Friday, December 31, 2010

Oscar Mayer Weinermobile

Three months ago, I started working at the San Francisco Food Bank, a non-profit organization that distributes over 40 million pounds of food per year to people at risk of hunger in our commumnity.  I never realized that not only would I be helping those in need, I'd also have opportunities I never imagined. 

One of those opportunities appeared in the form of the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.  We received a call from the "hotdoggers" who drive the Weinermobile around the country asking us what they could do for us - they had a three hour window of opportunity and would be happy to help us raise money or food.  We had them park the Weinermobile at the Castro District Safeway, and put out tweet and Facebook messages that the first 200 people to show up with non-perishable food or money, would receive a Weiner Whistle.  Who wouldn't show up?

Since 1936, the Weinermobile has been the rolling manifestation of a brand, an icon on wheels, an image cemented in our brains (well, in my brain at least) usually in concert with the ubiquitous "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Weiner" jingle of the Oscar Mayer commercials from 1963.   And while the event wasn't a huge success food or money-wise (it was a rainy morning and set up very last minute), I have to say it was totally cool hanging out with the Weinermobile and seeing the responses of people who either came deliberately to see it, or stumbled across it. 

The entire persona of the Weinermobile is fun, a bit silly and very pun-filled.  Even the Wiki about the Weinermobile feels like it is written with a small amount of tongue in cheek, including a list of mishaps the Weinermobile  has experienced.  It has had run ins with the police (an alleged stolen license plate "YUMMY"), criticism from the Outdoor Circle (environmental group in Hawaii who enforce strict anti-billboard standards and considered the Weinermobile a rolling billboard), and more than a few minor accidents.

The drivers, called "hotdoggers", are recruited their senior year of college for a one year term.  Our hotdoggers were cheerful and friendly, and I think looking forward to a much needed two week holiday break.  I imagine it can get a bit tiring answering the same questions over and over and over and over again. 

It's new year's eve day 2010.  One of my new year's resolutions is to get back to posting postcards more regularly.  I hope you'll keep reading!  Here's to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011 for us all.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, we celebrate that most American of holidays - Thanksgiving. 

While much of the day is filled with consuming - food, football and fine wines - many of us do stop and take a moment to think about what we are grateful for.

I'm grateful for my family, from husband & sons, to brothers & sisters, mom and mother-in-laws, and my cousins and "like family" friends.

I'm grateful to have a job.  I'm grateful for my garden - the broccoli is getting bigger by the day. 

I'm grateful for music and art and laughter.  I'm grateful that you've chosen to spend a minute reading my blog!

What are you grateful for?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tin How Temple (joss house)

Tin How Temple is "the oldest Taoist temple in the United States.... It was built in 1852 and is dedicated to Mazu."  Not surprisingly, it is located in San Francisco.

Mazu "is the indigenous goddess of the sea who is said to protect fishermen and sailors, and is invoked as the patron saint of all Southern Chinese and East Asian persons. Worship of Mazu began around the Ming Dynasty, when many temples dedicated to her were erected all across Mainland China, later spreading to other countries with Southern Chinese inhabitants".

The temple is also referred to as  "Joss House".  Per the wiki, "'Joss' is a corrupted version of the Portuguese word for 'god', deus. 'Joss house' was in common use in English in western North America during frontier times, when joss houses were a common feature of Chinatowns. The name 'joss house' describes the environment of worship. Joss sticks, a kind of incense, are burned inside and outside of the house."   I  have no idea if "Joss House" is a derogatory term, or an accepted alternative for "temple".

While this postcard was received this year (probably sent by the Mystery Sender, although it is not signed "peace" on the back), it is a linen postcard.  From the wiki, "The "linen card" era lasted from about 1931 to the early 1950s, when cards were primarily printed on papers with a textured surface similar to linen cloth."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is a tourist trail in County Kerry, southwestern Ireland.  My friends, Jack & Lorry, went to Ireland for a friend's 60th birthday party, and did a bit of touristing while they were there. 

Bucket list alert - not necessarily the Ring of Kerry, but Ireland somewhere. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

The back of this card says:  "Rodeo Cowgirl Helen Bonham was selected to be Miss Wyoming at Cheyenne Frontier Days Silver Anniversary in 1917.  "If it is for Wyoming, I'll do it gladly.," she said."

What do you bet the cowboys loved her.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

US Mule


Every year, my friend Carol goes on a backpacking trip with a group of women, to honor one of the women's sister who is a breast cancer survivor.  This year they hiked in Yosemite National Park. 

The hike resulted in a first for my collection - a postcard that was packed out by mule from May Lake (see postcard, upper left corner) while they were still camping, and mailed from the valley floor.  I believe the stamp on the postcard refers to it as "US Mule", as opposed to "US Mail". Cool!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stonehenge II

Newsflash!  A second mystery sender, albeit probably just a flash in the pan.

Long time readers know I have been the lucky recipient of postcards from a Mystery Sender.  This Mystery Sender sent me postcards on an almost daily basis, at least through my year of posting daily, and has continued to do so intermittently since then, signing all postcards with the signature "Peace".  Very occasionally, the Mystery Sender will post a comment, always under "anonymous".  S/he is capable of encouragement, taunting, melancholy and humor, and I find myself missing the more frequent postcards.  [Note:  for new readers, you can find some of the Mystery Sender cards here (a Mystery Sender comment), here (an informational card in the "Food Series"), here  (the original Mystery Sender post), here (in which I attempt to decipher the Mystery Sender code and (as informed in a later postcard), failed miserably), and here (the taunting).  If you search "Mystery Sender" on my blog, you can  find several more.]

So, lo and behold, a couple of weeks ago the above postcard appears in the mail, with the message "A mysterious monument from a mystery sender!  I just came across your blog and thought you might like a postcard sent out of the blue......"   I'm pretty sure this is not the Mystery Sender in disguise.  I have no idea if this Mystery Sender II is aware of the original Mystery Sender or not. 

All I do know is I like it!

P.S.  Today is my cousin Locke's birthday.  Happy Birthday, cuz!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stonehenge I

Gotta love the irregularly shaped postcards.  This one of Stonehenge comes from my son, during his stint at Oxford last summer.

Archaeologists have mostly determined that Stonehenge was used more as an ancient burial ground as opposed to serving as a astronomical calculator and/or observatory, although it may have had some significance to the winter solstice.

No matter the science, 20,000 people showed up for the summer solstice in 2005, and  it's much more romantic to think about this organized pile of rocks as a place of ancient worship and Druid ritual.   From the Wiki:

Throughout the twentieth century, Stonehenge began to be revived as a place of religious significance, this time by adherents of Neopagan and New Age beliefs, particularly the Neo-druids: the historian Ronald Hutton would later remark that "it was a great, and potentially uncomfortable, irony that modern Druids had arrived at Stonehenge just as archaeologists were evicting the ancient Druids from it." The first such Neo-druidic group to make use of the megalithic monument was the Ancient Order of Druids, who performed a mass initiation ceremony there in August 1905, in which they admitted 259 new members into their organisation. This assembly was largely ridiculed in the press, who mocked the fact that the Neo-druids were dressed up in costumes comprising of white robes and fake beards.

From 1972 until 1984, Stonehenge was the setting for a free music festival, until the "Battle of the Beanfield" in 1985.  This infamous battle was "waged" between new age travelers and the local police.  I particularly like the headline from the BBC on that day about the incident:  Hippies clash with police at Stonehenge.  As always, one man's clash is another man's battle. 

Monday, November 15, 2010


Speaking of Kauai, I'd like to be swimming in the waters off this beach right now. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Postcard Cafe

The Postcard Cafe is located in Hanalei on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.  The menu on its website sounds pretty darn tasty.

I haven't been to Kauai for 30+ years, and never visited this cafe.  However, I have received this postcard twice, from two completely unconnected friends.  I love that my friends send me postcards, and imagine it gave them a small pleasure to find one so appropriate to send me!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Atomic Testing Museum

Now that the Liberace Museum has closed, what's a thinking person to do when visiting Las Vegas?

Well, how about the Atomic Testing Museum?  As described in Frommer's:

From 1951 until 1992, the Nevada Test Site was this country's primary location for testing nuclear weapons. Aboveground blasts in the early days were visible to the tourists and residents of Las Vegas. This well-executed museum, library, and gallery space (a Smithsonian affiliate) offers visitors a fascinating glance at the test site from ancient days through modern times, with memorabilia, displays, official documents, videos, interactive displays, motion-simulator theaters (such as sitting in a bunker, watching a blast), and emotional testimony from the people who worked there. It respectfully treads that tricky line between honoring the work done at the site and understanding its terrible implications. Not to be missed, even if it's only because of the Albert Einstein action figure in the gift shop. Visitors should plan on spending at least an hour.

I'm adding an Albert Einstein action figure to my Christmas list. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

College Series - Evergreen State College

One man's "experimental and innovative" is another man's "environmental terrorists and homos".  What a great card.  And while it isn't exactly OF Evergreen State College, it is a response TO the presence of the college and it seemed to fit in the series.

On another note, I've missed the almost daily postcards from "The Mystery Sender", and lo and behold, s/he seems to have missed sending them.  I appreciate the nudge, port fueled or not, to get back at it. (See "anonymous" comment on previous post.)  I'm not ready to make a time commitment (like, every day) yet, but am re-energized to get back at it (posting, that is) more often.  Thanks, M.S.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Lots of changes going on right now, and toast is the ultimate comfort food in times of transition.  Well, toast and cookies and chicken rice casserole.

I've had this postcard for years and always thought is was a reproduction of a print or a painting.  On closer inspection, the piece, by artist Dawn Fryling (about whom I can find very little, except for a few random references in a variety of articles) is made up of actual toast in wooden boxes.  Kind of cool.

The post card came from my friend and former colleague, Jane.  We worked together at an ad agency and that agency held an annual auction, to raise money for a variety of charities.  It became the tradition for Jane to "donate" an Italian dinner at her beautiful home, and a group of us would get together and bid for it.  The auction was always raucous and booze saturated (have to get those bids high!).  Our dinner, while perhaps a bit less raucous, featured delicious food and plenty of red wine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

College Series - Georgetown

Regular readers and friends know that one of my sons attends Georgetown University.   He fell in love with the school within minutes of visiting the campus.

The postcard above shows one of the reasons why:  it's an absolutely beautiful campus with old brick and stone buildings (described by Wiki as collegiate Gothic and Georgian brick architecture) sitting on a hilltop above the Potomac River In Washington, DC and overlooking the Washington Monument.  It's small enough that you can get to know every corner of the campus.  One of the most famous corners is the "Exorcist Steps".  Several scenes in the movie "The Exorcist" were shot on campus, including the one in which the priest falls down the stairs. 

Georgetown is the oldest Catholic university (Jesuit) in the United States, and was also the first to bring on a full-time rabbi (1968) and full-time imam (1999).   At the time of its founding, Catholics were not admitted to most American universities, and the founder, John Carroll, had a vision for a university that was "to be open to 'every class of citizens'and students of 'every religious profession.'"

Part of the attraction of Georgetown is its location in Washington, DC.  My son attended the inauguration of Barack Obama, the concert on the mall a couple of days before the inauguration, and has a goal of visiting every free museum in Washington before  he graduates.  There are 17 Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington, DC, including the American Indian Museum, the Portrait Gallery, the Air & Space Museum, the Postal Museum, and the Natural History Museum.  ALL offer free admission.

Side note:  My son is a football player at Georgetown and the football team's record is 2-1 after coming off two miserables seasons.  Yesterday, they lost to Yale in the last play of the game.  Considering Yale is in the higher level Ivy League (D-1) and Georgetown is in the Patriot League (D-1AAA), this is actually reason for celebration!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

College Series - Dartmouth

What a beautiful campus Dartmouth is.  I've only been there once, really just driving through, but it was fall, and the big open "green" was surrounded by trees losing their yellow, orange and red leaves and filled with students scurrying to and fro in colder weather clothes, providing a glimpse of the quintessential New England college experience, at least per the stereotype of my west coast perspective.

Established in 1769, Dartmouth is the smallest school in the Ivy League and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution. 

It is perhaps most famous for the movie "Animal House", which although filmed at the University of Oregon in Eugene, was actually based on the experiences of one of the coauthors from his days in a fraternity at Dartmouth.   Just visiting the Wiki and reading the list of cast members is enough to get me giggling, all over again.  It's hard for me to pick a favorite scene from this movie, but Belushi (Bluto) sneaking into one of the buildings on campus, when he jumps from side to side looking to see who is watching, is probably my favorite.

Friday, September 17, 2010

College Series - California Institute of Technology

My first job out of college was as a technical typist at Caltech, formally known as California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, California.  I was working there and living at my parent's house to save money to go traveling in Latin America. The campus is beautiful - a mix of modern and less modern, often Spanish style, buildings, and a wide variety of vegetation. In the courtyards of more than one of the Spanish buildings are orange trees, and when they bloom in the early spring, the sweet fragrance wafts over the entire campus. Baxter Hall, which is the building in the postcard above, is the building where I worked.

Caltech is the west coast MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), with super smart, math and science oriented students, who are proud of their nerd orientation.  One of the great traditions of the school is senior ditch day, described by the Wiki as follows:

On Ditch Day, the seniors ditch school, leaving behind elaborately designed tasks and traps at the doors of their rooms to prevent underclassmen from entering. Over the years this has evolved to the point where many seniors spend months designing mechanical, electrical, and software obstacles to confound the underclassmen. Each group of seniors designs a "stack" to be solved by a handful of underclassmen. The faculty have been drawn into the event as well, and cancel all classes on Ditch Day.

Caltech is famous not only for their brilliant scientists, multiple Nobel prize winning professors,  and Einstein's time on campus, but also for their pranks.  Many of the pranks are directed toward MIT, but their two most famous pranks involved the Rose Bowl, which is also located in Pasadena.  Per the Wiki:

The two most famous in recent history are the changing of the Hollywood Sign to read "Caltech", by judiciously covering up certain parts of the letters, and the changing of the Rose Bowl scoreboard to an imaginary game where Caltech beat MIT 99-0. But the most famous of all occurred during the 1961 Rose Bowl Game, where Caltech students altered the flip-cards that were raised by the stadium attendees to display "Caltech", and several other "unintended" messages. This event is now referred to as the Great Rose Bowl Hoax.

My job was working for several professors in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences.  All this was pre word processing and computers, and as most of the professors were engaged in some form of econometric modeling (the economists) or voter choice behavior (the political scientists), all the papers I typed involved complicated equations, complete with a variety of numbers and symbols.   I was really good at this, both because I have always been a speedy typist and also because I took a fair amount of calculus in college and actually knew the symbols involved.

As first jobs out of college go, it was a great one.  The departmental politics were astounding.  The dalliances that went on were surprising.  I was lucky enough to get invited most Fridays to the faculty/grad student lounge, and sit at tables with brilliant scientists and grad students, drinking beer, listening to fascinating discussions, observing heated debates, and watching the huge variety of shenanigans that went on.  It was a blast.

Perhaps the most surprising time was when what I had thought was yet another Caltech "urban legend" turned out to be real.  I had heard rumors of a radio scientist who dressed like Robin Hood, a brilliant man who was perhaps a bit off, at least relative to your average man on the street.  I didn't believe this until one day, leaving work, a man walked right by me, complete with tunic, tights, pointed shoes and a felt Robin Hood hat.   Just one of many "only at Caltech" types of moments.

P.S.  It's Postcard Friendship Friday.  Check it out.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

College Series - Harvard University

Harvard University is the oldest "institute of higher learning" in the U.S., and, interestingly, the first chartered corporation.  Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is considered one of the top universities in the both the country and the world.  This year, the university admitted less than 7% of the applicants for the 2014 graduating class.

Here's a couple random tidbits about Harvard you might not be aware of:

1. Harvard has the largest financial endowment of any university in the world:  25.6 BILLION US dollars.

2. Harvard was not officially co-ed until 1977, although before 1977 women at Radcliffe were allowed to take classes at Harvard.  From the Wiki:

"During World War II, Harvard and Radcliffe signed an agreement which allowed women to attend classes at Harvard for the first time, officially beginning joint instruction in 1943. From 1963, Radcliffe students received Harvard diplomas signed by the presidents of Radcliffe and Harvard, and joint commencement exercises began in 1970. The same year, several Harvard and Radcliffe dormitories began swapping students experimentally, and in 1972 full co-residence was instituted. The schools' departments of athletics merged shortly thereafter."

3.  Harvard is considered a liberal institution.  Over the years, there have been some memorable references by conservative pundits and presidents.  From the Wiki:

"Conservative author William F. Buckley, Jr. quipped that he would rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty,  Richard Nixon famously referred to Harvard as the "Kremlin on the Charles" around 1970, and Vice President George H.W. Bush disparaged what he saw to be Harvard's liberalism during the 1988 presidential election."

4.  It wasn't until 2002 that the little known "Secret Court of 1920" was "outed".  The Secret Court refers to a committee which was formed to investigate charges of homosexual activity among the student population in May and June of 1920.  More than 30 interviews were conducted  behind closed doors and eight students, a recent graduate, and an assistant professor were expelled or had their association with the university severed.

Let's face it - if your kid gets into Harvard, it would be difficult not to be tempted to slip this information into a conversation, any chance you get.  

P.S.  A shout out to my friend Sasha, a sophomore at Harvard, for sending me this card!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

College Series - Trinity College at University of Oxford

It's September, back to school month, and it seems appropriate to feature a few colleges.   NOTE:  Would love college/university postcards from anybody, not just students.

First up, Trinity College at University of Oxford.  My son attended a Georgetown University summer program here.  The back of the postcard states "This is where I stayed".  Wow. 

Founded in 1555, the formal name of Trinity College is "The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in the University of Oxford, of the foundation of Sir Thomas Pope (Knight)" and it is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England.  Unlike most Oxford constituent colleges, it is surrounded by an iron fence rather than a wall, and features four major quadrangles, and a large lawn and gardens.  Given its size, the college is relatively small in terms of student numbers, with about 400 students.

I don't know if it is a coincidence or not, but the colors of Trinity College (each constituent college has their own colors, or academic scarves) are the same as the school colors of Georgetown University, blue and grey.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Great Wave

I've always loved this wood cut by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai entitled "The Great Wave off Kanagawa", and used it as the inspiration for the tattoo I got on my ankle for my 50th birthday.

Turns out it is one of the most recognized pieces of Japanese art in the world, and is featured in Episode 93 of a BBC radio series, "The History of the World in 100 Objects" that first aired in January of this year.  It will be rebroadcast beginning this month.  I hope to listen to some of it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Comic-con IV

Talk about trying to cash in on a trend!  Billing itself as "projects to keep you knitting from twilight til dawn", this postcard is actually advertising a book, with multiple projects inside.  The copy on the back of the postcard goes even further:

"Whether you're a vampire fan who loves to knit, a knitter who loves beautiful projects, or a vampire fan who's never knit before, there's something for you in Vampire Knits.  This Collection of 28 captivating projects - inspired by the immortals we all  love to fear - will keep you well protected, no matter what you attract."

Interesting intersection of the renewed interest in knitting and the Twilight craze.  What a concept!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Comic-con III

The Descendants is another comic book peddling its wares at Comic-con.  It seems more like a video game than a comic book, just looking at the postcard, but its web site tells a different story.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Comic-con II

Here's another postcard from Comic-con, this one featuring "Too Much Coffee Man".   How can you not love this superhero?

According to the Wiki on Too Much Coffee Man, the character started as a strip in the University of Texas student newspaper in the early 1990s and  features an anxious Everyman who broods about the state of the world, from politics to people, exchanging thoughts with friends and readers.  Some of Too Much Coffee Man's friends include:

- Too Much Espresso Guy is TMCM's cynical and cold-hearted friend. Their friendship appears mostly based upon mutual loneliness and a shared pessimism.

- Too Much German White Chocolate Woman With Almonds is a mutual friend. She is pale-skinned, worries a lot, and has large almonds on her face.

- Underwater Guy is another mutual friend, who wears a wetsuit with a diving snorkel and mask. He has the ability to remain underwater indefinitely.

- Mystery Woman is TMCM's secret love.

Sounds pretty good.  Any of you out there actually read this comic strip?

Saturday, September 4, 2010


My friend Steve attends Comi-con at least twice a year and collects a large stack of postcards for me from these events. (Thanks, Steve!)  If you haven't heard of Comi-con, its mission statement is as follows:

 Comic-Con International is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.

As I understand it, it's quite the groover event for popular culture, and features not only comics and cartoons, but also a wide variety of popular culture characters, from young actors and actresses flaunting their wares and reality tv programs trying to out outrageous each other to upcoming films hoping to catch a wave and a variety of products attempting to cash in on all of the above.

I'm always amazed at the variety of comic characters out there, some famous, some not so famous.  Over the next couple days I'll feature a very few of the postcards from these events.  The "Dirty Harry Krishna" postcard above really cracks me up.  The copy below the image might be too hard to read.  It says: 

"Now I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking:  'Did he sing six verses or only five? ' Well, in all that worshipping I kinda lost track myself.  So the question you gotta ask yourself is: do you feel at one with the universe?  Well, do ya....punk?"

If you never saw the movie "Dirty Harry" with Clint Eastwood, or never had any exposure to a bunch of Hare Krishnas dancing around in their orange robes singing "Hare Krishna", this won't make sense.  If you did, the juxtaposition is hysterical.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Camel Burgers

My friend's house in the Medina in Fez, Morocco is just off Tala'a Kbira, along which are primarily food stalls and street vendors.   And while this photo isn't a postcard it would probably generate a lot of sales if it were, as this place is among the most photographed stalls in the Medina.  Most of the postcards of businesses in the Medina feature the tanneries - this one would be different!

As you might or might not imagine, this stall sells camel meat.  The camel head is its primary marketing icon.  Besides the raw meat, one of the offerings appeared to be like a sausage, although very large.  While a local told me it was a stuffed camel pancreas, I think it was more likely a stuffed camel spleen, and is one of the very few meat dishes sold in the market that is already cooked, and "ready to eat".   I did not try any.

I did try a camel burger at Cafe Clock.   (See previous post on Cafe Clock here.)  Believe it or not, a camel burger is surprisingly delicious. This audio slide show by The Guardian gives a pretty good overview of the cafe and the burger. 

P.S.  It's Postcard Friendship Friday.  You know what to do.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Low Country Boil

My friends Chris and Rick, who live in Bend, Oregon, were visiting Savannah, Georgia where their youngest daughter is starting school.  I particularly love their addition to this Low Country Boil recipe -  "Two avg size Oregonians" - complete with the abbreviated amount "avg" for "average".  

"Low Country"  refers to the region along South Carolina's coast, although the exact geography is subject to debate.  "Lowcountry Cuisine" is defined by Wiki as: "... the cooking traditionally associated with the South Carolina Lowcountry and Georgia coast. While it shares features with Southern cooking, its geography, economics, demographics, and culture pushed its culinary identity in a different direction from regions above the fall line. With its rich diversity of seafood from the coastal estuaries, its concentration of wealth in Charleston and Savannah, and a vibrant Caribbean cuisine and African cuisine influence, Lowcountry cooking has strong parallels with New Orleans and Cajun cuisines."   I wondered about the Cajun reference in the recipe above, and now I know!

As to the addition of two average sized Oregonians to the recipe:  I like them too much to participate in boiling them and spreading them out on newspapers to enjoy, but I do appreciate the postcard!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Humans aren't the only carnivores.  There are at least 630 species of carniverous plants that "attract and trap prey, produce digestive enzymes, and absorb the resulting available nutrients".  Also from the Wiki:

Five basic trapping mechanisms are found in carnivorous plants.
1.Pitfall traps (pitcher plants) trap prey in a rolled leaf that contains a pool of digestive enzymes or bacteria.

2.Flypaper traps use a sticky mucilage.

3.Snap traps utilize rapid leaf movements.

4.Bladder traps suck in prey with a bladder that generates an internal vacuum.

5.Lobster-pot traps force prey to move towards a digestive organ with inward-pointing hairs.
My friend Lorry painted this drawing which was used to promote a carniverous plant exhibit at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  Looks like it is an example of #1, above - the pitfall trap.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dandelion Salad

Food foraging is the latest in the Bay Area foodie scene.  I've got mixed feelings about this new trend, as it has the potential to be yet another excuse for "entrepreneurs" to decimate our natural resources.  (Other examples include abalone and sea urchin poachers.)  However, if any plant is going to be foraged, let it be the dandelion.  The plant appeared about 30 million years ago, and has been used as a food and an herb for much of recorded history.

Thanks to the Mystery Sender for this dandelion salad recipe and information.   As the message says:

The name of the dandelion comes from the French name for the plant "dents de lion" or teeth of the lion, referring to the jagged edges of the leaf.  The other French name for the plant is "pis-en-lit" which means "wet the bed" because the greens, when eaten, remove water from the body.  Not recommended for a night time snack!

The Wiki provides additional  insight as to the origin of the name:

In modern French the plant is named pissenlit, (or pisse au lit in the vernacular).   Likewise, "piss-a-bed" is an English folk-name for this plant, as is piscialletto in Italian and the Spanish meacamas.  These names refer to the strong diuretic effect of the roots of the plant.  In various north-eastern Italian dialects the plant is known as pisacan ("dog pisses"), referring to how common they are found at the side of pavements.

The recipe for Dandelion Salad includes the caution that the greens be harvested only "from an area that has never been sprayed or fertilized".  I think they should add a caution about dogs, as well.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Walla Walla Onions

We passed through Walla Walla, Washington during July's whirlwind road trip to Missoula and back in six days. According to the locals, it is the new "Bend, Oregon" - a town that is relatively far removed from anything else, but that is kind of hip and cool. We only stopped for lunch there, but the downtown was way more than just okay.

I've long been aware of Walla Walla for two reasons:

1. My college roommate's boyfriend (now husband of many years) attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, and in those days we often referred to him as Walla Walla. (Side note: The official mascot of Whitman College is the "Fighting Missionaries" which, although controversial due to its implied imperialistic bent, did inspire one of the all time great college cheers: "Missionaries, Missionaries, We're on Top".  Oh, how I wish I had looked harder for a Whitman College postcard!.)

2. The sweet onions. There are three well-known brands of sweet onions: Walla Walla Sweet Onions from Washington state, Vidalia Onions from southern Georgia, and Maui Onions from Hawaii. I imagine in onion circles there is much debate over which is sweeter, better, easier to cook with, etc. as well as the potental for significant trademark infringement and branding issues.

Anybody have an opinion one way or the other? Does an onion debate even exist?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Killer Tomatoes

As far as I'm concerned, summer is the only time to eat tomatoes. I never really like them except in sauces the rest of the year - they're often mealy and flavorless and not really worth the trouble.

This year, the entire state of California has experienced a relatively mild summer, which is great from a liveability standpoint (except for those of us in San Francisco who have experienced the foggiest summer in 40 years), but not great from a farmer's standpoint, whether commercial or backyard. Tomato growing has been particularly thwarted. I wonder if the promotional postcard, above, was delayed due to the product's availability?

In June, we planted a backyard garden, including three kinds of lettuce, arugula, tomatoes and basil. The lettuce has done great. The tomatoes, on the other hand, grew into beautiful bushes and then started fungi-ing themselves to death. We had one measly green tomato appear, but ultimately had to just pull the disintegrating bushes without harvesting a single tomato. Even my mom, who grows a variety of beautiful tomatoes in her backyard, has only just started harvesting. In a normal year, she'd be rolling in tomatoes by late July.

Speaking of rolling in tomatoes, the annual Tomatina, Spain tomato fight took place last Wednesday. (See photos here.) For this annual food fight festival, upwards of 40,000 people descend on the town of 9,000 and spend one to two hours throwing 100 tons of mushy tomatoes at each other. It sounds like a blast.

Note to anybody who lives in the Bay Area: If you're looking for killer tomatoes, we discovered a place off 101 in Morgan Hill, Dave's Famous Old Tomatoes. It's worth a visit, if you are so inclined.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Corn Palace

Here's one for the "only in America" list:  the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.  From the Roadside America website:

Mitchell's Corn Palace is built out of reinforced concrete, not corn. Every spring, however, its exterior is completely covered with thousands of bushels of native South Dakota corn, grain and grasses that are arranged into large murals. Typical yearly themes are South Dakota Birds or A Salute To Agriculture; this past year's was Youth In Action.

 Locals take great pride in the Palace's "corn-septual art" and "ear-chitecture." Mitchell isn't called the Corn Capital of the World for nothing.  Corn Palace Week marks the end of the harvest - and the beginning of the planning for next year's Palace theme.

The Corn Palace has one more title - the World's Largest Bird Feeder. After Corn Palace Week ends and winter sets in, local pigeons and squirrels make a feast of the tasty murals.

Turns out this week is Corn Palace Week.  The line up of performers includes Kenny Rogers, Gary Allan, Bjorn Again - the ABBA Experience, the Village People, a couple comedians and a magician.  The town is corn crazy - the local sports team is called the Kernels and the call letters of the local radio station are KORN.

The image of the birds and squirrels descending on the building for the winter is a bit unsettling actually - think the Hitchcock movie "The Birds".  Winter must come early to South Dakota, and I can picture the birds gathering in the Bad Lands, waiting for their opportunity to swoop in and start feasting!

A shout out to Duke and Sandy for sending this postcard from their cross country road trip!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Picking Peaches

For the past four years, I've been part of a peach "family".  Every January, we (well, Gayle submits it actually) submit an application to the Masumoto Peach Tree Adoption Program.  The Masumotos are family farmers, and they set aside about 50 heirloom peach trees for this program.  From their website: 

We farm a wonderful old heirloom peach called Elberta (certified organic). Elberta is one of those old fashioned, creamy, buttery smooth peaches with a bright yellow flesh and a golden skin when ripe. ...  So how can you get a taste of these gems? By adopting a tree! And, if the weather and nature cooperates, each tree should have between 400-500 pounds of these peach gems.

If you are chosen to be an adoptive family, you commit to two weekends of picking peaches, dates dependent on Mother Nature.  Our family is big enough that most members only pick one weekend.  Then, for a couple of weeks after harvesting, it's a plethora of peaches - peach cobbler, barbequed peaches, prosciutto wrapped peaches, peach salsa, peach chutney, peach jam, peaches in salad, and just plain perfectly ripe sliced peaches.  This year I made jam for the first time. (I was quite pleased with myself, I have to say.) 

We also enjoy a post peach picking potluck, in which all "family" members bring a peach dish.  This year we had tortilla chips and peach salsa; prosciutto wrapped grilled peaches; pork with peach chutney; a green salad with peaches, candied walnuts and bacon; green bean, tomato and cucumber salad (our only peach free dish); ginger peach ice cream; peach upside down cake; and a nectarine crisp (a guest picker had picked some nectarines while we were in the orchards).  Delicious!

The postcard to the left above shows some of the fruit and nut products grown in the central valley of California, including peaches.  From upper left, clockwise: raisins, peaches, oranges, and almonds.  The picture on the right features just a few perfect peaches, post harvest.

P.S.  It's Postcard Friendship Friday.  Check it out.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th

It's Friday the 13th.  Do you know what your superstitions are?  I am not particularly superstitious but a Friday the 13th does make me stop, for just a second, and think about the day.  The black cat thing doesn't bother me, as we had a black cat for 14 years and if I had worried about her crossing my path, I would have been unable to move around in my own home.

What about manatees?  Do you think it's bad luck if a manatee crosses your path? I can't imagine how. Manatees are gentle, slow moving herbivores, who are thought to be at least as intelligent as dolphins and whales.

Perhaps we should start a superstition that it is good luck if a manatee crosses your path.  This superstition might help minimize the damage inflicted on them daily by speed boats in their habitat.  From the Wiki:

Their slow-moving, curious nature, coupled with dense coastal development, has led to many violent collisions with propellers from fast moving recreational motor boats, leading frequently to maiming, disfigurement, and even death. As a result, a large proportion of manatees exhibit propeller scars on their backs. ....Often the cuts lead to infections, which can prove fatal. Internal injuries stemming from hull impacts have also been fatal.

Manatees hear on a higher frequency than what would be expected for such large marine mammals. Many large boats emit very low frequencies which confuse the manatee and explain their lack of awareness around boats.

In 2003, a population model was released by the U.S. Geological Survey that predicted an extremely grave situation confronting the manatee in both the Southwest and Atlantic regions where the vast majority of manatees are found. It states,

“In the absence of any new management action, that is, if boat mortality rates continue to increase at the rates observed since 1992, the situation in the Atlantic and Southwest regions is dire, with no chance of meeting recovery criteria within 100 years."

A 2007 University of Florida study found that more than half of boat drivers in Volusia County, Florida, sped through marked conservation zones despite their professed support for the endangered animals. ...84 percent of the 236 people who responded claimed to obey speed limits in manatee zones during their most recent boating experience, but observers found that only 45 percent actually complied.

If you've ever seen a film about these animals, or seen them alive, either in captivity or in the wild, you'd know how incredible they are and how terribly sad it is that the selfishness of humans is hastening their demise.

A shout out the Mystery Sender who sent this card, perhaps by chance or perhaps in response to my post on August 3 about beluga whales in which I mentioned that I thought the beluga whale and the manatee looked like distant cousins.  I imagine it wasn't by chance.

P.S.  It's Postcard Friendship Friday the 13th.  Check it out.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010


One of my mom's best friends,Peggy, and her husband, Big Brent, have traveled all over the world, including driving from Southern California all the way to Panama, in their little mini-camper, aptly named "Peggy's Palace".  Peggy is vivacious and out-going, with a wonderful laugh and a bit of Lucille Ball about her.  Big Brent doesn't say as much, but adores Peggy and is generally a smiley guy.  Even though we are not related by blood, they've always felt like an aunt and uncle to me, and we spent many vacations and Christmas eves together.  Peggy plays the guitar and most of the campfire type songs I know, I learned at her side.

I love her postcards because her personality is ever present, from the naming of the dancers ("Brento" and "Margarita") to the text on the back including "mucho pescado, mucho tequila".  Note that this card is dated 2001.  They were both over 70 years old on this trip, and sent this card from Veracruz, on the eastern coast of Mexico. 

There are three things I think of when I think of Veracruz:

1.  Huachinango Veracruzano.  For all you gringos, "Red Snapper Vera Cruz Style". During the very early days of my travels through Latin America I was introduced to this dish.  It's pretty tasty but it is even more fun to order, because Huachinango is a great word to pronounce.  (Wha-chee-nan-go.  Try it!)

2.  Warren Zevon.  My favorite Warren Zevon album, Excitable Boy (it was an album when it was released in 1978) includes a song called "Veracruz", which I've probably listened to 1000 times, although not in a long time.  (Note to self:  include a Warren Zevon song on next mix tape.) While it's not my favorite song on the album, there are several greats including "Werewolves of London", "Excitable Boy" and "Roland The Headless Thompson Drummer".  If you do not know these tracks, you might want to check them out.

3.  US Occupation of Veracruz in 1914 aka the Tampico Affair.The Tampico Affair is one in a long list of Mexican/US mis-understandings, primarily resulting from an on-going inability among far too many to speak each other's languages. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Statue of David, Before and After

My oldest son is in Oxford, just completing a summer school program there.  While in Europe, he's been able to travel some.  One of his journeys took him to Florence where he was fascinated by the Statue of David.  He sent this postcard with the note: "I have bought almost 50 cards on my trip.  This is the one I thought most fitting for mom's blog."  When my 20-year old son is collecting postcards, remembering to mail a few, and even reading his mother's blog occasionally, I've got no reason to complain.  Even if his taste is a bit suspect, his sense of humor is always intact.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Speaking of Tigers

A card sent from Taiwan through Postcrossing.  I assume it is celebrating that 2010 is the Year of the Tiger, but I don't know how to read Chinese characters.  Were you born during a Year of the Tiger?  You were if you were born in one of these years:  1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, and 1998.

From another website on characteristics of those born in the Year of the Tiger, a list of careers that are supposedly well-suited to tigers: Actors, Comedians, Chauffeurs, Musicians, Race Car Drivers, Pilots, Artists, Writers, Flight Attendants, Travel Agents, Advertising Agents, and Office Managers.  The western astrological sign equivalent is Aquarius.

Who knew?

Friday, August 6, 2010


Sambos Restaurant was founded in 1957 in Santa Barbara, California.  At one point there were as many as 1200 locations.   I remember eating pancakes at a Sambos, more than once.  Today, only the original remains. 

While the name "Sambo" was a combination of the names of the two founders, it became associated with a popular children's book at the time, Little Black Sambo, first published in 1899.  The "owners capitalized on the coincidence by decorating the walls of the restaurants with scenes from the book, including a dark-skinned boy, tigers and a pale, magical unicycle-riding man called 'The Treefriend.'"  In the early 1970s, the chain distributed a series of postcards, called the "Sambos Picture Story Series".  Number seven of the series of nine is pictured above.

The Wiki describes the story well:

An Indian boy named Sambo prevails over a group of hungry tigers. The little boy has to give his colourful new clothes, shoes, and umbrella to four tigers so they will not eat him. Sambo recovers the clothes when the jealous, conceited tigers chase each other around a tree until they are reduced to a pool of delicious melted butter.

I remember reading this book as a child, and the image of the four tigers turning into butter has always stayed with me.  It seems neighborhood mothers admonished us with the threat of turning into butter when, as children, we ran wildly in circles chasing each other.  This image was further cemented in my memory by the fact that the butter at a Sambos was called "Tiger Butter".

While the chain lightened the skin of the little boy over time, and no  longer referred to him as Little Black Sambo, the term "Sambo" is a racial slur in some countries and the image of "Little Black Sambo" in the US is not exactly PC.  Both the book and, ultimately, the chain fell out of favor.  It filed for bankruptcy in 1981 and attempted a series of name changes in a desperate effort to survive, but by 1982, all but one location remained. 

This is a good example of a brand icon "turning" on the brand, and bringing it down.  Can anybody think of any others?

P.S.  It's Postcard Friendship Friday.  Check it out.