more huntington

Posted in outings by nikkipolani on May 3, 2016

During our few hours at the Huntington Library and Gardens (they’re only open to the public from noon until 4:30), we spent a good bit in the color-saturated rose gardens. Then we headed to the Chinese Garden where trees and shrubs had matured since their planting back nearly ten years before. It’s reportedly one of the largest traditional Chinese gardens outside China.

We parked ourselves on a bench near the lake to do a bit of people-watching. The jasmine-like scent of Japanese mock orange (Pittosporum tobira) wafted by as though on cue — the garden is aptly named the Garden of Flowing Fragrance.

Ducks and geese were also enjoying the lake, floating nonchalantly by brilliant water lilies.

The afternoon had warmed up quite a bit and we found ourselves lulled into sitting in the cool enjoying the harmonious surroundings, breathing in fragrant breezes, reading books we’d brought. There are a couple of interesting links here and here about the collaboration of the Huntington and Chinese landscapers and artisans. This map shows how the garden is laid out.

Intricate pathway pavings and artful windows are only a few of the features that capture the eye.

Isn’t that perfect for a quiet reading spot? And when we walked by, there was a woman doing just that.

As we exited the garden, we heard people exclaiming over this bush. I didn’t get an ID, but I think these are Itoh peonies, one of the few varieties that can be grown in Southern California.

And this ends our visit to the Huntington, this spring 2016.

fff april 29

Posted in five faves friday, outings by nikkipolani on April 29, 2016

Goodness, the last Friday of my favorite month has arrived. And I’m still in Chicago on a week-long business trip, returning home about the time you’ll be reading this — a wonderful time to remember God’s blessings and provision for the week.

1. After an uneventful flight, I was surprised by how sunny and warm Chicago was — sunshine and low 80s. I also got to try Uber for the first time and had an interesting driver of Guatemalan origin, but 40-year Chicagoan.

2. Spring has definitely sprung here, with tulips brightening sidewalk gardens and ornamental pear blossoms in full array. There were artfully planted blue hydrangeas and golden pansies and daffodils, too.

3. I’m so thankful for pleasant and funny and professional and commiserating and helpful co-workers. About 40 of us gathered from all over and sometimes it felt like I’ve been at camp all week. For our first event together, we met on the 17th floor rooftop garden of our hotel with a most spectacular view of the city (at the top of this post, and below). As you can see, dark clouds were rolling in and stayed for most of the week. But that first day was perfect for a stroll in the city and a rooftop event.

4. Since we stayed right downtown, everything was within easy walking distance — a double bonus: getting in a brisk walk after sitting in meetings and picking up items missed in one’s packing.

5. One of our group activities was packing sack lunches for the homeless at the local Salvation Army Harbor Light Center which helps people overcome addictions and provides rehabilitation treatment as well as housing. Some of us were in a fast-paced production-line making sandwiches and packing fruit, juice, chips, and cookies while others made salads for the evening meal. What a great way to build camaraderie and teamwork while supporting this community.

Being away for so long means there’s a bit of a pile up in my in-box, but the experience was well worth it. Hope yours was a good week, too.  Happy weekend!

huntington spring

Posted in outings, rosy things by nikkipolani on April 25, 2016

I had a pair of guest passes to the Huntington Library and Gardens, a Christmas gift waiting for a beautiful spring day. Actually, it was more like fixing a day that fit work schedules that happened to be in spring. It had been a couple of years since I saw the rose garden, reportedly thriving under Tom Carruth’s oversight.

While we waited for the gardens to open, we peeked into the airy and bright new gift shop. Daylight poured through the skylights at the center, aisles branched off to each side housing themed collections: birds and butterflies, William Morris art books and souvenirs, specific flower gardening, and a fantastic children’s corner with a wooden tree at its center.

The entryway near the cafe (photo at the top and below) had a new bed bisected by running water. Each side was densely planted with sages, yarrow, lavender, euphorbia, craspedia, poppies and more.

Passing through the Shakespeare garden, we noticed pride of Madeira (echium candicans) prettily attracting bees.

And then… glorious roses! Commonly referred to as The Temple of Love (L’Amour Captif de la Jeunesse, “Love, Captive of Youth”), the limestone sculpture marks the entrance to the rose garden.

behind the statue is a large bed of Brilliant Pink and White Iceberg roses

these may be Ebb Tide (looking magenta instead of violet in the sunshine) and Julia Child

one of my favorites in the garden: Huntington’s Hero

Though we had missed the peak of blooms, you can see there was still plenty to enjoy — long beds of modern roses of all types with a section of the antique ones full of fragrance.

Climbing roses on the arches were also further along than the last time I saw them. A gorgeous rainbow of colors on every side.

Veilchenblau, a 1909 German hybrid multiflora rambles up and across a faux bois arch (above photo). The small flowers are a unique shade of blue-violet and have just started up — see all the tiny buds?

Butterscotch lives up to its name. This climber has large blooms with decidedly tan shades.

La Ville de Bruxelles is a damask introduced into commerce in 1836, obviously going strong with tightly petaled pink blossoms.

I love the frilly edges on the petals of this climber, but neglected to note its name.

The Huntington’s rose curator, Tom was out, as usual, chatting with visitors and volunteers.

Let’s make this part one of the Huntington. We also visited the Chinese Gardens, so that will be part two.

fff april 22

Posted in five faves friday by nikkipolani on April 21, 2016

Happy Friday! I’ve had the most difficult time keeping track of the days this week, probably because the unexpected keeps popping up. Like my parents spending a few nights at my house while Big Expensive Plumbing is happening at theirs. I haven’t visited several of you as I have meant to, but I will.  Let’s not forget the week’s faves.

1. Roomie had met with her new German student this year, but I had not. So it was a lot of fun to meet her and a friend and have them over for dinner and hear about all they’d seen and done between classes and homework. Homework is always a difficult adjustment for them since German university students don’t have any.

2. I had a terrific session with my chiropractor. He always has great stretches to teach me for whatever ails me now.

3. It’s my mom’s birthday this week and I had been struggling to think of what gift might be right. After a good bit of wandering through stores, I came upon a triple strand of those flat odd-shaped cultured pearls that were perfect. Happy birthday, Mom!

4. Lots of connections with loved ones this week — from new friends at church to dear ones far away with heartache to small bits of news trickling in. It’s been good to share burdens as well as joys.

5. The weather’s been quite warm this week, even reaching the high 90s in my area. It sure has brought out the blooms and started the pomegranates swelling.

Happy weekend, friends!

all the flowers

Posted in outings by nikkipolani on April 21, 2016

Cecile Brunner climber at our friends’ home — and many others in the area since it’s one of the few roses to do well on the cooler damp coast.

For the first several years, roomie and I visited Cambria in the summer or fall. And in many of those years, the area had been hard hit by drought. With scarce water sources, the town was already under tight restrictions. Last year, the threat of fire loomed when many trees died from lack of water.

With spring rains and a small window in our mutually busy schedules, however, we made our way up the coast this year with green and yellow hills on every side. And what a transformation.

Light rain had come and gone, though some clouds hovered for another round. Masses of wild yellow mustard swept across hillsides and along ditches, interrupted by bits of blue lupine and magenta vetch.

Late one morning, we drove back down Highway 1 and took the old Santa Rosa Creek Road that wove through the hills and criss-crossed the creek. There was a light drizzle but that didn’t stop us getting out to photograph some of the wildflowers.

Along the road were a mesmerizing blend of lupines and vetch.

Around the bend, the low clouds and fog hugged the green hills.

Vineyards have been popping up around Cambria and down towards Highway 46, striping up and down the hills’ curves.

These bee boxes reminded us of our earlier visit to Jack Creek Farms for a honey tasting. It was amazing to get a distinct blackberry flavor from bees sourcing their nectar from blackberry bushes. Hawaiian lehua blossom was another honey we all loved. The flavor began with salted caramel and finished with bananas foster.

The next day, we took a picnic out toward Montaña de Oro State Park, about a 28 mile drive southward. We drove to the end of the park and lingered over a lunch of beet-greens salad, curried chicken, and crackers with a few treats to try: bacon jam, anchovy butter, plantain chips.

A few rain drops had fallen, but the skies were clearing. So we chose Point Buchon Trail for a walk along the bluff.

It was soon apparent we weren’t the only ones enjoying the wildflowers — butterflies were flitting about and even pausing for proper photos. Any identifications would be most welcome!

Out on the path along the bluff, the mounds of wild mustard alternated with vetch and not-yet-in-bloom sage bushes, scenting the air with a hint of California summer along the coast.

Now and again, a jay would swoop by or stop to survey. But mostly, it was just us and a few cows keeping a protective eye on their days-old calves.

At some point, the trail had been moved further inland, leaving the old trail to be filled in with California poppies. Isn’t it a sight?

And with that, I’ll finish this photo-heavy post.
Hope you enjoyed all the flowers.

cooking again

Posted in edibles by nikkipolani on April 17, 2016

Our friends in Cambria are remarkable women each in her own right, but the second eldest daughter amazes me with her ability to run her half of a gardening business, help her sister in a new beekeeping venture, win local photography competitions, research health and nutrition, and manage the lion’s share of the planning and cooking of the family meals.

I took ingredients for a favorite standby (chicken and rice) to share with the girls and they, in turn, renewed my interest in new recipes like this chocolate chia seed pudding. My doctor’s general policy is to start with supplements to address a specific deficiency and then move to foods. So he has had me replacing the EPA/DHA supplements with chia seeds.


Our friends use coconut milk because three of them can’t tolerate cow’s milk, but I opted for regular milk. All the components are whisked together and refrigerated to let the chia seeds expand overnight. I adjusted the recipe a bit using two cocoas that I had on hand — a natural un-alkalized cocoa and a super dark one that tastes like Oreos.

After a night (or at least 5 hours) in the fridge, the mixture is blended in the Vitamix until smooth. Check the sweetness and add sugar or maple syrup to taste (I added 2 teaspoons sugar).  Serve with a dollop of whipped coconut cream or a sprinkle of cinnamon. The flavor was good, chocolaty-ness a little muted, and texture wasn’t as silky as regular chocolate pudding. But not a bad dessert.

Meanwhile, this recipe for chicken tikka surfaced this week, modified for one-pan roasting. To my chagrin, even after grocery shopping, I was still missing a few ingredients, so my adaptation is yet another step removed from anything resembling Indian tikka with aloo gobi as Deb intended.

Combine in a baggie and marinate overnight:
5-6 drumsticks
1/4 cup yogurt
3 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

In a bowl, using your hands, coat the veggies in olive oil and seasonings
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small head cauliflower, cut into smallish florets
10-12oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed and blanched
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, place thin slices of red onion in lemon or lime juice. White vinegar would work, too.

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a sheet pan with foil. Remove chicken from marinade and place with vegetables on the pan so that they are not touching. Roast for 45 minutes, turning the chicken about mid-way through.

Surprisingly mild for all the spices used in the marinade, the chicken was very tender thanks to the yogurt. I served the chicken tikka with quinoa and mushrooms.


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