Space shuttle Endeavor in Oakland!

Today, the space shuttle Endeavor, as a backpack of a larger plane, did its final flight, to be displayed at a museum in LA from now on. It was quite a sight to see the huge plane with the shuttle on its back flying above us, when were were watching in the cemetery close to home. Unfortunately, my camera was full, and I couldn't make real close pictures.


Vacationing on Eastern Oregon requires a lot of mosquito repellent, but rewarded us with spectacular views (Crater Lake), and pleasant weather. To get there, we went up I5 through the Central Valley. Amazing amounts of agriculture, every few miles, we'd see silos to store the products. We cooled off in Whiskeytown Lake in the Trinity Alps, and then got on our way to Odell Lake for some fishing. On the way back, Crater Lake was stunningly beautiful. Since spring comes so late, all wildflowers were blooming. I uploaded more pictures to the gallery, including a couple of pictures of the sundial bridge in Redding.

Redwood Regional Park revisited

Corallorhiza maculata "spotless"

I revisited the park in the hope to find the red coralroot orchid still blooming (Corallorhiza maculata var. immaculata), and get a nice picture. I got lucky, and several were still not shriveled up.
The weather was gorgeous, perfect day for a hike!

Addendum: See the three leaved plant next to the orchid? That's poison oak. Guess how my arms look like now?

Redwood Regional Park

I had a nice hike today in Redwood Regional Park, in the East Bay Hills of the San Francisco Bay area. It is the first sunny and warm day of the year, and walking through the redwoods was beautiful, and shady and cool.
I saw a lot of trillium, redwood trees (not quite as old as the ones in Muir Woods, but it was so much less crowded!), and red orchid coralroot. The orchid had just come up, and didn't bloom yet. I saw it after a steep incline, and I was too exhausted to make a picture. Maybe, I'll go back next weekend and take the opposite route, to see the orchids while walking downhill.

California Poppy

The California Poppy, the state flower of California, is now in full bloom.

Stinging Nettles

Where I grew up, we had a rather large garden. The most annoying weed was the stinging nettle, since it was growing everywhere when my family took over the property. The amount of stinging nettle and other weeds made my parents stop their membership in the local tennis club. Ironically, it also gave my father a tennis arm, because of the pulling out of the nettles.

The stinging nettle does have desirable properties. It is great as tea because it is a natural diuretic. When soaked in water for a longer time, and used to water plants, it helps against pests in the garden. And if you can get over the fear of stings, it is delicious on pizza, a la Alice Waters.

There are obviously not many wild stinging nettles in California, so the Berkeley Hort, a garden store, actually sells these annoyances of my youth! Won't even think of buying them. I am happy, the stinging nettle is not resident in our garden! They do add a warning to handle them with gloves.

ADA compliant Sidewalk

My hometown newspaper in Hameln, Germany ( published an article, bemoaning that leveling sidewalks would help bicyclists, but would be dangerous for blind people. They obviously haven't heart of the US style ADA compliant sidewalks with a differently textured area. A friend of mine who is nearly blind also appreciates the bright yellow color, which helps her find her way.

Pictures from the Graveyard

On a nice winter day in early February, the Cherry trees are blooming, a rainstorm is approaching, and the sunset put everything in a golden light. And in the background, the port cranes walk along the Bay like Alien creatures.

Spanish Moss in Napa Valley

I love the look of Spanish moss. Lots of it can be seen in the Napa Valley area, this one at the Joseph Phelps winery.


My sister published a picture of a pumpkin a few days ago on her blog, with the note, that her daughter found it extremely ugly.
That pumpkin was actually pretty, if you want ugly, have a look at this one here!
I like it a lot in its ugliness, and am looking forward to a delicious pumpkin soup from it!

Apricot Jam

On a trip through Pleasants Valley, connecting Vacaville and Winters in Northern California, we picked up a few apricots at a small farm. When driving through the orchards to get to the farm house, we admired trees laden with French prunes, which are just starting to ripen. According to the farmer, they lost most of the peach harvest because of rainy weather earlier this year, but will have at least some starting next week. The apricots were lovely, and we are looking forward to the prunes, which hopefully will be ready next time we drive up.

I recently made a small-batch strawberry jam, by cutting up three cups of strawberries, mixing them with 1.5 cups of sugar and two teaspoons of lemon juice, and boiling the mixture for 8 min on high heat, then transferring the jam into freezer jars.

Because the method was so successful (fast, and very tasty), I tried a modified version using these apricots:
Cut up 4 cups of apricots. Boil down for 10 min in a large skillet. Remove the skins using the food mill. Return into the skillet (should be about 2 cups now), and combine with 1.5 cups of sugar and the juice of two lemons. Boil on high heat for 5-7 min, and transfer into freezer jars. Cover the freezer jars with an upsite-down saucer to cool down. Then freeze or enjoy! Makes two freezer jars.


Chinese Magnolia

I recently imported some pictures from trips and from the garden. Check out the Galleries link in the main menu.

Seven Layer Jello

The Hawaiian Electric Cookbook (A Hundred Years of Island Cooking) is a source of all kinds of interesting and retro recipes.
The seven Layer Gelatin Dessert is a particularly pretty example, which reminds me a lot of my cousin's birthdays, with as much jello as anybody wanted, in all kinds of colors. This dessert adds layers of condensed milk with gelatin, which gives the top layer a wonderfully iridescent color.

Wagner on the Machine

The Devil's Postpile

Yesterday, we went to an encore HD showing of the Met's new production of Wagner's Walküre. These events take place in a movie theater, it is advised to come early, otherwise, you get front row seats, which is not quite what we got, but close.

Surrounded by popcorn eating opera lovers, we fortunately brought our own food. Walküre is a long event: Start-time 6:30pm, ending after midnight. Didn't help that half the parking payment centers where broken, that's not something you want to experience after midnight.

The opera: To me, the stars were Eva-Maria Westbroek and Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund and Sieglinde. Both wonderful singers with great voices, and they really got the chemistry right and convincingly portrayed the love, shame, and heroism of the long separated twins.

Just in general, the case was great, which has been described in numerous other reviews. So I concentrate on the peripherals:

Hunding's huge skull-necklace on his chest was stunning, and his coat made up from rabbit and whatever other furs went very well with it.
Fricka's elegance was a nice contrast to the warrier-like attire of the other gods.

I tried to buy a replica of the Walküres' headpieces from the Met store, elegant in the front, wings in the back. They don't sell them. Hopefully, they'll do at some point!

All those family dynamics between Wotan, Fricka and Brünnhilde were a bit close to home, well enough executed to get me depressed.

The strongest character of the opera was the Machine. When Opera marries Cirque de Soleil, stage techniques get kicked up a notch. A huge machine with individual leafs was the stage. Sometimes, the (very powerful and entertaining) Walküres were riding on the individual parts (and some looked scared when sliding off). Sometimes it was all straight up, and looked like the Devil's postpile (a national park in the Sierra Nevada).

I hope we can make it next year to see the whole cycle life!

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The Forgotten Garden

Early 20th century: A little girl is alone on a ship to Australia. She is raised by a family as Nell, without knowing about her unknown heritage, only to have her world as she sees it collapse when she finds out that she was abandoned. It is a fascinating book, jumping back and forth between the generations, intrigue, manipulation, part Oliver Twist, part Downton Abbey. I just don't get it how a reasonable person, and Nell seems to be one, can so completely loose the sense of herself, because she doesn't know about her family.

New Blog Location

New look, new location - this is the continuation of I'll be adding galleries as well in the future. Eventually, I'll move over the old content. Hope you'll enjoy reading!

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