Inside a giant Sequoia

Inside a giant Sequoia
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We were so pumped about our road trip to Yosemite we simply had to go again. To another national park, that is. Trust my two geologists and all those Earth Science classes they’ve been taking and as for me, I just couldn’t get enough of ’em trees. We just had to see more, and more doesn’t mean more of the same but more as in bigger, taller, more majestic. And the magic word is Sequoia.

Once again, taking advantage of the summer sunrise to get a super early start, we set off on the winding mountainous road taking us up and up thousands of feet to the land of the giant sequoias.

Inside a giant Sequoia

Just look at these amazing giants. Everywhere you look, there are trees this big all reaching into the clouds. I mean, forget the Coach handbags and lobster dinners. This is what you gotta see if you get the chance. Crafted by the very hands of Mother Nature and so beautiful it seriously blows your mind. I’m standing there feeling like a midget tilting my head back till I’m almost falling backwards and these trees just go on and on and on into the clouds. Amazzzzing!

Inside a giant Sequoia

And just look at the girth of that fallen tree trunk! It’s hard to imagine without actually seeing one. The fallen tree trunks are so big you can actually walk into them, which we absolutely did. We went in through the base and walked right through to the other end. Even people bigger and taller than me can stroll in without bending over, that’s how wide and tall this trunk is. In fact, during my college days, we even drove our car through one of these tree trunks!!

Okay, so to get to Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park to see the General Grant tree, the second largest tree in the world, we had to hike a short distance. At an elevation of 6350 feet (1935m), the air was cool and crisp, and the trail was fairly easy to hike. And at the end of that trail, ta-daaa…

Inside a giant Sequoia

The Grant Tree, nicknamed the “Nation’s Christmas Tree” is 3,000 years old, stands 268 feet (81.72m) tall and measures 29 feet (8.85m) around its base. Lol metric measurements are entirely too weird for me, never could wrap my head around them but I looked up the metric conversions for you metric folks.

Obviously you can’t go all the way to see the second largest sequoia in the world and not see the largest one, right? So we hopped back in the car and drove for another, oh, about a half hour to the Sequoia National Park. Climbing to 7000 feet (2200m) on narrow roads snaking along the edges of the canyon is quite the hair-raising experience. Oh man, it’s making my legs go jelly just thinking about the drive.

Inside a giant Sequoia

The hike to Sherman Creek was longer and more challenging but definitely worth the strenuous workout. So worth it. Think about it: General Sherman is 3200 years old, 274 feet (83.59m) tall and measures 27 feet (8.25m) at the base. Standing before the world’s largest living tree is truly a humbling experience.

I felt really really tiny shading my eyes staring up that endless trunk, so full of wonder and feeling really privileged to be meeting “the man” himself! How a tree grew to be so majestic and commanding is beyond me! Imagine if General Sherman could talk, what great stories he would tell about his growing years through all of those 3200 years!!!

Poke, if only it came with waterfalls

Poke, if only it came with waterfalls
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So we’re on our way down from Yosemite, the land of waterfalls. Maneuvering those twists and bends can really get you light-headed, I tell ya. Not to mention the blur of the redwoods, sequoias and cold wind rushing past the slightly rolled down car windows. You tilt back your head, take a deep breath and let the mountain air permeate through your entire being. Man, this is what I’m talking about!

And now to top off that light-headedness, it’s time for some poke (pronounced po-kay). Since we found out about a seafood restaurant tucked away behind the downtown fish market last year, we’d been quietly sneaking down there for the occasional dose of raw fish goodness. They don’t serve live seafood (which makes this place all the more attractive to me) but they sure do serve a mean bowl of poke that’s bursting with fresh raw fish and robust enough to feed two. Poke for the diehard, in other words.

Then somewhere in the middle of last year, Pokiland opened not far from us and we started going there for our fix. It’s popular with the health conscious, offering less of a focus on the fish and more on greens, toppings and sauces. You pick a bit of this and that to personalize your own poke bowl.

Poke, if only it came with waterfalls

Looking at this picture, I know you’re going, but where’s the fish? Well, you can’t see it but trust me, there’s 2 generous scoops of raw salmon and tuna hidden at the bottom of the bowl. Well, that’s how they put together your order, you start by selecting your proteins so the fish goes in first and ends up hidden underneath all of those gorgeous toppings and sauces.

Okay, then, let’s mix it all up and dig in! Omg, you cannot believe how good and SPICY this tastes! One of their sauces, dabomb, is literally just that! One fiery spoonful and you totally wish you were standing underneath a waterfall with your mouth open. Oh man, where are those waterfalls when you need ’em!

Poke, if only it came with waterfalls

An early morning drive to Yosemite

An early morning drive to Yosemite
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There’s good reason why summer is the best time for traveling. I mean, what else would you do when such wonderfully long days of sunshine are calling out to you, right ? So we did the only thing there was to do. Taking advantage of the 5am sunrise, we got up early one morning, threw a few peanut butter and jam sandwiches into a Ziploc bag and soon we were on our merry way to the Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite is in the Sierra Nevada mountains which means it’s literally in our backyard. Apart from the fact that the mountain road is winding for most of the way, it’s not too long a drive. Still it’s wise you want to get an early start to beat the tourist build-up because believe you me, as the day wears on, you’d be hard-pressed to find a parking spot.

I’ve been to Yosemite many times since college and in recent years but this time, a strange thing happened. As I sat in the back seat watching the endless blur of trees whiz by, I began to notice how beautiful the trees were. It’s funny how we see trees everywhere all the time and I’ve never thought of them as anything more than just plants that stick out of the ground and reach for the sky.

But now as I gazed out of the car window, I started to develop a brand new realization of the sheer number and beauty of all these trees rising high up above us. You know, there’s a saying about not seeing the forest for the trees but for me, all I could see were the trees (literally, of course *lol*) and how beautiful they are and just like that, I’m in love.

An early morning drive to Yosemite

At some point, we left the blur of the trees behind and entered a long, dark tunnel and just like the proverbial tunnel, this one opened up to an unbelievable view of hills, rocks and waterfalls. Yosemite is, of course, the land of picturesque waterfalls – big ones, little ones but every which way you turn, there’s one waiting to take your breath away.

An early morning drive to Yosemite

The waterfalls are exceptionally beautiful because of the snow melt from the substantial rain that California’s been getting this year. Seeing the deluge of water as it cascades down from a great height creating billowing clouds of mist as thick as the water itself coupled with hearing the thunderous roar as the water hits base makes this a truly amazing experience.

A word of warning though if you’re planning a trip to Yosemite this summer – the rivers are full and very fast-flowing, the slopes are slippery when wet, and many accidents have been reported this year where people have fallen into the water and gotten swept away. So be very, very careful out there!!

Of all the waterfalls we saw, the one we most wanted to see was the Bridal Veil Fall. It took us a while to find a parking spot at the trail to this amazing sight. The hike to the base of the Bridal Veil Fall is a short one along a tree-lined trail beside the rushing river that this waterfall drains into.

An early morning drive to Yosemite

As we got closer, we could feel the mist raining on us. We did get a little wet but we didn’t mind. It was a welcome shower on a hot day. Actually it felt more like we were getting a generous sprinkling of holy water and we were quite happy about that lol!

If we’d wanted to go further up the trail, we would’ve needed raincoats which we didn’t have but which many folks seemed to have come prepared with. We had umbrellas in the car but we wouldn’t have been able to use them because of how narrow and crowded the trail was. Still it was amazing that we not only got to see and hear this mighty waterfall but to actually feel it too!

Only words

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First there were the Wordless Wednesdays and I think many of us had fun with it. I have to admit it’s an ingenious way to ‘write’ a blog post without actually writing it! But now I’ve decided on going in the opposite direction – pictureless posts, something that few may embrace though it sounds like fun to me.

For too long, we’ve given in to our photo-snapping obsession and allowed our pictures to tell our stories for us. Some folks have even gone so far as to trade in their blogs for insta’s. Nothing wrong with that but there’s a reason why I never bothered setting up an account!

Personally, I’m not a fan of using my photos to do the talking, or blogging, for me. I’m someone who rarely pulls out my cellphone to show people my pictures or plaster them all over the internet. I actually prefer to describe stuff to folks whether they like it or not.

We-ell, it could be because in real life, I’m a nerd lol. So yeah, it’s all very well that technology has made it so much easier for our pictures to paint a thousand words but for me, I still prefer to write a thousand words.

I think half the fun of blogging is the writing itself. To some, a post without pictures is like driving without a steering wheel. I get that! But somehow, that’s not me! Sure, photos add a nice backdrop but ultimately, I think it’s the words themselves that speak the loudest.

More power to the written word! Hear, hear!

Days like this

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Okay, so it’s a sizzlin’ 106 degrees outside. It’s been hovering steady at these temps all week. That’s the heatwave for ya, all up and down the west coast of California and the southwest in general. Good thing we’re back from our road trip to Arizona (it’s even hotter there, ouch!) or you’d hear me swearing from way out there (not that I swear. that much!)

Inside the house, however, it’s a different story. We haven’t set foot outside today. Not one step. Yup, best to stay cool even if it may be a little stuffy at times with the windows shut tight to keep out the hot air. Thankfully the air-conditioning is behaving.

So here we are, on this sizzler of a day. The first phone alarm goes off at 5:30 this morning. I stumble across the room in true zombie fashion to swipe the freakin’ thing off and jump back into bed. Mid-dream, someone else’s phone alarm goes off. Who the heck sets the alarm to 6:02 anyways? Okay, okay, it was ME!

I transport said phone to my bedside table knowing it’ll ring again soon and I’m certainly not going to go tripping across the room for the third time. The next time it rings, my arm swings out and I blindly and furiously tap my screen till the music stops. Note to self: I really shouldn’t use a song I like as an alarm. Now I kinda hate that song.

Okay, okay, I’m up, I’m up! If I sound like I really don’t want to get up, I’m lying! Thoughts of that delicious cup of morning coffee sends me off like an arrow, headed straight to ye ol’ electric kettle to turn it on. And that jingle is playing in my head, the same one I learned from the TV commercial during my college days – the best part of waking up is Folgers in my cup!

I take, oh maybe, a half hour over my bowl of oats and coffee, savoring the still and quiet of the morning as I potter around the house and the internet before anyone else is awake. That, for me, is the best part of waking up with the sun.

Soon the house is awake with sounds of Hip2bDaughter2 concocting her potato soup from scratch in the kitchen. By this time, I’m hungry. Again. I need to eat. But with lunch time technically 3 hours away, what am I supposed to do to assuage a growling tummy?

Thank goodness for leftovers. But is the single serving of rice and braised pork ribs from last night enough for us? Clearly not! So should we have the potato soup now? The answer is, why not?! Potato soup and crackers it is! That’s how we end up finishing lunch at 9:30am.

And needless to say, by the time the real lunch time rolls around, we’re famished. Poking my head into the refrigerator, I find the last bit of banana cake we baked last week for our Arizona road trip. Whew! I’m glad someone thought to defrost it.

By mid-afternoon, the naughty knotty tummies are a-calling yet again and this time, it’s some sun chips, dates and a half grapefruit each. By dinner time, it’s really beginning to feel like we haven’t stopped eating since breakfast, which is technically true.

Still, dinner is certainly not to be missed. Soon ’em chicken wings be in the oven (on such a hot day?! you better believe it!) and a whole pound of ’em asparagus (which is in season at $1.99 per lb so it’s been asparagus 3 nights in a row!) be saute-in’ in the skillet.

Man, I love me days like this, just hanging out at home chillin’ and drinkin’ (lots of water!), with no place to go and nothing much to do and piles of unwashed dishes in the sink, that make life in the hometown so cool. Did I just say cool?!

 

Long days and the deception of work

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When my morning alarm goes off, I jump up with a start thinking that I’ve overslept because the sun’s shining so bright it’s like high noon outside. I stumble across to my cell phone at the other side of the room and whew, it’s only 6-ish. To those of us who’re constantly complaining that we don’t have enough hours in a day to get everything done, these unseasonably, incredibly long summer spring days are a dream come true.

Getting an early start knowing you have a full 15 hours of daylight ahead of you is a great feeling. While it’s technically not quite summer yet, Summer seems intent on elbowing Spring swiftly out of the way. And if our air-conditioning weren’t acting up so often, that great feeling might easily be a superlative. Except the darned thing keeps blowing hot air instead of cold.

So between toasty temperatures and cranky AC, we figured we really must do something about it. We did the next best thing: jump in the car and drive to San Francisco to escape the heat. Well, okay, the heat was one thing but our real excuse was the Memorial Day sales. Now if you’re a serious shopaholic, you don’t just stand there doing nothing when it’s raining discounts and promos out there.

Two productive days of retail therapy later, I’m happy to report we have a few, not many bagfuls of spoils to show for our hard work. Shopping is work? You’d better believe it! Do you know how many pairs of jeans I had to try on before I found my one true love? And don’t even get me started on the shoes. Sifting through rack after rack, shelf after shelf, hunting down your size, waiting in line for the fitting room clutching armfuls of clothes, yeah!

But it’s only when you get into the fitting room that’s when the real work (or workout, depending on how you look at it) begins. You’re doing countless squats trying on a pile of jeans and your ankle socks keep coming off with your jeans and you’re doing countless bends to get them back on. At some point, I hear someone saying, to heck with these socks, I’m leaving them off. But not me, I hate stepping on the cold, sandy floor and getting my bare feet dirty… so I keep on keeping on with the battle of the socks!

So yeah, it would seem, and I’m not even going to fault you for thinking, that it’s been all play and no work around here lol. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll know that around here, the term ‘work’ often takes on meanings that are worlds away from how others may view it.

Peace out… uttered with tongue in cheek.

Celebrating English Language Day

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Apparently it’s William Shakespeare’s birthday today. Well, history has it that he was born and died on the same day. It turns out those aren’t the only coincidences ‘cos, what do you know, today also happens to be English Language Day! I had no idea! The two things in the world that I’m craziest about are celebrated on the same day and I didn’t know? Duh!!!

At any rate, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before in some long ago blog post that I grew up reading Shakespeare and happen to be a big fan of his plays. Although I don’t quote him out loud as often as I used to, his quotes still do pop up in my mind every now and then. It’s still my ambition to be as great a writer as he was when I grow up.

As for that other love of mine, the English language, what can I say?  It is, to me, the most beautiful language in the world. So why aren’t people more serious about learning it and getting it right? I could write a book about that. Suffice to say that over the years, I’ve watched the standard of English decline to a level where some days, it sounds and looks almost unrecognizable to me.

Yes, English is important and it’s not enough to say “I only need enough of it to get by in daily life” because from what I can see, it’s clearly not enough. It’s not enough to be able to string together some random words in no particular order and with a total disregard for grammar and pronunciation. And yes, I’m frustrated at people who refuse to learn.

But clearly today is not the day to lament about what we can’t change. It’s a day to celebrate the fathomless power and elegance of the English language!

Music uncringed, maybe

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I’m watching a miniseries where a guy walks into a night club grimacing at the cringe-worthy music that’s blasting away. It seems the regular DJ is away so he decides to jump in and set things right.

He figures this DJing thing can’t be that hard even though he hasn’t the faintest idea what a epiphone les paul studio at guitarcenter.com even means. Next thing you know, he starts fiddling with the buttons and gadgets driving everyone and their eardrums into a frenzy.

What happens next? I don’t know, guess imma keep watching to find out!

Pretending to be a restaurant

Pretending to be a restaurant
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If you ask me, weeknight dinners are supposed to be homey, maybe even to the point of boring. While cooking up a storm on a weeknight may be counter-intuitive, I think it makes sense to linger near the stove just a little longer on cold evenings like these. And just to throw in a little fun, why not pretend to be a restaurant serving up a dinner to some weary diners?

First up, that obligatory omelet that I would not order but which my girl friend never fails to order . But why? Baffled! I made this with the last few eggs in the fridge and the egg whites I had left over from my cream puff project.

Pretending to be a restaurant

Next, we have a braised dish. It was supposed to be braised pork belly which I love but will not order because it always seems to be swimming in fat and sodium. While the prospect of cooking it myself was exciting, I’m new to braising, sorta.

And also I’ve been looking for a leaner cut of pork belly. Does lean pork belly even exist? I didn’t think so either. Armed with zero experience in the pork purchase department, I was wont to throw up my hands and leave it once again to the God of Ribs! No lean pork belly? No problem. We got ribs!

Pretending to be a restaurant

I braised the ribs with potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. Weird combination, I know. But I couldn’t resist the temptation of making it an even larger pot so we could have it over 2 meals.

And of course, not forgetting the veggies. Chinese kale stir-fry is another hugely popular restaurant dish. Mine comes topped with garlic oil and oyster sauce and with enough carrots to make any rabbit happy.

Pretending to be a restaurant

Spicing up the kitchen

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I ran out of cayenne pepper about a month ago. Yes, you read that right. I was cayenne-less for a month and that’s the longest our kitchen has gone without one of our favorite spices. Ever since I discovered the wonders of cayenne and the subtle kick it adds to every dish, I have kept the kitchen stocked with it. But I forgot to check my pantry and found myself shaking an empty bottle one day.

No problem, I thought. I would go to the store and get more.

But when I got to the store, guess what? They were out of cayenne! The little row labeled ‘cayenne pepper’ was empty. I figured that the store ran out of stock since it’s a pretty common and popular spice so I decided to check back the next week. Again, the row was empty so I waited patiently for the next week. By the third week, I asked the store clerk if they were going to restock it. She said she didn’t know.

Finally, after a whole month of waiting and realizing that it might not get restocked for whatever strange reason, I decided to go for cayenne’s neighbor, California chili pepper instead. So far, it has been a good substitute but you can bet I’ll be snagging as many bottles of cayenne pepper as I can when they get restocked!

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