Category Archives: restaurants

Another Look: Ethnic Markets

Welcome to a new installment of Another Look!  This post is designed to share a handful of goodies from my archive while I’m recovering from my surgeries.  I hope you enjoy these links, whether you’re seeing them for the first time or have seen them once before.  Today’s category is Ethnic Markets!  Just click on the name of the post to link over…

hachiya

Shopping at a Korean Market
*
img_0766-w

Little India: So Near, Yet So Far Away
*

arch

Chinatown
*

beverages

El Mercado de Los Angeles: A Mexican Market
*

img_2344

A Quick Trip to “Persia”
*

Do you enjoy trips to Ethnic Markets?  Which are your favorites?  Please comment and share…

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in ethnic food, ethnic markets, life in general, travel | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

El Mercado de Los Angeles – A Mexican Market

shrine

I recently went on another ethnic market adventure – hubby and I ventured up to LA to visit El Mercado de Los Angeles in Boyle Heights.  A three-story indoor mall, El Mercado is full of visual stimulation and is a great place to eat and shop.  You’ll know you’re in the right place if you see a large, beautiful shrine to the Virgin Mary in the parking lot!  Shops sell everything from beautifully embroidered clothing to religious figures – there’s something interesting and colorful to see nearly everywhere you look. Piñatas, candy, cowboy boots galore – those are just a few things you can feast your eyes on.

pinatasbootspointy_bootsaislepumpkinfibersmoviescandystall1

When you’re actually ready to feast, you have several options.  Whether you stop by one of the food stands for juice and ice cream like we did, go to one of the “order at the counter” eateries, or venture up to the third floor to the HUGE mariachi restaurant “El Mercadito”, you’ll be able to fill your belly and enjoy the environment – particularly if you’re new to such environs.  You can also take edibles to go – there’s a bakery and a market on the second floor.  The market sells cactus, and yes – the cactus is meant to be eaten, after you scrape off the “prickles” and cook it.  I’ve had cactus at my in-laws’, and it’s a yummy dish!

beveragesice_creameaterydry_goods
cactus

Because my husband is Mexican-American, and because I’m pretty well immersed in the culture, I’ve been to markets and restaurants similar to those at El Mercado before.  For this reason, this particular ethnic market adventure wasn’t quite as “foreign” to me as my trips to some other spots here in Southern California. Little India, the Persian market, Chinatown, and the Korean market seemed more like a “local international adventure”, but I still really enjoyed my time at El Mercado.

Hubby and I wandered around, saw some new and some familiar things, ate some yummy treats, and did a little shopping.  Our edible purchases included candied pecans (upper right), cookies from the bakery, and Tomy’s butterscotch-y candy.  Hubby also bought a few movies he’d watched as a child, and I purchased Loteria sets for my at-risk art journaling students.  (Loteria is basically Mexican Bingo, and I like to include the cards in the supply kits each child receives.)

purchases

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at our trip to El Mercado.  Please let me know if you have any questions, and please feel free to share any ethnic market adventures you may have been on lately!

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in art supplies, ethnic food, ethnic markets, food | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Dim Sum – Yum!

melodydimsum

Have you ever had dim sum?  I’m definitely a fan.  Not only is the food delicious, the overall dining experience is, too!  For those who are unfamiliar with dim sum, and who didn’t read my Chinatown post from last spring, the folks at Wikipedia tell us that dim sum is a Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a steamer basket or on a small plate.  Going for dim sum is usually known in Cantonese as going to “drink tea”.  If you’ve had tapas it’s kind of like that, but with Chinese food.  Dim sum is much more fun though, particularly if you visit a restaurant that serves the food out of rolling carts like the one in the photo above.

PICTURE THIS: You’re sitting at your table, hot tea already steaming in a white, handle-less cup.  Your table is soon visited by one of several servers, and the server is wheeling a cart that contains delectable dishes.  One by one the cart’s dishes are offered to you.  If something catches your eye you nod, and the plate or metal basket is placed on the table.  Your dining “ticket” is stamped, indicating what you’ve selected so your bill is easily totaled at the end.  If you’re not interested, a polite no suffices.

tea

cart

check

You may not know the name of what you’ve selected, or exactly what’s in it, but you don’t care.  You just know that it looks and smells great.  Whether you eat with chopsticks or a fork, you dig in – enjoying both the food and the lively atmosphere in the room.  When the next cart rolls by the selection process is repeated.  You wash all the tasty food down with hot tea, and if you’re wise you’ll end the meal with something from the dessert cart – maybe some little tarts or mango jello.  YUM.

eggrolls

shrimp

eggtarts

HELPFUL HINT: Because a dim sum meal is composed of little plates/servings, and because you’ll probably want to try several of the tempting dishes, it’s best to dine with at least one or two other people.  That way you’re able to order a wider variety of dishes and taste more things before getting full and throwing in the towel, so to speak.  That said, I’ve had several dim sum lunches while dining solo.  You can always take home leftovers if your eyes end up being bigger than your stomach!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at a recent dim sum lunch hubby and I enjoyed.  We dined at Capital Seafood in Irvine, CA and I definitely recommend it.  Please let me know if you have any questions, dear readers, and please let me know if you opt to eat some dim sum yourself!

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in ethnic food, life in general | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Santa Ana Artists Village

artistsvillagecourtyard

Southern California is full of wonderful cultural and culinary opportunities, and the creative spirit and great eats boldly collide in the Santa Ana Artists Village.  Located in Downtown Santa Ana, the Artists Village is home to galleries, “make and take” studios geared towards paper arts and mixed-media, street corner food carts, and fabulous restaurants.

A bit grungy, bohemian and decidedly urban, the Artists Village also has beauty and charm galore.  From the distinctive architecture of structures like the Santora Building, to the “slice of life” peek at locals going about their business, the Artists Village is a sight to see.  With its varied eateries, you’ll definitely want to take a bite out of the Artists Village!

santaanalocals

Artistic Endeavors

The Santa Ana Artist Village is home to many galleries, ranging in size from very small to very large, and the most common mediums shown are paint and sculpture.  Some studios offer hands-on experiences and classes, and two of my favorites are Studio Crescendoh and The Art Bar.  Geared towards those of us who love paper arts and mixed-media, Studio Crescendoh and the Art Bar offer a wide variety of classes – from lettering and art journaling to painting.  I recommend these venues if you’d like to make art – not just look at it!

grand-central

Grand Central is one of the anchors in the Santa Ana Artists Village.

studiocrescendoh

Colorful paintings grace the walls of Studio Crescendoh, but they offer classes in a variety of artistic mediums…

Restaurants

I certainly haven’t been to all the eateries in the Artists Village, but I’ve really enjoyed those I have visited.  Two of my favorites are the Gypsy Den and Memphis.

Gypsy DenBudget-friendly, this is the most artsy and bohemian of my three picks.  Their baked goods are delicious, and the coffee house feel takes me back to the Beatnik scene in the 60’s – though I hadn’t even been born yet!

gypsyden3

I love the decor at the Gypsy Den – so eclectic and colorful!

gypsyden2

It’s only right that some artwork should grace the walls…

gypsyden1

There’s plenty of seating to enjoy a bite.  I took this photo just after they’d closed on New Year’s Eve day, so it’s customer-free.

MemphisA bit pricier than the Gypsy Den, Memphis has fab food and a great, modern interior.  I love that the afternoon sun creates wrought-iron-shaped shadows in the restaurant’s interior windows, and having breakfast for lunch was a treat!

memphisinterior2

A bit of the interior at Memphis, including the wrought iron work up top…

memphismenu

I opted for breakfast, though it was after 2 p.m.

memphisbreakfast

Eggs over easy, French Toast, and chicken-apple sausage.  Yum!

I’ve also heard great things about Lola Gaspar, but haven’t made it there to taste their food for myself yet and hope to change that very soon.  Located just down the way from Memphis, and across the courtyard from the Grand Central Building, this restaurant is right in the center of the action…

Art Walk

The Artist Village really comes alive on the first Saturday of each month, when many of the galleries throw open their doors and welcome in the public.  From larger galleries with special shows to single-artist studios displaying their on-going work, the Art Walk is a great way to see a variety of artwork.  You can also sip some wine and nosh on the snacks folks often lay out, if you’re just looking for a nibble.

lampostbanner

Architecture & Ambiance

One of my favorite things about the Santa Ana Artists Village is the look of it – all the the little details that give it a unique flavor.  Naturally, architecture and some historic buildings play a big part in that. In my mind, the gorgeous Santora Building is the grand dame of the village, and the center of it all.  Built in 1929, it’s Spanish Ultra Baroque Design delights me.

santora-exterior

The ornate stone work combined with wrought iron (seen elsewhere on/in the building) is lovely…

santorainterior

An interior photograph of the Santora Building.

santaanaflag

A clock tower in Santa Ana…

grandcentralbuilding

Bare branches reach out to the Grand Central Building.

It’s more than the big structures, though.  It’s the old street lamps, the trees, and even the streets themselves.  These are some of my favorite things about the Santa Ana Artists Village, and if you’re a fan of details like this, it’s best that you visit during daylight hours to take in all the lovely visual details that make this area unique.

lampost

The base of an old lamp post beckoned to me.

santaanastreet

Gritty, yet still beautiful – near the Santora Building.

Hope to See You There…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek at the Santa Ana Artists Village.  If you live in Southern California – or if you’re planning a trip to Orange County – I hope you’ll stop in for a visit!

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in art, ethnic food, inspiration, life in general, photography, travel | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

A Quick Trip to “Persia”

One of my favorite cheap ways to “travel” is to visit ethnic markets and restaurants.  Real travel isn’t in the budget this year, so hubby and I decided to take in some Persian markets and cuisine last Sunday and had a great time!  We’re lucky enough to live in a very diverse area, and enjoy the exposure we get to different lands and peoples even while staying close to home.  I hope you enjoy this peek into our recent adventure, and hope you’re inspired to visit an ethnic market in your area.

Our first stop was Wholesome Choice market, and while the store is more of a multi-ethnic international market, it had a lot of Persian food items – Indian as well.  We began in the produce department, and I drank in the gorgeous and unusual sights.  Discovering a new (to me) fruit or veggie is always fun!

2326

Such pretty colors! 

img_2327

Can you tell what this is? 

img_2328

Yep – melon! 

img_2329

Beautiful – and unfamiliar.  This is the fruit from a Rambutan tree, and I was relieved to read on Wikipedia that the fruit is peeled before it’s eaten!

As we made our way through the store we found some more interesting things.  I fell in love with an unusual jar of honey – it was filled with nuts, and was called Ari’s Aligned Nuts.  Gorgeous!  I didn’t purchase it, though I wanted to, because the jar was nearly $8 and I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy eating the contents.  I may head back for it at some point.  So pretty…

img_2334

Ari’s Aligned Nuts (in honey)

Naturally there was a large selection of rice, spices, and grains.  Though the store features many “standard American” brands and products, there were some decidedly more exotic items in the store as well.  For example, they sell hookahs and the related hoses.  You won’t see that at Albertsons!

img_2337

Hubby shopping in the rice section…

img_2338

Hookah hoses on the household goods aisle.

img_2342

We ended up purchasing an assortment of goodies, including some Persian sweets, and a yogurt/soda drink.

img_2369

We also got some olives, lentils, and unusually-colored tomatoes. 

Our next stop was Caspian, a nearby Persian restaurant, and the food was delicious!  I ordered the Chicken Soltana, while hubby ate an assortment of goodies from their buffet. My meal portion was huge, and we both had the leftovers for dinner!

img_2344

Chicken Soltana at Caspian – my lunch and our dinner! 

Tummies full, we proceeded to Super Irvine, a market that’s a stone’s throw from Caspian.  I oohed and aahed over the bags of rice near the door – they zipped open and closed, had handles, and featured appealing graphics!  I reluctantly walked away though – it was just too much rice for two people to use in a reasonable amount of time.

img_2349

One of two signs on the Super Irvine storefront.

Moving on, I had to take a picture with the lavash bread (huge!) before meandering through the rest of the store.  Our purchases at Super Irvine included a bottle of pomegranate juice, and some feta cheese.

img_2352

Big slabs of bread!

The last stop on our Persian adventure was a sweet shop called Assal Pastry, which was just down the way from Super Irvine.  Hubby was quick to pick out four cake-like pastries, and I selected something called Bamieh, which is likely deep fried dough drizzled in a sweet syrup.  Yum!

img_2366

Bamieh

img_2364
Some of the sweets we purchased – almond tarts, bamieh, and pistachio nougat.

Though our outing was brief, and was a mere glimpse into the Persian food experience, I’m really glad we went.  Trips like these give my senses a little jolt, and I cherish the new sights, sounds, tastes, and smells.  Exploring new things energizes my artistic and creative spirit, and though I still want to travel much farther afield, you can’t beat getting a dash of a “foreign” experience without having to pack a thing or experience jet lag!

Have you visited any ethic markets lately?  If not, are you hoping to?  I’d love to hear about it and welcome you to comment.  I also invite you to take a peek at my blog posts on Little India, a Korean market and Chinatown if you haven’t seen them already…

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in ethnic food, ethnic markets, life in general, travel | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

From the Archives: some blogtastic posts you may have missed the first time around…

 flowers

I’ve been a very busy girl!  I’ve published over 135 posts in the last year, and since you may have missed a few – especially if you’re a newer reader – I thought I’d mention the ARCHIVES feature that resides along the right side of this page – just below RECENT POSTS.  Simply select a month and go!  You may start at the very beginning (August 2010) and read forward, or just skip around.

In addition, here’s a compilation of links, by category, to some of the more popular posts I’ve published in the last year.  I hope you’ll all find something interesting (and possibly “new to you”) to enjoy!*


Photography

Visual Nutrition

The Joys of iPhone Photography

Harvesting Bounty at the Farmers Market

 

Life in General

A Flower For Neva Lenora

Letting My Inner Child Out to Play: Roller Skating

Mad for Movies!

 

Art

Making the Most of a Travel Journal

Collage Basics: Less is More!

Drawing a Blank? Prompts for Writers & Artists

 

Recipes

Something Sweet: Triple Chocolate Cake Recipe

Something Sweet: Blueberry-Lemon Muffins Recipe

Something Sweet: Almond Brittle Recipe

 

Crafts

Green Craft Project: Upcycled & Embellished Metal Cans

A Helpful Hint for My Fellow Paper Addicts: Making a Paper Swatch Ring

Paper, Glass & Wire Butterflies

 

Travel

A Photographic Tour: Peru

A Photographic Tour: Ireland

A Photographic Tour: New Orleans, Louisiana

 

Haiku

Nature’s Lace

Often Overlooked

A Santa Barbara Morning

 

Ethnic Markets

Little India: So Near, Yet So Far Away

Chinatown

Shopping at a Korean Market

*

Friendly Giveaway Reminder

My blog birthday giveaway winners will be announced on August 30, 2011 so please enter today.  You could win a $15 iTunes gift card, a pack of my handmade photo notecards, or a $25 Visa gift card!  (Giveaway details/entry HERE) I hope you join the fun…

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in art, art journaling, art supplies, baking, crafts, ethnic food, ethnic markets, family, giveaway, haiku, inner child, inspiration, life in general, movies, nature, photography, poetry, recipes, travel, vintage, writing | 6 Comments

A Photographic Tour: New Orleans, Louisiana

img_0024

I traveled to New Orleans in Feburary 2010 to participate in the inaugural Mardi Gras Half Marathon (which took place a few weeks after the actual Mardi Gras), and am SO glad I did.  What a city!  New Orleans is truly a feast for the senses. There’s plenty to see and do, and good God – the food is incredible!  I can’t wait to return, and hope to make it back to the Big Easy soon – very soon!

*

See & Do

*

Though New Orleans at large still shows some residual effects of the havoc wreaked by Katrina, it’s business as usual where tourism is concerned and I saw very little evidence of the hurricane in the areas I visited.  I was happy to support the city and its inhabitants with my tourism dollars.

img_0183

I read someplace that New Orleans is the “most foreign” city on U.S. soil, and I agree – it’s certainly unique.  I was utterly charmed by the architecture – from large, stately homes in the Garden District, to the ornate railings lining the balconies in the French Quarter.  A sense of history saturates New Orleans – and visual reminders of days past are plentiful.  The streetcars rumbling through the city were particularly pleasing, as were the plastic Mardi Gras beads dripping off many of the city’s trees – a reminder of their famous yearly party.

img_0030

img_0187

img_0050

Historic Final Resting Places

Somber but beautiful, New Orleans cemeteries are worth a visit – particularly the older ones.  Instead of being buried underground, the deceased in New Orleans are interred in above ground crypts.  Why?  The water level in the area is so high that coffins often float if buried.  These stone resting places are an interesting glimpse into the past and are yet another reminder of how New Orleans is undeniably unique.

img_0148

img_0144

Go Wild!

If you want to get out of the city, try the swamps – there are a number of tours you can take.  I took a swamp tour, and really enjoyed the scenery – including beautiful moss-laden trees.  We even saw an alligator or two, though it was a bit cold/early in the season.  Folks that go on swamp tours during the warmer months are sure to see many more gators!

img_0068

img_0077

Sightseeing By Foot

If you’re a distance walker or runner, please consider doing the marathon or half marathon – it’s a great time!  With bands dotting the course, and incredible sights to see all along the 13.1 or 26.2 miles, this race is a winner!

img_0108

img_0112

OMG – the food!

*

My mouth is watering just remembering some of the scrumptious things I ate in New Orleans.  I was lucky enough to eat at a wide range of eateries during my stay – from Emeril’s restaurant (great food and service!) to a place with a decidedly more “dive bar & grill ” kind of feel (had a shrimp Po’ Boy sandwich), and I enjoyed them all.  I’ll share five of my eating experiences in pictures below.  I hope to eat at all these places again next time – yum!

If you want a light breakfast to start off your day, don’t go to the Fleur de Lis Café in the French Quarter.  My breakfast was beyond hearty and massive, but it was perfect for my last meal in New Orleans, since I’d be eating little and sporadically while flying home.  The ladies working at the Fleur de Lis charmed me with their southern accents – and I fondly remember being called “baby” in a way that wasn’t demeaning or condescending – just friendly and kind.

img_0200

New Orleans is known for their muffalettas – Italian sandwiches with marinated olive salad, salami, ham, and cheese on a round sesame loaf – so I visited Central Grocery, where the sandwiches originated.  I bought half of a muffaletta and some iced tea, and had a picnic outside.  Though the olive salad mixture was a bit strong for my palate, I enjoyed the sandwich once I’d taken most of it off. (I know that’s probably sacrilege – sorry!)  I was happy to have tried a true New Orleans original.  Oh, and I love the bag I bought at Central Grocery!

img_0037

img_0038

The Acme Oyster House was recommended to me, and my meal there was what I ate right after walking the half marathon. I had grilled oysters, hush puppies, jumbalaya, and pecan cobbler.  Ravenous and eager to eat just about anything, I was thrilled when the food turned out to be truly delicious.  Acme tends to have a line, so be prepared.

img_0117

Another edible treat that New Orleans is known for is the beignets.  A pastry made from deep-fried dough, and liberally coated in Confectioner’s sugar, beignets are both messy and delicious.  Perhaps the best-known place to get these goodies is Café Du Monde, and their French Quarter location is open 24 hours a day!

img_0054

img_0042

img_0043

Willie Mae’s Scotch House has been an institution in New Orleans for decades and with good reason. The fried chicken is amazing!  It’s so good that when the restaurant was damaged by hurricane Katrina, and was in danger of not re-opening, volunteers banded together to help rebuild and restore the restaurant.  Having seen the restaurant on one of the food channels, I planned much of my trip’s sightseeing schedule around when I could go to Willie Mae’s.

img_0173

img_0168

img_0176

Suggestion: Do some research on Willie Mae’s before arriving in New Orleans.  Long lines and a long food wait can be avoided by getting there right when the restaurant opens, and I seem to recall them only accepting cash and having somewhat limited business hours.

That said, all my Willie Mae’s Scotch House planning and preparation was worth it.  I usually only eat chicken breast (without bone or skin) and I ate everything they brought me, including the skin.  It was fantastically good fried chicken!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into my trip to New Orleans.  I wholeheartedly recommend that you visit and explore this incredible city if you have the means.  A trip to New Orleans will feed both your body and soul…

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in half marathons, life in general, photography, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Antiquing (& Eating) in Old Towne Orange

ornaments

Antiquing in Old Towne Orange, California is one of my favorite ways to spend a day.  The thrill of the hunt is part of the fun, and there’s a “foodie” aspect, too.  In addition to having several antique stores, this little area is also home to several wonderful places to eat.  So if you like to gaze at goodies from the past and grab some great grub, you’ll definitely enjoy a trip to Old Towne Orange.  I snapped some photos with my trusty iPhone on a recent trip – please scroll down to see images of things that caught my eye versus what I actually purchased.

*

My Perfect Schedule

*

I like to start looking through the stores around 10 a.m.  I break for lunch at one of the nearby restaurants around noon, and then continue shopping until sensory overload sets in.  Sensory overload is a very real danger when shopping in antique stores because they cram stuff into every nook and cranny!  I don’t usually eat lunch and dinner in the area, but if you’re coming from out of town and want to make a day of it, you could easily eat two great meals at two different restauruants.

*

Antiques Galore

*

Let me clarify something: When I go antiquing I’m not looking for stately wooden furniture or Depression-era glassware.  Those kinds of things are certainly lovely, but they’re not my thing. First of all, my budget is too small, and I’m actually looking for smaller things size-wise, too.  I’m usually searching for unique little bits and bobs I can use in my art: vintage buttons and other trims, vintage photos, and things like handkerchiefs.

The stores I visit generally have a good mix of merchandise though. Bigger pieces for those looking to decorate their home, and smaller pieces for people like me who are looking to embellish a collage.

*

First – things I liked, but didn’t buy:

Image at top – I love vintage ornaments, and they looked great in the glass bowl.

*

china

The green on this dish brought Ireland to mind.

*

hat

I love this rich, velvet hat – but not the $45 selling price.

*

vintage-pan

The baker and the silver lover in me adore this pan.  Unfortunately, the price was unappetizing.

*

owls

My Grandma Neva loved owls, and I do, too…

*

skirt

This skirt was lovely, but at nearly $80 it wasn’t a great fit.

*

toy

You know you’ve reached “a certain age” when you start seeing toys from your childhood in antique stores!

*

velvet-warmer

This beauty is a vintage footwarmer, used in the early days of automobiling.  I love the contrast of the green velvet and the metal…

*

Here’s what I did buy:

book

This book of Practical Arithmetic was a bargain at $1.  It will be perfect for collage and is already partially disassembled!

*

school-photos

I love vintage photos, and purchased five black and white photos for $1 each.  Here are two of the images I chose  – the class photos go well with my book!

Total spent: $6.00, plus tax

 

Restaurants

 

With so many restaurants to enjoy, it can be tough to decide where to dine.  Here’s a brief list of some of my favorite restaurants:

Watson’s Drugs & Soda Fountain – Watson’s has been a fixture in Old Towne Orange since 1899. Not only do they have a soda fountain/dining area that serves up delicious food and desserts, they also have a small drugstore that sells some “old school” candies you might not have seen for years.  The meals are good (including breakfast), but I really go to Watson’s for sweets: shakes, root beer floats, banana splits, pie.  Everything I’ve had is good – the difficult part is choosing what to order!

Renata’s Cafe Italiano – This Italian restaurant has great food.  I love their lasagna, garlic bread, and house dressing!

Bruxie – This is a new addition to my favorite list. They serve waffle sandwiches – both savory and sweet.  Yum!  I’ve only eaten at Bruxie once thus far, but will definitely be going back.

I can vouch for the following:
Savory: Bruxie Burger, and the Smoked Salmon & Dill Cream Waffle
Sweet: Lemon Cream & Berries Waffle, and Soft Serve Frozen Custard
Salty: Fries

*Note: Bruxie is very popular and is likely to have a (potentially long) line, so don’t wait until you’re starving to head over.

*

I invite you to post a comment and share your favorite antiquing locations – please be sure to include your favorite nearby restaurants!

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in antiques, art, art supplies, inspiration, life in general, photography, vintage | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

My Week in Cambria, California

moonstone

As you may recall, I spent a week in Cambria last month.  After a crazy and stressful start to the year it was a much-needed break, and I’m so thankful I was able to recharge my batteries in such a beautiful place.  Though I really just needed some down time, I was also very productive creatively.  I completed three art projects, redlined my novel draft, took tons of photos, and enjoyed some local attractions.  Nice!

If you’re not familiar with Cambria, it’s a small coastal town in Central California.  North of San Luis Obispo and south of Monterey, Cambria’s slogan “Pines by the Sea” is very appropriate.  The scenery is gorgeous, and pine trees do abound.  The scenery in and around Cambria is an incredibly beautiful combination of mountain, country, and beach-y elements.  It’s heavenly!

Cambria is a quiet town with population under 7,000, so if you’re into nightlife and a fast-paced vibe you’ll need to go elsewhere.  However, if you’re looking to relax, slow down, and enjoy a gorgeous piece of California, Cambria is for you.  Cambria may be a two-day destination for many, but if you’re an artist or a nature lover, the way I am, you’ll be able to pass a happy week – or more – in this charming town.

The Beach

I went to the beach nearly every day, and took photos as far north as San Simeon Cove. Moonstone Beach is my favorite, though.  With gorgeous beaches and wildlife (I saw birds, seals, and ground squirrels), it’s a real treat.  I made sure to visit Moonstone Beach for a sunset, and wasn’t disappointed.  It was stunning! (The photo at the very top of this post was taken at Moonstone Beach)

san-s-cove

San Simeon Cove

*

img_1934

San Simeon Pier

*

rock

Rock formations at Moonstone Beach

*

sunset

Sunset at Moonstone Beach

*

Shopping

Cambria is full of darling shops, and makes for a great day or two of shopping if you’re interested in some retail therapy.  Some of the stores I shopped at included:

Red Moose Cookie Company – Yum! Their “Cinnful” cookies and “Naughty Rods” are particularly fabulous.  I also liked and purchased the “Oh Joy” cookies.

A Matter of Taste – a great store for foodies

All the antique stores in town! I found two great vintage photos, including one of an incredibly dirty and rumpled little girl.  Most of the people in old-time portraits look carefully primped and dressed, so she piqued my interest.  Price? $1, so I had to adopt her!

*Bonus shopping experience: I was lucky enough to be in town for the big, twice-yearly thrift store event put on by Community Presbyterian Church, and got a bag full of art supplies (and two framed pieces of art) for $13 – major score!  Some of the things I bought (like fabric squares & playing cards) will be included in the art supply kits for this fall’s art journaling class.  I think finding inexpensive supplies for my students made me happiest of all!

thrifting

Dining

There are several great places to eat in Cambria, but two of my favorites are definitely Robin’s and the Sea Chest Oyster Bar & Restaurant.

Robin’s Salmon Bisque is scrumptious, and so was the garlic bread and Lemon Poppyseed Cheesecake.

robins

When I went to the Sea Chest for dinner I had some oysters, calamari (the best calamari I’ve ever had – the Sea Chest is the only place I’ll eat calamari), and garlic bread.  So good!

oysters

calamari

Nature

In addition to the wildlife along the coast, I saw horses and cows (in the hills outside town), deer, a wild turkey, tree squirrels, woodpeckers and egrets.  Though I live in the city I think I’m a country girl at heart, so seeing all these critters was a real treat for me!  Many of the trees in Cambria were draped with a soft green moss, and I was bewitched by the sight.

squirrel

A ground squirrel at Moonstone Beach

*

flower

A flower I photographed at the local nursery

*

mossy-tree

One of the moss-draped trees

*

Hearst Castle

I didn’t go to Heart Castle during this visit, but fondly remember my visit in 1998 and definitely recommend a visit. I hope to get there again on a future visit, as there are different tours and hubby and I only saw a small little bit of the property.

I did see some of the Hearst’s “residents” on this trip, though – I saw five zebras on the Hearst acreage as I zoomed past on Highway 1.  What beautiful animals…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at some of my photos from Cambria.  Please let me know if you have any questions – at present I personally answer each and every comment posted and would be happy to hear from you.

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in antiques, life in general, nature, photography, travel | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Chinatown

arch

Travel is one of my greatest passions – I love going places!  Whether it’s a trip to a nearby city, another state, or a trip to another country, I relish the new sights, experiences, and cuisines that often await me.  Unfortunately, I’m not able to travel as often as I like and have to be creative in order to placate my raging wanderlust.

As previously shared here on my blog, I believe that going to places like Little India or an ethnic market can add some foreign flavor to your life without having to pack – provided those aren’t your usual stomping grounds, that is!

Long before my passport was stamped in Ireland and Peru, I got a little taste of Chinese culture by visiting Chinatown.  I hope to make it to China some day, and know it will be quite different than my experiences in the Chinatowns of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.  That said, I appreciate the sneak peeks I’ve had into how it might be.

Dragons Soaring in the Shadows of Skyscrapers

dragons

I live about an hour away from downtown Los Angeles, though actual drive time depends on traffic.  L.A.’s Chinatown is startlingly close to the skyscrapers of downtown, which makes for an interesting contrast.  The Los Angeles version of Chinatown is where I’ve visited the most – I first went about nine years ago on a buying trip for my then-employer.  I was trying to find joss paper, which would be sold as an art supply and I had a wonderful time making my way in and out of the shops.

I feasted on the sights: herbs galore, stored in lovely glass jars.  Dried, fresh, and live seafood.  Red and gold, parasols, paper lanterns, and bamboo plants.

pink-lanterns

 

hats

storefront

herb-shelves

dragon

crabs

gold

 

leaves

building

The smells were enticing.  The musk of incense burning in some of the stores, cooking food, the tang of fresh herbs in the small markets, and the light, sweet aroma wafting out of the bakeries.

Experiencing the bustle of the shops, hearing the rapidly-spoken Cantonese and Mandarin languages, and towering above many of the other patrons in the stores were all interesting sensations.  I was still in my home state, but I was a bit out of my comfort zone.  Hurray!

Lunch, anyone?

shrimp

I also reveled in a fantastic lunchtime-experience: DIM SUM!  Per Wikipedia, dim sum is a Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. Going for dim sum is usually known in Cantonese as going to “drink tea”.

Seated in a noisy dining room, I drank tea and watched the parade of women with food carts as they passed my table.  Not always sure just what I was ordering, I smiled, pointed and enjoyed the culinary adventure.  Round, metal containers of food found a home on my table – their contents then landed in my tummy.  I instantly fell in love with dim sum – the experience and the food are both delicious. Some of my favorite dim sum selections include Fried Shrimp Balls, Steamed BBQ Pork Buns, and Vegetable Dumplings.  For dessert?  Baked egg custards. Yum!

bbq

veggie

tarts

It’s time for another trip to Chinatown …

I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos, and a small glimpse into my trips to Chinatown.  I haven’t been to Chinatown in a while – it’s been at least a year – and after reflecting on my experiences there, seeing photos, and talking about the yummy dim sum, I realize it’s time to head back.  If you’re a Southern California reader, and are interested in going on a field trip to Chinatown some Saturday afternoon, please send me a message via my website’s contact page.  It would be great to gather a group and take in the sights – and some great food – together…

Warm regards,
Melody

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Also posted in art, ethnic food, ethnic markets, life in general, photography | Tagged , , | 6 Comments