Sunday, November 13, 2011

Autumn Haiku

Pretty autumn leaves

In the late afternoon sun

Lighten my heart so.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Above the clouds

Well, not exactly above the clouds but the pictures almost show my friends standing above or next to the clouds!

The following are two of my favorite pictures that I took last weekend of my friends at our family ranch in Los Osos, in the central coast of California.

The low cloud/ marine layer is actually several miles from where Joshua is standing. But from the angle the picture is taken it does look like the cloud or marine layer is right at the edge of the hillside from where he is.

On a clear day, Morro Rock and the bay are visible from where Patty is standing. I especially love this picture. The soft evening colors, the low clouds, the ocean air - you can almost feel and smell them! biggrin

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Piano lessons

It has been more than 12 years since I had a piano in the house. When I saw an old piano for sale at a super low price, I went ahead and got it - to finally replace the one that I left at my parents' home when I got married and moved to the USA, and also one that my kids could learn to play on.

Duncan is adamant that he is not going for piano lessons but when I insisted, he said he will give it a year, and we will reassess after that! I hope, however, that he will find it interesting and continue with the lessons. No, he hasn't started yet.

Denice, however, is rather keen to get started. Two of her classmates are already taking lessons, and she thinks she will enjoy learning to play the piano. I hope she'll find it interesting too, but we will see how hard they are willing to practice!

As for me, it has been years since I played, not that I was any good to begin with! But sight reading is slowly coming back, and I am determined to practice my scales because that was one of the things that I was not disciplined at doing when I took lessons many years ago.

Oh, one last thing, I hope the sound of the kids' practising on the piano is not going to make me regret not getting a digital piano instead! mrgreen

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Botanical Gardens

During the recent school spring break, we took a trip to Pasadena in southern California just so we could visit the Huntington Botanical Gardens. The road trip took us 7 hours but it was worth the time because I thoroughly enjoyed the day we spent at the gardens.

I didn't get to see the Japanese Garden because most of it was closed for renovation but the Chinese Garden was open and I loved the pictures that I took of it! Friends thought the pictures were taken in China!

The Desert Garden was really something. I could easily have spent the whole day at this garden! I was very happy that most of the cacti in the garden were at the peak of their flowering season, and I had a great time photographing the cactus flowers - something that I don't normally see!

Before we drove home that weekend, we made a 2-hour stop at the Los Angeles County Aboretum because it was quite close to the hotel we stayed at. I saw flowers and plants that I did not see at the Huntington Gardens and was glad we made that stop! The Epiphytic cactus flowers were indeed spectacular!

This trip is one that I would not mind repeating. biggrin

Monday, May 09, 2011

Book Review: No He Can't

Barack Obama was swept into office with much euphoria on the slogan of "Yes We Can", and the message of Hope and Change. With such euphoric support, Obama had hoped to "fundamentally transform" the nation while in office.

In his book, No He Can't, conservative columnist and syndicated radio talk-show host, Kevin McCullough, clearly spells out in four sections the failures of the Obama administration. In the area of the economy, despite bailouts and stimulus packages, the economy has not improved and the number of the jobless is higher than the promised maximum of 8%. The no tax increase pledge on those making under $250,000 is just another empty promise, especially the cost the new healthcare bill will have on small businesses.

On the area of national security, if Obama had been successful and able to institute all of his own preferences and policies, Osama bin Laden would not have been captured and killed. Thank goodness that the Bush administration national security policies are still in place! The Obama administration prefers to try captured terrorists in civilian courts, and cut intelligence, defense, and national security spending, and ignore the real threat on the homeland from the jihadists.

When it comes to the values that we believe in, Obama disdains an individual's right to self-determination and pushes his agenda for more dependency under the guise of "caring for your brother." The healthcare reform bill was pushed through despite overwhelming objection from the voters. The Obama Justice Department refuses to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. And among the first things Obama did on taking office was to sign an executive order that re-instated taxpayer-funded abortions overseas.

Finally, in the area of accountability to the people, the Obama administration does not fulfill its promise of a transparent government. ACORN's questionable activities have been ignored, but Arizona's immigration law to protect its own borders, was worthy of a law suit by the Obama Justice Department.

These are just some of the Obama failures that Kevin McCullough outlined in his book, and I find it a great read, depressing at times to have my thoughts on Obama confirmed. But Kevin McCullough ended his book by suggesting that readers choose clarity over emotion, the kind of emotion that "Yes We Can" evokes, and with such clarity in place readers will be able to put a stop to efforts that are out to intimidate them out of their belief systems, and say "No, you can't!"

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

Kite Day

Last Sunday, right after church, we made our way to MacFarland Ranch so that we could participate in Kite Day. This year was only the second time that we'd participated! We kept missing the dates!

The kids were really excited, and they got their kites ready and loaded them in the car before we left for church. The Kite Day started at 10 a.m. and I wasn't sure how many people were that before noon. When we got there after 1.00 p.m. there was not a bad crowd there. A bigger crowd would not have worked! Kites would have got entangled!

For those who didn't have kites, there were kites that they could borrow there, and they even made little kites and supplied strings for anyone who wanted a kite.

For my kids, it was a fun afternoon. Too bad the wind did not blow more consistently. When it did blow, the kites would stay high up in the sky, and when the wind dwindled, all the kites fell to the ground.

We will try to keep an eye out for next year's event! Good thing we saw the flyer stuck to wall near the door to the kids' favorite local restaurant! That's how we learned of this year's Kite Day date!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Science Faire 2011

Last night the kids took part in their first Science Faire organized by their school. This event is held once every two years. We didn't know what to expect even though each family was given the guidelines on how to submit a project. The initial outline of the project was submitted a few weeks earlier. Good thing I spoke to one of their teachers who told me how to prepare the display board!

Doug and I were quite amused because the science project was mostly done by Doug. But we needn't feel so bad because almost all the students had some help from their parents especially the younger kids.

Before we received news about the Science Faire Doug had already showed the kids how fuel (fire) used up oxygen. He took a pie tin, filled it a little with water, lit a candle and placed a tall glass over the candle. After a while the flame (fuel) went out, and the trapped water under the glass rose a little, signifying the water taking the place of the oxygen that had been used up.

It was a pretty neat experiment and the kids understood the concept, so that experiment was what they presented at the Science Faire last night. Doug did a simple display board and drew pictures of how the experiment was conducted. We also had a pie tin filled with some water, candle, glass, and a lighter together with the display for demonstration. The kids were able to explain the concept of the project to fellow classmates.

It really tickled me because that science project won them first place for their class/age group!

There were some interesting projects from the other kids, and I was impressed by their display boards. Some had projects that took over several days or weeks to complete and they had pictures of the different stages of their project. They were very well documented with pictures, and results of their experiments were displayed with their display boards as well.

Next time I know better, and will try to make the display board more colorful and attractive. Judging from the results of the project that the kids submitted it mattered not how pretty the display was - it was the content of the project that won the judges!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Baking Bread

Brioches à tête

It almost seems unbelievable to me that I am now able to make bread! Fresh, home-made bread! For the longest time I was afraid of baking with yeast. My fear was almost confirmed because the very first bread that I tried to bake, did not rise! After more than two hours of resting, the dough had remained the same size.

Focaccia with truffle oil

Thank goodness for the internet! I found the possible reason for the failure of the dough to rise. I did put in the butter and milk mixture into the yeast mixture before the butter and milk mixture had cooled sufficiently. Hot liquid is most certain to kill the yeast. But thank goodness, the dough could be saved by adding in a new yeast mixture!

Monkey Bread

That was the first bread that I baked and that was like two weeks ago. Since that day I have baked brioches à tête, white bread, focaccia, sage flat bread, date and honey loaf, and most recently monkey bread. I cannot wait for all the bread in the house to be used up so I can try the next recipe!

Date and Honey Loaf

I read some where that baking bread can be quite addicting! And I think I can now understand that feeling! Every successful bread becomes an incentive for the next project! I think the next project I would like to try is curry filled buns. I love those buns especially at tea time! Yum!

I bought two books on baking bread and one of them has recipes for gluten free bread and once the vital wheat gluten that I ordered through Amazon arrives, I would like to try baking bread with flour other than wheat. That should be interesting!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spring is here, maybe

Last week, it felt like spring was already here. Some fruit trees were in full bloom, and what a beautiful sight it was to behold, and the weather was warm enough for me to go out without a jacket.

But not so fast. This week, mother nature is here to remind us that she is not done with winter yet. Rain, wind, snow in the higher elevations and even hail on some parts in the valley! What a surprise it was for me to see pea-sized hail fall from the sky and for a while the ground was almost white from the amount of hail!

Oh well, it was nice while it lasted, the spring-like weather, I mean. Officially spring won't be here till March 20, so winter weather will stay around whether we like it or not!

Friday, January 14, 2011


This winter, I have not done much bird photography. The days have been cold, wet and grey, and my photographic equipment does not perform very well under those kind of conditions. However, this morning, I was able to go out for a while because the day was not as cold as it has been in previous days.

I was quite happy that I was able to take a few decent pictures, considering the still grey sky, of the house finches which seem to like being in my backyard. I have never seen this many of them in and around my yard in past winters. I was a little disappointed because when the sun came out, the finches were no where to be seen!

However, I miss the Western Bluebirds. I saw a family of them in the fall, and then I don't see them any more. Maybe they found a yard that they liked better than mine! Quite a disappointment, really, because they are not that easily spooked and in the past I have taken several good pictures of them.

Oh well. The presence of the finches at least makes up for that disappointment! mrgreen

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Christmas Cactus

I have had this pot of Christmas cactus for several years now but this past Christmas it was the first time in years that it has bloomed. Earlier last year, I decided to do something about the plant. I transplanted it into a slightly bigger pot, added more soil, and put some fertilizer in it and hoped for the best.

When I saw how much better it looked in its new pot, I immediately thought that it would definitely bloom right about Christmas time. I put it on the kitchen window sill so it could get some indirect sun.

Sure enough it started to show buds and by Christmas a few of the buds started to bloom! I was quite pleased! I think this year, I might re-pot it again, this time in a much bigger pot than it is currently in and hope that by Christmas later this year, it will bloom more profusely than it has.

I took this picture with my new Olympus 25mm lens. I am pleasantly surprised at how close to the subject I can go with this little pancake lens.

So, how has the New Year been so far? I hope it is going well for you and a good indicator for the rest of the year! mrgreen