Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Winter Morning

Winter Morning, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Dew in the winter morning sun in Alamo, California. There are certain mornings that just seem to be prone to this kind of photography, and this time of the year is filled with those mornings.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Columbus and Kearny, San Francisco

Columbus and Kearny, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Recognize this view? If you do, that's because it's on many a San Francisco postcard. My friend and I ate at a Thai restaurant nearby and inadvertently walked into one of San Francisco's most famous intersections, which highlights both old and new architecture.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sparks Will Fly

Sparks Will Fly, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

As part of a photographic experiment in long exposures, earlier tonight I launched a small shovelful of glowing bonfire embers into the air and onto a very wet, rain-soaked lawn. The end result showed the embers leaving parabolic trails in the air, quite an interesting study of math in nature.

Although, I would hardly call hurling embers a natural occurrence.

Don't worry - the rain was coming down all night and I had the hose houses burned down in the making of this picture.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wall Point Ridge

Wall Point Ridge, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

The view west from the Wall Point Trail in Mt. Diablo State Park. Look closely on the left and you can see the house of PeopleSoft founder David Duffield. When complete, his house will be one of the largest in the world.

Approaching Storm

A Storm Approaches, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

While out hiking on Mt. Diablo, we could see dark storm clouds coming in from the north. Eventually they began to block out the Sun, but not without creating a beautiful sky. The lighting quickly became ethereal and ominous.

Anyone else have interesting weather these days?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunset from Diablo

Sunset from Diablo, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

With clouds in the western sky, yesterday's sunset was beautiful. I was hiking in Diablo Foothills Regional Park when the sky lit up with beautiful shades of orange and pink. This area is home to the amazing China Wall rock formation, which stretches across two large hills. Rock outcroppings such as the one in this photo are common in the park.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

California Rainforest

California Rainforest, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

When the rainy season comes to California, the hills certainly do get lush and green.

I found this fern grotto off-trail in Diablo Foothills Regional Park. The ferns cascaded down a steep wall and over boulders, covering a height of at least 30 feet. With rain dripping from the trees overhead and mist filling the air, the mood was straight out of prehistory.

Interestingly enough, only a few hundred yards away was a large swath of rocky chaparral...quite the contrast to the verdant ferns.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Morning Sun, Post Rain

Morning Sun, Post Rain, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Water droplets on fresh winter grass in Alamo, California. This was taken on my first visit to the Bay Area since September.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gratin Dauphinois

Gratin Dauphinois, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

A specialty from the Dauphiné region of France. This savory treat consists of thinly-sliced potatoes layered with garlic, herbs, and Gruyère cheese in a dish filled with milk. The dish is then baked for at least an hour, or until the potatoes come out tender and delicious.

Serve with a succulent roasted chicken on a cold winter night.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Agave, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Agave attenuata in the gardens of the Mission. This is one of the "safest" agaves to plant, as the leaves are much less rigid than those of other agaves...meaning the injury factor is reduced.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trail to the Sun

Trail to the Sun, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Waiting for sunset on Poly Mountain in San Luis Obispo, California. The other shots I took were marred by pesky dust particles...time to clean the sensor.

The hills appear to be brown in the photo, but close examination of the earth along the trail revealed thousands of tiny seedlings coming up due to the 7.5 inches of rain we received the other day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


banana leaf, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Looking up underneath a banana leaf at Mission San Luis Obispo.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hibiscus Up Close

Fall Colors, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Here's the stamen of a hibiscus flower at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. The colors on these flowers are pollen against a rich pink stamen and rosy white petals.

Anyone have experience with tropical hibiscus plants?

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Creepin', originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Saturday night I was hiking up Poly Mountain and a large, slow-moving creature next to the trail caught my eye. Upon looking closer I saw that it was a tarantula.

This is the time of the year when the tarantulas are out and about in the hills. Some places, like Mt. Diablo in the Bay Area, are famous for the large numbers of the arachnids that creep through the dry grasses in search of mates...and prey.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Raspberries, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Berries for sale at the SLO Farmers' Market.

SLO Farmers' Market

SLO Farmers' Market, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

McClintock's Barbecue serves up succulent tri-tip sandwiches to a long line of hungry customers at the popular San Luis Obispo Farmers' Market.

Every Thursday, 3 blocks of Higuera Street close down and are converted into this farmers' market-street fair. It's worth a visit if you're in SLO!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Farmers' Market Harvest

Harvest for Sale, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

San Luis Obispo is home to one of the most famous farmers' markets in California.

Earlier tonight I found out why.

The market definitely lives up to its reputation. There are a decent number of produce vendors along with many food stands, barbecue joints, kettle corn sellers, and candy makers. If that's not enough there street performers, clubs and organizations, and live music.

If you're ever in SLO on a Thursday night, try to stop by the farmers' market - it's a great experience.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Creek Flows Again...

Brizzolara Creek , originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

In California, October is usually a dry month with little in the way of rain.

That was not the case with this October.

Yesterday a powerful storm came through the area and dumped 4-7 inches of rain, bringing the creeks back to life. Mining Ridge in Monterey County was drenched with an incredible 21 inches of rain in 24 hours!

This is Brizzolara Creek in the rugged Poly Canyon near San Luis Obispo. Two days ago there was no water at this spot - as you can see that is no longer the case!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Storm of the Season

Today California is being hit by the first storm of the season. After five months without rain, the wet season has finally begun. The powerful storm impacting the state today has the potential to drop up to eight inches of rain in spots. Here in San Luis Obispo, the rain is falling in drenching, wind-blown sheets.

The photos here show colorful poison oak leaves in Poly Canyon and the now-flowing Brizzolara Creek.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bishop Peak

On Edge, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Today my friend and I climbed Bishop Peak, a rugged volcanic mountain that dominates much of the view from San Luis Obispo. The peak rises more than 1,300 feet above the surrounding town and offers impressive views of the region.

Here's a picture taken from a precipice near the summit. The mountain in the distance is Cerro San Luis, and you can see SLO at its base.

Wildlife was abundant on the peak - at least six vultures were resting on summit boulders, and of course lizards were everywhere. There were also plenty of places that mountain lions could call home...

Friday, October 09, 2009

The End of Summer

The end of summer is upon us here in California...

Remnants of a typhoon from Japan are being pulled across the Pacific Ocean and are forecast to hit California early to mid-next week. Right now the ground is extremely dry, as this state hasn't seen significant rain in five months.

That's about to change.

The National Weather Service is saying that this potentially record-breaking storm is going to dump up to 8-10 inches of rain in places. El Nino was predicted for this year, and it looks like that's what we're gonna get!

Any exciting weather in your part of the world?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Mission Hibiscus

Mission Hibiscus, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Autumn may officially be here, but the hibiscus plants in central California don't know that. These hibiscus flowers were outside of the old mission in San Luis Obispo. Over by the veterans hall there are hibiscus bushes about 10 feet wide and at least five feet tall...giant.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

San Luis Obispo at Night

San Luis Obispo at Night, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Here's a view of the Cal Poly campus and San Luis Obispo at night (well, during the last minutes of twilight). The view was stunning from the top of Caballo Peak, which borders Cal Poly-owned land.

If you've never visited San Luis Obispo, I highly recommend you do so. SLO is great, with an excellent downtown and cool shops and restaurants. Also, the town is surrounded by statuesque mountains and the ocean is only 15 minutes away.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Clouds Over Canyon

Clouds Over Canyon, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

About 45 minutes after sunset the clouds parted a bit, allowing crepuscular sun rays to penetrate. It was a beautiful morning in San Luis Obispo, but a cold and windy one!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Poly Mountain Sunrise

Poly Mountain Sunrise, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

I woke up at 5:50 this morning to go on a sunrise hike. It was definitely a great sunrise - clouds rolled in which captured the light of Sun. With the clouds came wind, and with the wind came cold. It's starting to feel like fall here in San Luis Obispo - what about in your area?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Feather River Snake

Feather River Snake, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Here's a small snake we found on a hike along the Feather River near Lake Oroville. The lake was very low - the area where we were hiking would normally have been submerged. Anyone know what type of snake this is?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Absorption-Method Pasta

Absorption-Method Pasta, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Cooking pasta by the absorption method means cooking it directly in a sauce instead of boiling it in water. The end result is a silky, flavorful, rich pasta that doesn't have the rubbery bounce of normal pasta.

This is a great meal to make if you're in need of something cheap and truly's only a jar of pasta sauce and a box of penne. Awesome.

Sunset Over SLO

Sunset Over SLO, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Yesterday's sunset from the top of Poly Mountain in San Luis Obispo, California. There were actually a few clouds, which made things a bit more interesting than usual.

The plant in the foreground is "out lord's candle", Yucca whipplei. The yuccas grow in abundance on the mountain, and the sharp leaves can be a pain for hikers' legs.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

College Cooking - Thomas Keller Oreos

College has started, and I was lucky enough to get a dorm with a kitchen. My friend and I decided that the inaugural dish would be something sweet - homemade Oreos (TKO's) it was!

TKO's are incredibly good, with rich white chocolate ganache sandwiched between two chocolaty, sweet and slightly salty cookies. The flavors are divine. The recipe can be found under the February 28, 2009 post on this blog.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Finally, Some Clouds

Finally, Some Clouds, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Clouds are a rarity for most of California during the summer. The climate just doesn't allow them to form...

...which is why I was excited to see a few cirrus cloud catching the light of the sunset the other day. The sky was beautiful, with much more color than usual. To all you Midwesterners and East Coasters, us Californians envy your clouds!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Parson Jones

Parson Jones, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Redwoods are tall trees. Really tall trees. Sometimes so incredibly tall that they dwarf anything nearby...including other redwoods.

This tree is named Parson Jones, and is found in Armstrong Redwoods State Park. At 310 feet tall, it's one of the biggest trees in the area...truly an amazing sight!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Suspended World

Suspended World, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Taken back when the grass was green and the rain was falling. There will be no rain here for at least 2 more months, probably 3 months. Fortunately for California, the National Weather Service is predicting El Niño for the coming winter, which means above-average rainfall!


Across the country, farmers' markets are in full swing. These berries were a local market and looked incredibly good. Raspberries at the market were cheap, as well as tomatoes and pretty much all the vegetables. My best find was Fresno chile peppers, which are used in Indonesian cooking - score!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Foothill Sunset

Foothill Sunset, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

The hills are golden this time of the year, and while that means the wildflowers are gone too, it doesn't mean there are no scenes left to photograph.

The hills turn an ethereal pink just after the Sun sets behind the mountains. This photo shows the Sun about 30 seconds before it disappeared into the coastal hills.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Thai Spring Rolls

Thai Spring Rolls, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

These tasty Thai spring rolls are easy to make and don't require any super-exotic ingredients. Filled with clear noodles, pork, cilantro, pepper, and carrot, they're an explosively flavorful snack that will be sure to please.

Thai Spring Rolls (Po Pia Thot)

- 1 frozen package of spring roll wrappers (8” × 8”)
- 1 lb lean ground pork
- 2 small packages of mung bean thread noodles (4 oz.)
- 2-3 cups shredded fresh carrots
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- few drops of sesame oil
- fresh ground pepper
- vegetable or canola oil for frying
- fresh chili paste (optional)
- 2-3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and fresh ground pepper. Soak or boil the mung bean noodles until tender and cut them into shorter pieces. Add the noodles, carrots, garlic, ground pork, sesame oil, optional chili paste and cilantro to the bowl. Mix the ingredients together until thoroughly combined.

Peel the spring roll wrappers and store them under a damp cloth towel until use. Take about 2 tablespoons of the stuffing and place in each wrapper. Roll the wrappers up and seal them with a few drops of water.

Fry the spring rolls in vegetable oil on medium heat until they turn golden brown and are cooked through. Serve with a sweet and sour sauce, such as nuoc mam.

Recipe adapted from:

Thai Food Tonight


Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Cave

The Cave, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

A cool hidden cave in Las Trampas. It is only accessible if you hike off-trail. Many such caves dot the area, as the common sandstone outcroppings are easily weathered. Some of the largest caves to be found are in Diablo Foothills Regional Park...they are home to owls, hawks, and falcons.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Golden Grass

Golden Grass, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

The unusual thing about California is that the state turns green in the winter and become golden in the summer. Well, it would seem unusual to anyone from out of state, but we don't have summer rain that the rest of the nation enjoys. There's been no heavy rain since early April, and there won't be any storms on the horizon again until October.

Most of the grasses that become golden in the summer are actually not from California, but instead originated in Europe. Seeds of these grasses were transported to the state with early Spanish colonists. The result is the popular conception of "the golden hills of California".

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

July Sun

July Sun, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

The sunrise above Mt. Diablo yesterday. It was absolutely freezing out, with thick fog only 1 ridge top away from us. Still, it was a beautiful morning!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Forest Foxglove

Forest Foxglove, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Colorful foxgloves along the Stream Trail in Redwood Regional Park near Moraga, California. It's unusual to see things blooming in the hills this late in the year, but the redwood environment traps moisture...and the foxgloves are the result.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Diablo Oak

Diablo Oak, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

This stately oak is located at some picnic tables in Diablo Foothills Regional Park. The park does not have much of a reputation...

...but what an amazing park it is! Huge rock formations, hundreds of feet tall, jut from the Earth and support owls and raptor nests. Pine Creek fills the canyon with the smell of water and carpets of California poppies bloom upstream.

It's like a paradise that has been forgotten...a Shangri-La of the Bay Area sort.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Satay Ayam Kuning - Yellow Chicken Satay

In the past few weeks I've been experimenting with cooking Indonesian food. Not well known in the United States, the cuisine is flavorful and exotic, with easy-to-make dishes.

These succulent chicken satay skewers, marinated in turmeric, cumin, coriander, tamarind juice, and a pinch of chili, are tasty and fun to make. Serve them with peanut sauce.

Satay Ayam Kuning (Yellow Chicken Satay)

Taken from Agnes de Keijzer Brackman's Cook Indonesian.

- 2 chicken breasts
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- pinch of cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon tamarind juice

Cut chicken into bite-size portions. Thread on bamboo sticks or meat skewers. Set aside.
Heat oil in saucepan and add coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt and tamarind juice.
Using a soft-tufted cake brush, paint chicken thoroughly with the mixture.
Cook meat over charcoal until well done.

Saus Kacang Pedes (Hot Peanut Sauce)

Taken from Agnes de Keijzer Brackman's Cook Indonesian.

- 1 medium onion, sliced finely
- 1 clove garlic, sliced finely
- 1 tablespoon margarine
- 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons sambal ulek
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon tamarind juice
- sliver of shrimp paste
- ½ teaspoon salt

Sauté onion and garlic in margarine until deep brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.
Add peanut butter and ½ cup water to saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and stir to a paste consistency.
Add sambal ulek, brown sugar, soy sauce, tamarind juice, shrimp paste and salt, and mix well.
Now add onion and garlic and stir gently. Serve lukewarm or cool.
Note: For a different variation, leave out onion.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Rain in May

Clover Fly, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

It seems the weather has decided to be strange this year.

Rain in May in northern California is fairly unusual. By now the hills are starting to dry up and the wildflowers are mostly shriveling. But here and there, flowers still bloom, such as this clover.

Yesterday's misty rain covered everything in beautiful droplets, and the humidity combined with the 65-degree temperature made it seem downright East Coast-like.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bear Valley Road Wildflowers

After hearing much about the wildflower displays in remote Bear Valley, I decided to take a trip up there to check things out. The wildflowers were indeed spectacular, with seas of lupine and cream cups extending all the way to the base of the mountains. It was a beautiful day.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Lupines at Sunrise

Lupines at Sunrise, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

The wildflowers are in peak bloom across much of California. These lupines were no exception - fields of the flowers coated hillsides in Las Trampas.

Sorry for the recent hiatus - been very busy!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Foothills, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

A view from Diablo Foothills Regional Park. The hills remind me of Ireland around this time of the year.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring on Diablo

Spring on Diablo, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

The first of the mule's ears are blooming in the hills. After last night's rain, everything was fresh and clean, and the flowers seemed to be enjoying it all. Spring is definitely here!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Goldfields in the Backcountry

Las Trampas Backcountry, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Deep in the wilderness of Las Trampas, wildflowers abound. These goldfields were abundant at an interesting rock outcropping. Spring is definitely arriving!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More Spring Wildflowers...

Hite Cove Trail, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller. to the Hite Cove Trail near Yosemite. It's spectacular there right now!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Foothill Gold

Foothill Gold, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Poppies on the Hite Cove Trail near Briceburg, California.

For some reason, the poppies in the Yosemite foothills seemed to have smaller flowers than those in the Bay Area. Perhaps it's the soil or the colder winters, but these poppies are definitely distinct from their Bay Area counterparts.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Foothill Blue

Foothill Blue, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

I hope you like wildflowers, because you're going to be seeing a lot of them very soon...

These flowers are baby blue eyes. They grow in small patches along the Hite Cove Trail near Yosemite National Park. If you can get to Hite Cove, do so now, as the conditions are spectacular!