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!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hite Cove Trail

Hite Cove Trail, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Here's a photo of the Hite Cove Trail near Yosemite. It's a really beautiful place to visit, and you're always seeing wildflowers, the river, or both.

The Gold Country

The Gold Country, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Yesterday we went on a day trip to the foothills of Yosemite National Park. I had heard that there were some wildflowers out....

...there were.

Hillsides and mountains were covered in sheets of California poppies and popcorn flowers. Some of the mountainsides were literally completely orange with only the occasional tree to break the flowers. It was a truly incredible day.

I took this photo on a very steep hillside in the Merced River canyon near Briceburg.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Champ de Tournesols, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

It's definitely not sunflower season yet, but I finally managed to access the broken hard drive where some of my pictures were imprisoned. These sunflowers were near the small village of St. Savin, in the Dauphiné region of France.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Blue in the Garden

Spring Blue, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Those containers filled with California native wildflowers are starting to bloom now. After fairly slow growth due to about 2 weeks of continuous rain, they are now sending out flower buds and leaves in every direction. This flower is a baby blue eye, Nemophila menziesii.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thoughts of Summer

Thoughts of Summer, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

I know California is not cold, especially compared to the rest of the country (and much of the world). But I think it's safe to say that many of us are longing for warm spring and summer days.

Thankfully, those days will soon be here: spring is only 2 weeks away!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Spring Arrives

Spring Arrives, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Spring has arrived, and with it, so have the baby blue eyes. These flowers were on Mt. Diablo.

Wildflowers may be good this year as recent heavy rains have drenched the landscape, and now that the sun is out things are starting to bloom. We'll see what happens...

California Newt Up Close

Cascade Creature, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

This little guy was basking in the sun next to a wonderful mossy waterfall in Las Trampas. Newts are so cool, and seeing them move about means that spring can't be far away...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Tehan Creek

Tehan Creek, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Here's a photo from a bushwhack hike that I went on yesterday, to Tehan Falls in Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park.

A few scattered reports I had read indicated that Tehan Falls was a 60-foot gem, complete with a fern grotto.

Well, Tehan Falls was 60 feet tall, and it had a fern grotto, but the amount of water was almost laughable, considering just how much rain we've had in the past week. It's surprising to think that the falls were even marked on a map.

Anyways, this is a shot of the creek downstream from the falls where it was lush and ferny.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Chocolate Tartelettes

Tartelettes au Chocolat, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.
These tartelettes will satisfy any chocolate lover, as they have both dark and white chocolate in them. I made them last night and was surprised at just how easy they were to put together.

The buttery crust of pâte brisée goes well with the dark chocolate ganache, and makes for a delicious dessert that is sure to please.

The recipe is posted below:

Chocolate Tartelettes

Makes six 4.4-inch tartelettes.

Pâte brisée:

Recipe adapted from Paulette Buteux's La Cuisine Toute Simple, 1973.

- 200 g flour
- pinch of salt
- 100 g butter
- 2 or 3 tablespoons of cold water
- 1-2 tablespoons sugar*

*I added some sugar to the dough to make it a little sweeter, since it is after all a dessert.

Sift the flour into a bowl, throw in the pinch of salt, and make the flour into a mountain-shaped pile. Preheat the oven to about 400° F.

Cut the butter into small pieces and put them in the center of the flour mound. Add the 2-3 tablespoons of cold water, and knead rapidly (or use an electric mixer). Work the dough just until it is smooth, does not stick, and is firm enough to be rolled out.

Roll the dough out until it is about 1/5th of an inch thick. Drape the dough over your buttered tartelette molds and press into the corners. Gently press the bottom of a measuring cup onto the dough to ensure that it evenly covers each tartelette mold. Use a fork to poke holes in the crusts so that they do not puff up in the oven.

Bake the tartelettes in the preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the edges of the crusts are starting to turn golden brown. Be careful not to let the crusts burn!

Dark chocolate ganache:

- 10-12 ounces of dark chocolate (62-70% cocoa content), chopped
- 3/4 cup of heavy cream

Heat the cream in a saucepan until it comes to a boil. Add the chocolate and let sit for about 1-2 minutes. After waiting the 1-2 minutes, whisk the chocolate-cream mixture together until smooth.

White chocolate ganache:

- 4 ounces of white chocolate
- 1/4 cup of heavy cream

Follow the same instructions for the dark chocolate ganache above, but let it thicken for about 10 minutes after whisking. Transfer the ganache to a piping bag (or a Ziploc bag with the tip cut off).


Carefully remove the crusts from the tartelette pans. Fill the crusts with dark chocolate ganache until there is about 1/4 of an inch left between the chocolate and the top of the crust. Pipe the white chocolate ganache onto the dark chocolate in your choice of design. Refrigerate the tartelettes until the ganache has become fairly solid.

When ready to serve, remove the tartelettes from the refrigerator and let stand for about 20 minutes at room temperature so that they soften a little.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Twilight Stream

Twilight Stream, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.
The day was coming to a close and this cascade just begged to have its picture taken...

And a garden update: plants are waking up, with the 'Kentucky Colonel' mint sending up a multitude of fresh shoots. The lettuce, chervil, and parsley are all growing well, and my French tarragon is sprouting. The containers I planted with California native wildflowers are just starting to bloom, with 'Pennie Black' nemophila putting on a fine show of dark maroon flowers with white picotee edges. The tidy tips, bird's eyes, poppies, and baby blue eyes have yet to bloom, but they will start within a week or two...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Canyon View

Canyon View, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

Looking down the canyon in Las Trampas. I have never seen as much water flowing as there was on Monday. With the rain we had yesterday, the falls will probably be gushing even more.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Creekworld, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

It happens every year...

A storm comes in that drops a huge amount of rain a very short period of time...which causes local waterfalls to burst into torrents. This cascade is located in a rugged canyon in Las Trampas Regional Park.

Oh, if you ever visit this cascade, be sure to look for the elves that live amongst the mossy boulders...


The moss in this area is really amazing...definitely something out of a fairy tale.

Monday, March 02, 2009

California Saxifrage

California Saxifrage, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

One of the first wildflowers to bloom! This one was growing near a creek high in a canyon in Las Trampas.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Mossy Creek

The Creek, originally uploaded by ParsecTraveller.

An extremely mossy and green part of a creek in Las Trampas. It is so wonderful up in the canyons of that, there were California poppies, shooting stars, filaree, woodland stars, and California saxifrage blooming. The waterfalls were also flowing nicely, and they will be gushing tomorrow as a storm is coming in.

Spring starts this's it coming along in the rest of the country?