Saturday, February 28, 2015

Gallery of Photos: The Santa Barbara Farmers Market

The Saturday morning one, not the Tuesday afternoon one.

I made my way down to Cota and Santa Barbara Streets where I found much of the block filled with vendors, trucks, and customers all to the tune of rousing music.  I'd hoped to find a beautiful display of French cheeses, a multitude of olives, and some bakers competing for my trade in tempting loaves.  Well, no ... but I did find a plethora of fresh produce (THIS time of year, I thought to myself) including this region's avocados, lemons, and oranges.  There were glorious heads of lettuce.  Chayote squash.  (I didn't buy one but remembered liking it as a child.)  Goat cheeses from off east of L.A.  Fabulous pistachios ($$).  Garlic-roasted nuts.  Orchids.  An orange-robed guru led a coterie of four young women dressed in Indian clothing.  Many people were in summer attire.  (I'm still not used to finding that in FEBRUARY!)

It was all Very California!

How's that for a handsome passel of leeks!

No, they're not dyed

All grown right here.

Mandarin oranges the size of small tangerines.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Getting Outta Dodge

No, those white flakes aren't snow, they're petals from fruit trees in full bloom in February!!

My flight to California was to leave February 11th from Boston (Logan Airport) for San Francisco with a connecting flight to Santa Barbara.  Reaching Logan required hiring a car for the two-plus-hour trip.  But as February approached, I began to feel more than a little apprehensive since Boston (to say nothing of my town in Vermont) was being deluged with storm after storm, dumping unprecedented amounts of snow.  Plainly, it was NOT a time to travel by road or air.  Logan was experiencing many cancelled flights; Boston had already gotten six feet of snow in the past eighteen days.  Roads were snow-clogged and icy.  I looked at the weather report more hours each day than I care to mention and found that, yes, lucky me, there was a window of sun on February 11th.  But, for a morning flight, I needed to leave the day before and spend the night in a hotel.  Okay, except we (and Boston) had just experienced THREE DAYS OF ONE LONG STORM and Boston's mayor had put a ban on all travel.  So how was I to get to Logan?

In fact, my intrepid driver said we could make it by not going into Boston but skirting it  Which is what we did.  Once there, I began to relax.  Until next morning when I looked out and that window of sun was nowhere to be found.  It was snowing yet again!!  Though I expected it could well be cancelled, my flight was still "On Schedule." A shuttle delivered me to the airport, I checked in, all seemed well.  Being a full flight, we boarded early.  I kept looking at my watch; we needed to be punctual if I was going to make my connecting flight from San Francisco to Santa Barbara within what was only a fifty-minute time-frame.

We pulled away from the terminal (that was a good sign) ... but then sat there.  Any minute, I thought, the engines would rev up and we'd take off.  But, no.  After some time, the pilot advised us that we weren't going anywhere.  First we had to join the de-icing queue.  Then, he said, just to top everything off, the runway was closed.  Plows were out even then getting all that new snow pushed to one side.  We sat.  We were de-iced.  We sat some more.  Then the runway opened ... but being the only runway in use, all the stacked arrivals were using it to land.  We finally took off.  But by then we were an hour and a half late.  So much for making my connection to Santa Barbara.

But, I thought, at least I'm outta Boston and poor beleaguered New England.  (A side note--I left my house with part of my ceiling on the floor ... and plastic sheeting, two buckets, and newspapers spread around.  Before leaving, I'd also had to make a last minute call to my plow man to dig me out since the town plow had just filled in my front walk as it spread what was in the street off to the side.)

To conclude, I have a tale to tell on myself.  The pilot, Mr. Zippy, even though going against the jet stream, mentioned us passengers needing to make connecting flights and said he was putting on the power.  Well, other passengers might make their connections, I thought, but not me.  The timing was too tight.  For one thing, deplaning was always chaotic:  people stuck in the aisle (and I was seated toward the back), luggage bumping everyone, people stalled for whatever reason.  Then there was the matter of reaching the connecting flight's gate.  To say nothing of getting checked luggage from one plane to the other.

When I mentioned all this to my seat mate, she said, "Maybe the gate will be right next door."  I gave her a wan smile and wondered why always put a gooey spin on things.  Why cover up reality.  Why not say, "Hey, that's too bad you'll miss it."  Or, "Yeah, that's tough."

Well, the gate wasn't right next door, but this is what happened:  1)  We got to San Francisco with only minutes to spare.  2)  Once we landed, the other passengers were told to stay seated until we connecting passengers had deplaned.  3)  We were told the gate number where we needed to go.  4)  I dashed as fast as I could.  And 5) we Santa Barbara passengers--or most of us--MADE IT.

"What about our checked luggage?" I asked an airline employee.

"Oh, we knew all about you so we have that organized."

My admiration quotient for that airline zoomed sky-high.  And I also realized I should not have pooh-poohed my seat mate's positive spin.

We were soon out over the Pacific heading south.  It was 77 degrees when we landed.  (It had been 17 that morning in Boston.)  The air smelled fragrant.  Fruit trees and roses were in full bloom.  The sky was blue.  There were no predicted snow storms!  I felt as if I'd left the moon and entered Oz!  And, yes, my checked luggage had arrived, too.  (Thank you, United!)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"Everywhere You Look It's Beautiful"

So said my mother many times during the years we lived in Santa Barbara, California--that which I call "my home town."  Yes, you might well ask, "So why do you now live in a climate that you say is not fit for man or beast!"  Well, that's a long, long story that I won't even begin to attempt here.  But this year, it's sending me back to my roots for a winter interlude.  A place I haven't spent any time in for nearly 50 years.

I must say, it's great to be back because it's 1) warm, 2) sunny, and 3) quite stunningly beautiful.  There's also no potential whatsoever for snow since it's been in the high 70's since my arrival.

I agreed with my mother then, and I still do:  everywhere you look, it's beautiful.  In fact, Santa Barbara has been called the American Riviera.

Here, then, are a few pictures as an introduction ... some taken many years ago.  I'll be here six weeks, so you'll be seeing lots more in the weeks to come.  In fact, it's so different, it feels like a foreign country.

The Santa Barbara Mission has been called the Queen of the Missions--of those built along the California coast in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Mission's arcade.
Sunrise down by the beach
East Beach
Ice plant ... which my mother always called by its other name, Mesembryanthemum

One of my mother's photos of the Santa Barbara harbor
Prickly pear cactus

California poppies ... probably designated the state flower because they are golden ... and the state's motto is "The Golden State."

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Beautiful Stamps: Laos

Question:  So why stamps from Laos?  Answer: Well, besides believing they are among the most beautiful stamps I've ever seen, it was exactly this time of year that I first set foot in Laos back in the '60s--back when it was still a kingdom.  Royaume du Laos.

In fact, this seemed the perfect season to arrive--dry and not too hot.  That shifted after some weeks, heating up intolerably.  And then the rains came, called the Mango Showers.  After four months, I was then gone again.  But still being a stamp collector at that time (I am no longer), I came away with a selection which I share with you here.  

Someone back then said that these stamps were designed by the French.  The implication being that such expertise was left over from when that region was all part of French Indochina.  But whether or not that is true, I have no idea.