Archive for September, 2012

After seeing ApronheadL‘s pictures from the SB orchid estate, I was motivated enough to visit. I was tempted to buy an orchid, but was too scared thinking I might kill it. Especially since the first question we were asked when we entered was

So have your orchids died or have they stopped flowering?

We were not asked if we had ever bought an orchid before. We weren’t asked if we have even bought a plant in our life, let alone an orchid. Well, B who was with me has, but I haven’t.

I think I am going to train myself by growing a spider plant first, which I am told, is really difficult to kill. Not only is it impossible to kill, it’s impossible to keep it from reproducing, I am told. Now, for the orchids..


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The first few months I was in SB, I would only use the microwave to cook things. When my roommates pointed this out, I realized it was mainly because that’s the only thing I could use when I moved in. I have come a long way from there, in a year. I actually like to eat what I cook, sometimes. Youtube videos help me a lot! I follow these girls when it comes to Indian food. Also this girl for Maharashtrian recipes. This girl simply because she is hilarious! and this girl for American and Italian food.

S makes novel recipes, many of which I have never heard of (I have a feeling, that’s exactly the point); mango pasta and watermelon salad and such. Since it is summertime, here is a recipe for a traditional drink called ‘Panha’  made from mangoes.

You will need one raw mango, mint (don’t have it so using cilantro here. well, that’s my level of accuracy. and I wonder why cooking doesn’t come naturally to me.), lump of jaggery and more sugar if need be, and salt to taste, cumin powder and green chili (using jalapenos here, also use only 1/5th or so of this, its very spicy!) and blender/mixer.

To make panha,

1. Peel mango skin and cut mango into cubes. Boil water and cook mangoes in it (with just one peel for flavor, for a long time). Add jaggery into this and let it melt.

2. Blend mint, chili and cumin powder separately.

3. Add mango cuts and water to the blender. Blend more. Add salt and sugar to taste.

4. Serve chilled. It looks cute in a wine glass. What doesn’t? Milk, I think.

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weekend in san diego

Last weekend I went to San Diego. I loved the city, especially after the peace and quiet (now those sound like good things to say about a place) of Santa Barbara.

I found San Diego to have amazing public transport. The trolleys are also a quick way to get across the city. The Green line to Santee takes you through the scenic Mission Valley. It reminds me of train rides in Switzerland. The Mexican border is also not far away.


The Pacific beach is the most entertaining beach, with more laid back cafes and restaurants. Renting a bike at the beach and scanning the coast in the Mission Bay is a good idea. Most restaurants are air-conditioned, unlike in SB. So you can sit back and enjoy the views of the beach in cool air.

Point Loma has amazing views of San Diego and the Coronado Islands. The Cabrillo National Monument looks stunning against the blue backdrop. Down the bridge taking you to the Coronado Islands, the natural beauty of the blue ocean mingles so effortlessly with the dock in the Bayfront.

Cabrillo monument

Ships in the dock

View from Point Loma

The Rosecrans cemetery on the way to Point Loma with long lines of white gravestones, all identical, is home to army veterans. Both sad and beautiful at the same time.

The Mission Basilica de Alcala is a beautiful example of Spanish architecture. I highly recommend going here, and I am not a big fan of sermons and churches even. ‘La Capilla’, a chapel in the mission:

The State Historic Park in Old Town SD offers free tours at 10 am and 2 pm everyday. The park is quite entertaining, with restaurants housed in historic buildings and live music and such. It also has shopping stalls with handicrafts from Mexico, and also China. Mexican jumping beans taking a leap on their own in my hands:

The park has some historic buildings and a few museums. But I would probably give this park a miss if I were short on time.

The scenic La Jolla Cove has a long coastline. Walking through the caves and on rocks along the coastline is fun. You could also play with the seals which congregate at the Seal Rock (near the pier).

Seal popping out of water

George’s by the Cove has a SUPERB view (and I hate caps lock) of the ocean. Coming from Santa Barbara I also found them to have dishes with great presentation for so cheap.  The wait is long, but meanwhile you can have some innovative cocktails at the bar. Oh and look what I found in their interesting collection of beverages:

from the website

Bombay Sapphire, straight from London













Mt. Soledad also has beautiful views of La Jolla although we happened to see it on a particularly foggy day. Other places to watch out for are Do Ho Suh, Balboa Park and Sea World. You know you have had a good vacation when you don’t want to go back home.

Burning skies near Simi Valley

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Last week I went to the Coal Oil Point Reserve which is right next to the UCSB campus, past Isla Vista. This place is so close to my home, its embarrassing to not have been here before.

The reserve is one of the 35 reserves owned by the UC system and the only one open to the public. The staff offers free tours every month; they have a two hour version and a shorter version too. The oil rig in the ocean near the coal oil point:

Oil is stored in these white structures nearby:

In the tour, S, our gracious and highly knowledgeable tour guide walked us through the native plants and showed us countless species of birds. For someone like me, who can’t differentiate between coconut trees and palms (I know, and I live in California), this was indeed a learning experience. I can identify palms now thanks to S.

The tour was extremely informative. If you are asking, “why do I want to know names of all these birds and plants?”, then you might be me, a while ago. Surprisingly, this time, I didn’t have to make an effort to stay interested. Sometimes, you don’t know you like something until you do it, with an open mind. We saw the Coyote bush, which is native to California, and also the California sunflower.

Flowering and non-flowering Coyote bush

California sunflower

A friend asked me what’s so special about a California sunflower. I guess it looks different from other species in the Sunflower genus.

S explained, that while planting trees is a good thing to do, doing it in such a way as to not disturb the native species is important. Nonnative plants frequently take over the native plants thus endangering them; for example, the ice plant was brought in to be planted along highways to reduce soil erosion. But this is an invasive species and endangers natives. Just weeding out the ice plant has evidently restored many native species in the reserve.

An interesting way to get rid of the ice plant is to cover it with plastic sheets, so it dies off and gets converted into mulch. 

Ice plant along the road.

The beautiful views and nice trails in the reserve, topped with the beach, are a perfect place to run.


Dry eucalyptus tree in the Devereux slough and some much needed shade.

The tour ended with a walk along the beach to spot the the snowy plover. Some other birds we met on the way, which I can’t identify yet:

They could be any of the 295 species the reserve houses. There is also a docent program which one can volunteer with. 

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