up the next guitar mosaic tutorial yet.

Fact is, I am up to my neck in alligators here….AKA graduate school….and between that and work, I barely have time to drink my coffee in the morning!  I will update the guitar tutorials over the holidays once I get through this crunch.  Sorry, folks.  

It will be well worth the wait, though.  

Knock it Off with the Diet Soda, Already!

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I have never understood the concept of drinking diet soda.  Sure, it can save a lot of calories that one might find in a sugary soft drink, but still.  Why not just splash a little juice in the bottom of a glass and top it off with some sparkling water?  Tastes much better and it doesn’t fill your body with nasty Aspartame, Sucralose or Saccharin.  Who needs that kind of chemical cocktail cursing through his or her body?

Actually, I prefer a squeeze of lemon in a glass of stilled water.  That is my preferred drink, but once in awhile, I’ll splash some organic cranberry juice into the bottom of a glass and top it with lime sparkling water.  Light…refreshing and delicious!

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The nastiness that is artificial sweetener causes the  taste buds to become insensitive to things that are naturally sweet, so if you’re used to drinking diet soda, the first time you make your own with juice and sparkling water, you probably won’t like it.   The *really* nasty thing about these artificial sweeteners is that they can trigger insulin the same way that real sugar does, which sends the body into fat storage mode, so they really don’t help anyone lose weight.  This, according to Brooke Alpert, RD, author of “The Sugar Detox.”

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University of Texas researchers conducted a longitudinal study over a period of 10 years that supported evidence that drinking one diet soda per day can lead to being substantially  fatter than those  that opt  not to drink them.  That’s right, folks, the diet soda drinkers  had a 70% increase in their midsections!    Not only that, but a University of Minnesota study found that drinking only one diet soda per day showed a 36% increase of the risks associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome!

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Why would anyone want to put anything into his or her body that has no nutritional value, whatsoever?  Why not just drink water?  We actually NEED water for our bodily processes.  Diet soda cannot fulfill those functions.  A lot of people complain that they get headaches when they drink artificially sweetened soft drinks as well.   Why put yourself through that?      Kinda dumb, if you ask me….like smoking cigarettes is dumb.     Death wish?   You only have one body.  Why not honor it by taking care of it?  Oh…and an article in the Journal of General Dentistry published research that compared the teeth of methamphetamine users, cocaine users and habitual diet soda drinkers, and guess what?  They found that all three of these things have the same level of citric acid, which destroys tooth enamel.    Just think about what is going to happen to your teeth if you drink diet soda AND smoke.  ick!   Shudder.  Gross!Image

While diet soda may taste good to those that are hooked on it…(It tastes disgusting to me!) the American Academy of Neurology found that folks who drank over 4 cups or cans of diet soda every day were more likely to be depressed.     Isn’t life hard enough without intentionally making it worse?

Sure, things like smoking or drinking diet soda are personal choices…but they’re really dumb choices, if you think about it.  Use some common sense and things will work out for you a whole lot better.

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Hockney in San Francisco

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A press conference attended by my husband, John, was held today to celebrate the exhibit, David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition, opening on the 26th and staying up through the 20th of January at the De Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

 

The celebrated British artist  talked about his work and how he has embraced new technology to create much of his work on the iPad these days.

Hockney, one of my idols,  is the most influential and best-known British artist of his generation. More than 300 works are being shown in 18,000 square feet of gallery space, making this the largest exhibition in the history of the museum.

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This exhibition highlights Hockney’s ability to engage with—and gain mastery of—a wide variety of tools and media. Works range from simple pencil drawings on paper, to Bigger Yosemite, five drawings created on the iPad that capture the majesty of the American West. “Like an artist alchemist, in one minute Hockney uses a fancy digital device to make a colorful iPad drawing; in the next he shows us that he is one of our greatest draftsmen by rendering an exactingly detailed charcoal drawing of a forest scene in East Yorkshire,” notes Richard Benefield, deputy director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and organizer of the exhibition.

Hockey is probably best known for this painting, which I’m sure, many of you will recognize:

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When I heard he was going to be there today, I told John that he MUST go.  He agreed, but when he got there, he learned that it was a Press-only event.  Therefore, he promptly told the keepers of the gate that he was reporting for the Arte California blog and they gave him press credentials and let him in!  That’s my man….always thinking ahead.  🙂

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I regret that I could not be there myself, but it was great that John could attend.  He said that he shot about 12 minutes worth of video which I shall upload once he sends it along to me.

This collage was John’s favorite piece in the show”

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Thrilling experience for John.  I am so glad he got to go!

Truffle Flavored Tuscan Kale Chips

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Although I highly recommend visiting Italy whenever possible, one  need not go to Tuscany to enjoy the healthful benefits inherent in eating Tuscan kale.  It is in season now, at least here in Portland it is, and I can’t get enough!  Kale is  packed with cholesterol-lowering benefits, especially when it is steamed.  You see,  the fiber-related components in kale do a much better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed.  However, I’m going to talk about baking it today.

Kale chips can be expensive.  The most reasonably-priced ones that I’ve found come from Trader Joe’s.  However, these chips are very delicate and break into crumbles a little too easily.  They are flavorful, with some kind of cheesy, spicy powder all over them, which makes them messy to eat, in addition to being crumbly…but they do taste good.

ImageAs with most foods, I prefer to make my own.  They taste so much better when they are warm, straight out of the oven.    I have experimented with different methods of cooking them and have finally arrived at the one that I think is most successful.  The secret ingredient?  Truffle oil!  Truffle oil is popular with chefs because it not only tastes great, it is also much less expensive than actual truffles, while possessing some of the same flavors and deep, earthy aroma. The emergence and growth of truffle oil has led to an increase in the availability of foods that are flavored with truffles, in an era when the price of truffles has pushed them out of reach for most folks. Real truffle oil (which contains actual truffle, and more truffle than oil instead of the other way around) can go for $90 an ounce.  The stuff that I buy is ridiculously expensive, but….

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I have just discovered a very inexpensive truffle oil at Trader Joe’s that works almost  as well as this fancy brand that I keep on hand.  In fact, I’m planning to switch.  Why pay more when you don’t have to?  The Trader Joe’s stuff is delicious! The flavor is milder and less cloying, but that is good, because the fancy stuff costs so much…and it goes off if I don’t use it up fairly quickly.

Making these chips is ridiculously simple.  All one needs do is tear the kale into 3-4″ pieces and toss them gently with less than 1 TBS. of truffle oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt…The Meadow, one of my favorite gourmet food shops here in Portland has some delicious truffle sea salt that you can order online.  Simply click the link and visit their great website.

  Lay the oiled, lightly salted kale pieces out on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees until they are dry and crispy.

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Enjoy your delicious kale chips crisp and warm, straight out of the oven.  That’s when they taste best.

Ridiculously simple to make, and such a healthful snack!

Yum-o!

Considering Food and Booze

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I have always cared about what I have eaten, but not to the extent that I now do….and alcohol has never played a prominent role in my life… other than to spark a mild  interest in studying the cultivation of grapes and the manufacture of wine, ( since I have family in the wine business in the Napa Valley).  I would love to take a sommelier course…which is on my bucket list, but that remains in the distant and faint future.

My husband and I do enjoy going to wineries and learning whatever we can about wine, just for fun, and we have a nice collection of bottles at home.  Most recently, we visited Ceago Vinegarden  in Nice,  a Biodynamic Winery located on the shores of gorgeous Clear Lake.   (I will write about that soon, and share photos…)     Interesting stuff, wine….  I’ve just never been much of a drinker.    I go months and months without so much as a sip of it, and during those times, I do not miss it.  I will occasionally have a designer cocktail, such as the plantain margaritas from the Mexican restaurant that I wrote about awhile back, or will have a nice glass of wine with dinner…but rarely, because I have a completely different attitude about what I put into my body now.

Fresh out of high school, I wanted to be a nutritionist, but once I took all of those associated science classes, I realized what I *really* wanted to do (with regard to food) was cook it….so I did.  I trained and cooked in a number of restaurants over the years, and picked up as much knowledge as I could.  I took a lot of cooking courses, too, all related to vegetarianism, and am told today, that I cook well.

This is my personal philosophy of food and drink:  Before I eat anything, I always ask myself, “Can I afford this?”    Except for the occasional special treat (such as Lauretta Jean’s pie, for example) or that cold brew with my vegetarian Sloppy Joe at Hedge House, down the street, I view food and drink as fuel.  So I view my body the same way I would view my car if I were to plan a trip.  I’m not going to plan a long trip without putting some premium fuel into my Mercedes.  Period.

I am in grad school now, and still working full time…..MORE than full time, actually.  I work very long hours and I need to provide myself with the fuel and exercise that is necessary to keep me going.  Therefore, just as I would fill my car with petrol, I fill my body with things that add energy value to keep me going.  It’s really as simple as that.

If I am going to have a drink of alcohol (and I *never* have more than one…and I have a hard time even drinking THAT), I ask myself, “What am I going to be doing tomorrow?  Do I need energy to complete something….or will it be a day when I can take things easy for awhile?”  If the latter case is true, and usually when we’re on vacation, I might order wine with dinner or the occasional margarita or something….but in most cases, I drink water with lemon.  That makes me feel a lot better than alcohol can.

A lot of people claim that booze makes them feel good.  I’ve never felt that way about it. I have never thought it was fun to get drunk, and I’ve never enjoyed being around others that drank heavily.  I have never viewed one’s drinking to drown one’s sorrows as being a realistic endeavor.  I’ve always felt that drinking CAUSES more sorrows than it drowns…but that’s just my personal view, and I’m not knocking anyone that doesn’t share it, so please don’t take this personally.  I just do what *I* need to do to be more efficient, because if I manage to fall behind, I might not ever catch up!

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Today’s breakfast was steel cut oatmeal with 1/2 cup of quinoa in it.  To that, I added 1/2 cup heated, organic mixed berries.  Dr. Greger (my nutrition guru – Click the link…) says that flash frozen fruits and vegs are nutritionally as good  than fresh ones…so I take advantage of their lower prices when fresh berry season ends.  I enjoy fresh organic produce when I can eat it the same day it is harvested.  The flavors are so delicious and the textures are so delightful….but today, after berry season has passed, I simply heated some frozen berries and let those sweeten my oats.  I added a touch of real cinnamon (most  “cinnamon”sold in the US is not actually cinnamon, but instead, the ground up bark from a tree that is related to the cinnamon tree.  The fake stuff is ok, but it does not have the same nutritional benefits as the real deal.)    Yum-o!  It was goooood!!

So with that….I return to my regularly scheduled work…work…work…!    Have a great day, everyone.  🙂

Portland, Oregon – The Colors of Autumn

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No matter how you look at it, Portland is a beautiful city.  Its distinct four seasons change her look dramatically from month to month, sometimes draping her in a swath of floral bouquets and, at other times, splashing her with rich, warm color that can rival any New England landscape.

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No matter what the changes are, they are dramatic…..breathtaking, in fact, even after the leaves have fallen and the barren trees stretch their naked branches up to touch the weeping winter sky.

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Not quite ready to say good bye, the last of the summer crocus peeks through the soil in a fanfare of color and charm.

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The creamy white mushrooms hidden among the piñon pine needles calm the soul and lend an air of quiet solitude among the array of festive color.

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…and next spring’s roses grow their protective armor in preparation for their own showcase that will occur after the winter thaw.

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This is autumn in Portland, where my favorite pumpkins grow and thrive in the organic garden, bringing smiles to children’s faces and love within my heart.  Living here is truly living, and it makes me feel so glad to be awake and alive. I feel fulfilled, and have intent and purpose…a reason to get up every morning and face the new day with happiness and joy.

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Even the old feral cats that hide themselves among the bushes, know they are loved.  They are cared for in this city, where people set out dishes of food for them and offer them shelter when the cold winds sweep through after the autumn gives way to the winter months.

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The birds flock here as well, welcomed by the abundances of houses from which to choose….but beware of the cats!

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There is always someplace safe to nest and get in out of the cold.

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The little squirrels keep a watchful eye out for fallen chestnuts or popcorn from passers by.

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Portland is a beautiful city.  I think I might stay here for awhile.  It is a place for family and friends.  It is a place for art and culture, for good food and good times.  Portland  is a place for love and nature.  It is a good place to be, no matter what the time of year.

pumpkin patch

I love Portland.

Cowboy Eggs – from a part-time Vegan

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After years of not eating eggs and dairy, I have now re-introduced those things back into my diet….albeit a tiny bit, less than once a week….but enough to no longer consider myself vegan.  One thing that I love to make is what I call my “Cowboy Eggs”.  This is a simple, yet delicious dish that you can whip up in no time.

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Ingredients

1 large  jalapeño (seeded and diced

1 egg

1/8 cup shredded cheddar (VERY sharp!)

1/4 large avocado

1 corn tortilla – torn into pieces

1 heaping TBL. salsa (I use my own homemade)

1 TBL chopped fresh cilantro

slight splash EVOO

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Serves 1

Begin by cooking the  jalapeño in the olive oil.  Add corn tortilla and cook until soft.  add egg.  Let set for 1 minute, then scramble together with other ingredients.  Add salsa.  Turn off heat.  Add cheese.  Add cilantro.  Toss chopped avocado on top.

 Season to taste with salt/pepper

That’s all there is to it.  However, you can also add garlic and onion, if you want, some spicy hot corn relish, black olives….anything you’d like.  Serve this dish up hot with some contrasting citrus, and you’re all set.  Cowboy eggs.  Tex-Mex breakfast at its best.

There are just no words……..Alabama Shakes

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There are simply no words to describe how much I love this band….and this song….

 

And P.S.   – OMG!  I had to watch this about 6 times before I realized that there are some Portland shots in here!  🙂

Cafe of Life – Vita Cafe!

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Since we were out of town for our daughter’s recent birthday, we offered to take her to dinner at the restaurant of her choice this evening, as a belated celebration.  She chose Vita Cafe in Portland’s Alberta Arts district.

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The interior of Vita Cafe is quietly simple, with a hipster/industrial feel.  It is cozy, but the noise level gets pretty high.  One of the favorite features for me is the art.

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I have always wanted to start an Ivory Coast Barbershop art collection. I think it is so cool.  I could look at these things forever!   Vita Cafe has a nice collection .   Hairdresser and Barbershop Signs of Africa are original boards from Cameroon, Senegal and the Central African Republic dating from the 1970’s  to the present day, and stand as testimony of change characteristic of modern Africa and its popular art scene.


The advertising signs contain all aspects of a specific popular genre, with similarities and differences mirroring the times of their appearance – the stylistic signature, fashion trends and influences from abroad, at the same time revealing a strong respect for the traditional ways of combing hair – the starting point for almost all modern hairstyles. Now, you may be wondering how tasteful HAIR ART is for the interior of a restaurant…but at the Vita Cafe, it works!   Inherited ideals that meet and merge with contemporary expressions, in this case, new and authentic stylizations and imported styles, create a harmonious symbiosis evident in varying formal designs in the context of elaborating hairstyles for the purpose of creating a visual embellishment of the head.

Advertising boards were made by specialized, self-taught artists, who used colors to paint previously determined motifs on wooden, plywood, or less commonly on metal surfaces, most often with the very expressive use of pure colors.   These paintings evoke positive, happy feelings…at least in me, they do.  The paintings mostly portray figure motifs which symbolize certain respectable professions, or certain products and brand names. Besides the pictorial, the boards also conveyed written messages and signs. This specific combination of symbol and written message which characterizes African painted signs has not changed since the beginning emergence of this art.

Today there are a number of artists all over Africa who are specialized in the painting of advertising boards. Their work advertises a wide spectrum of products and professions – from movies, restaurants, hotels, discotheques, buses, car mechanics, cobblers, tailor shops, state, health and religious institutions to the new trendy hairstyles.  But are we here to talk about art…or are we here to talk about food?  Vita Cafe has great vegetarian and vegan offerings.

There is one thing that I don’t miss about Texas, and that is the chicken fried steak.  I always thought that concoction was disgusting….but I used to enjoy an alternative at the Texas-specific restaurant The Black Eyed Pea, and that was the chicken fried chicken.  Well, Vita Cafe has their own version of this Southern Fare, and that is what I enjoyed this evening.  Substitute meat with tempeh and add almond gravy, and one has the ultimate in vegan comfort food!    This delicious and fattening batter dipped deep fried organic tempeh comes with mashed potatoes and almond gravy on the side.  Yum-o!  It isn’t the kind of thing one would want to eat every day….but it’s very tasty!

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Baby Ingrid had the vegan mac and cheese with steamed organic broccoli.   The vegan cheese sauce was very tasty, with a salty mouthfeel and lots of flavor.  Ingrid clearly could not discern it from “real” cheese, which was a good thing. She gobbled it right up!

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My daughter had a vegan philly cheese steak sandwich.  She seemed a little overwhelmed by all of that bread, so ended up eating the insides of the sandwich with knife and fork.  It was seitan cooked with onions, vegan cheese, peppers and all the works that one expects to find in a philly cheese steak sandwich.

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There are many other fine offerings at Vita Cafe, but I also like this place because of its philosophy of using as much locally grown organic produce as possible, and for putting forth a concerted effort to leave a small carbon thumbprint on the earth….and for being a generally groovy little restaurant with a nice selection of wine and local microbrews.    I wasn’t crazy about their red velvet cake, but liked everything else a lot.

Anti-Mass at the deYoung

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Ugh!  Look at my messy hair!  Windy, windy day in San Francisco that day! 

As an artist, part of my job is to observe art by others to learn from, be inspired by and humbled by their work.  I will be documenting much of my recent trip to the de Young Museum in San Francisco over time, but today, I want to focus on this piece by Cornelia Parker.

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Titled, “Anti-Mass”   this sculpture was constructed from the remains of a Southern Black Baptist Church destroyed by arsonists.  I was drop-jawed when I saw it….almost moved to tears.  The pieces appear  to defy gravity, suggesting the temporality of everything physical, even as it captures the spirit of the worshippers.

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In the title,  the word “mass” refers to both the elemental substance of the universe, as well as the Catholic sacramental ritual, uniting science and religion in a metaphoric insistence on the triumph of creativity over violence.  It evokes the lost church and congregation through absence more powerfully than could any figurative image.

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I must have sat on the bench in the middle of the room and stared at it for half an hour.  Rarely am I as deeply affected by a piece of art as suddenly and as deeply as this.  I was very surprised when I saw this artist’s photo, revealing, I suppose, my own (shame-worthy) inner-propensity toward stereotyping.   The name Cornelia Parker, coupled with the subject matter of this piece, brought to mind a fierce black woman artist.  Little did I expect her to look like this:

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Parker studied at the Gloucestershire College of Art and Design (1974–75) and Wolverhampton Polytechnic (1975–78).   She received her MFA from Reading University in 1982 and honorary doctorates from the University of Wolverhampton in 2000, the University of Birmingham (2005) and the University of Gloucestershire (2008).

In 1997, Cornelia Parker was shortlisted for the Turner Prize along with Christine BorlandAngela Bulloch, and Gillian Wearing (who won the prize).   She is married, has one daughter, and lives and works in London.                 I want to make art that has this same kind of impact!

 

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I Saw the Light – Pigeon Point Lighthouse

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We tend to visit Pigeon Point lighthouse every year when we are in the area.  It is located on Pacific Coast Highway #1, near Pescadero, between San Francisco and Santa Cruz and is a lovely beacon for ships in the fog….or at least, it was at one time.    This time last week, I was standing there shooting this little video from my phone.  I saw a big whale pod that day….and seals….and sea lions….and a plethora of waterfowl.  The sun was out and the weather was perfect.  It was a beautiful day.

                                               

built in 1871, Pigeon Point lighthouse, at 115′ tall,  ties with one other lighthouse as one of the tallest on the West coast of the United States.  There are a few small houses there, that serve as hostels.  John and I have always wanted to stay there.  It costs next to nothing, and we thought it would be fun to hang with some of the folks that are passing through the area.  We have simply never gotten around to it yet.  There is a small gift shop and a community barn where musical events and lectures are held occasionally.                                    

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The lantern room of the lighthouse tower is no longer equipped with the original first-order, 1000-watt Fresnel lens, nor is it any longer illuminated for demonstration purposes.  The lens has 24 flash panels, is composed of 1008 hand-polished lenses and prisms and is capable of producing over 500,000 candlepower illumination. It was manufactured by the Henry-LePaute company in Paris and was first lit at Pigeon Point at sunset on what would, one day, be my birthday, on November 15, 1872.  Perhaps this is why I feel such a special affinity for this place.  Funds are being raised to restore it, and at some point, we might be able to walk up the winding stairs to the top.  I hope so!

We always see something interesting when we visit Pigeon point.  This last trip, I saw a fairly large whale pod, but couldn’t identify what kind they were.  This is the only picture I got of their blow spouts, but I did get one ok tail shot. (below)

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We went once during the evening, and as we were leaving, I saw a flash of yellow eyes in the underbrush.  We stopped the car, and I snapped a picture that was completely dark.  However, when I lightened it up with Photoshop, this was what was sitting there!

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Pigeon Point is one of my favorite places to photograph birds, because I can stand on a ledge at eye-level with them, and sometimes above them, and capture some great angles.

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This is the partial jawbone of a young gray whale.  I find it quite beautiful, and love to run my fingers along the cracks and indentations and wonder about the animal…how it died…what it experienced during its lifetime.  I feel honored to touch its bones.

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whale bones

There are a thousand and one beautiful photo opportunities at Pigeon Point.  In virtually any direction one turns, there is something awesome to photograph.

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We usually see a lot of seals sunning themselves on the rocks below the observation deck.  However, we only saw a couple this time.  They were bobbing about in the water and keeping a look out for one another.

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Being at Pigeon Point always brings a smile to my face.  This day was no exception.

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