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2022 January 23

Secret Walks: East Harbor–Arana Gulch

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 15:16
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On Saturday 22 January 2022, my wife and I did the last of our walks from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover: the East Harbor–Arana Gulch loop.  We rotated the loop to start and end in Arana Gulch (the closest point for us).  Walking to Arana Gulch, we took Laurel and Broadway to Ocean View then moved over a block to Windsor to Harbor (2.9 miles).  The loop itself was 2.6 miles, and we walked back along Windham to Ocean View, took Soquel to downtown, and took our usual route home up Lincoln (3.2 miles).  So the total walk was 8.7 miles.

This walk was the first one using my new Panasonic Lumix ZS80 ultrazoom camera.  I carried it on a cross-body sling (OP/TECH USA 1601512), and I had the monopod that my son gave me, to steady the camera on telephoto shots. Eventually I put the monopod on the camera even when carrying it, because holding the camera with the stick was steadier than the usual grip.  I only extended the monopod to take telephoto pictures.

I played a lot with taking long telephoto shots, because that was something I could not do with the old camera or the phone. Most of them are not worth showing, but I’ll include a few anyway. The longest distance shot I took was of the Chaminade at 1.6 miles, but I also tried telephoto shots of water birds, sail boats, stand-up paddleboarders, … .  Framing the extreme telephoto shots was often difficult, as even the smallest hand tremor made me lose the subject.  The camera does have a button on the back for temporarily dezooming and rezooming, but using it was a bit tricky, as it required (for me) changing hand positions.

This sea otter painting on electric box (corner of Ocean and Broadway) is one I’ve always liked. My wife and I couldn’t help noticing that the electric box in front of the Art League had not been painted yet—this seems like a missed opportunity for the Art League.

This garden ornament was much easier to photograph with the telephoto lens.

As was this one facing it.

I rather like the unusual slightly domed top to the tower on this house.

In Arana Gulch the cows graze at this time of year, to keep the grass down and allow the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant to grow. The cows have ear tags with their names—these two are Megan and Lili.

I took a picture of the Chaminade resort from Arana Gulch, a distance of about 1.6 miles. Haze and perhaps a little motion blur from the camera limited the quality of the picture.

Here is where we joined the “official” walk. The instructions are a bit unclear about which path to take, but it is the lower, wider one that is relevant.

We saw some miner’s lettuce planted beside the harbor—my wife thinks that it might be a good thing for us to grow.

The colors of the kayaks made for a cheerful image.

This pipe seems to be part of the dredging infrastructure.

Live crabs were for sale directly from boats in several places in the harbor. The crab season is fairly short.

This duck appears to be a female common goldeneye. I had some difficulty keeping the duck in frame at the high zoom I was using—a focal length, equivalent to 944mm for a 35mm camera. There is a little blurring here, but I’m not sure if that is from the autofocus or motion blur.

This grebe was even further away—I used a focal length equivalent to 1319mm on 35mm. Its foot at the back is raised—a maneuver unique to grebes called “foot-shipping”. Supposedly they shake the water off and either leave the foot in the sun or tuck in under their wing to conserve heat.

The ripples and the grebe made a nice abstract image (the 35mm equivalent here was 1720mm).

Another crab sale—this one with a little more visible advertising.

We did not get very close to the Walton lighthouse, but the telephoto lens does a fair job of capturing it.

The sailboat was far enough away, and there was enough haze over the water, that this zoom that combines optical and digital zoom (2010mm equivalent) resulted in a rather impressionistic rendering of the sailboat. The optical zoom runs out at 720mm equivalent.

The standup paddleboard picture was also an attempt to see how much zoom I could use.

The recent Tongan volcano did cause a tsunami to flood the parking lot at the harbor.

Notices for entering and leaving the low-lying region immediately around the harbor are fairly clear.

The harbormaster has a nice lookout over the lower harbor.

These pigeons on the wires were there pretty much the whole time. Here I’ve used moderate zoom (equivalent of 160mm) to frame the picture.

Again, playing with the zoom let me see the birds much closer than my old camera (the equivalent of 1293mm here).

Looking back down the Mello steps gives a fair idea how steep they are.

This is a full wide-angle shot (the equivalent of 24mm) of Arana Creek from the bridge spanning it.

Here I’ve zoomed into just a little part of the previous image (883 mm equivalent, so a little bit of digital zoom past the 720mm optical zoom).

The shadows on the bridge show off the cut-metal panels.

This darkling beetle (family Tenebrionidae) was photographed in Arana Gulch, but I have no idea which of the 20,000 species it is.

On Windham we cam across a new Little Free Library—so new it did not have any books yet. (If we’d known we’d find an empty library, we would have brought some books with us to add.)

I like this photo of a painted electric box because of the juxtaposition of a real palm leaf with the painted palm on the box.

Although we have finished all the walks in the book, we don’t plan to stop walking—we’ll just have to start making up our own routes. If locals have suggestions for us (preferably no more than 9 miles, including walking to and from our house), please let me know.

2022 January 20

Red bean paste buns again

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:08
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For this week’s bread-and-tea I want to make bean-paste bao again.  I already posted the recipe I used for making the koshi-an (sweet red-bean paste) and a recipe for the bao dough, so this post will just have an updated recipe for the dough.

I made the koshi-an tonight, and it looks and tastes like it should, though the azuki beans are probably getting dried out, as it took about 8 hours of simmering to get them soft enough to push through the food mill.  I’m always amazed how the bean paste looks so grey and crumbly after the water is squeezed out, and adding the sugar makes it even paler and drier-looking, but heating and stirring makes it shine with the lovely red-bean-paste color.

For the bao, I am still adapting the recipe from Mai Leung’s Dim Sum and Other Chinese Street Food. I don’t have cake flour or pastry flour in the house, but I do have all-purpose flour. I did once try cutting all-purpose flour with sweet rice flour, but the results were terrible, so this time I’ll just try using straight al-purpose flour.

Furthermore, our household has gone vegan for January (veganuary), so I won’t use lard or butter.  I have a choice of a vegetable shortening made from red palm oil and coconut oil or pure coconut oil. Since I think that the palm oil has worse ecological impact than coconut oil, I’ll try the pure coconut oil this time.  It shouldn’t matter if it imparts a bit of coconut flavor to the dough, since I’m using a sweet filling.

Step 1:

1 tsp yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
½ cup sifted all-purpose flour

Mix together and proof for fifteen minutes.

Step 2:

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup warm water

Mix with the sponge from step 1 and let rise for 2 hours (until doubled).

Step 3:

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon coconut oil
¼ cup slightly warm water

In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour and baking powder, then knead with the dough from Step 2, gradually adding the coconut oil and water. The dough was very dry, so I added an extra two teaspoons of water.  The dough was still rather dry, but seemed kneadable. 

Roll the dough into a sausage shape about 1½ inches in diameter, cut into 12 equal pieces and roll each one into a ball. Keep covered with a damp towel. Let rise until more than doubled (about 3.5 hours). I did the rising after the rolling into balls, rather than before, this time.

Cut 12 3-inch squares of waxed paper.  Roll each ball into a circle about 2½ inches in diameter, but no thinner than ¼” thick. (Using my cookie sticks!) Pinch the outer edges to be a little thinner. Wet the outermost ½” of edges of the circle with a wet fingertip, to encourage sealing.

Put about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of the circle, then pull up the edges and pinch and twist them to seal. Put the bun flat-side-down on a waxed paper square. Let the buns rise for 30 minutes before steaming.

Keep the buns at least ½ inch apart in the steamer, and steam for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Steamed buns can be frozen and thawed, then re-steamed.

21 Jan 2022: Here are the photos of the bao that I promised yesterday—about 5 of the 12 seem to have sealed ok, so I need to either make the dough wetter or do something to improve my technique. (Colored text above are modifications to the post since yesterday.)


The 12 bao in the bamboo steamer.


The five that did not open up too much on a black platter.

2022 January 14

Pane integrale

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:05
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Last week I baked focaccia (using roughly the recipe in Sourdough focaccia 2), so this week I’ll try a different Italian bread: pane integrale, based on the recipe Marcella Hazan’s More Classic Italian Cooking.  Despite the name, only about ⅓ of the flour is whole-wheat flour. I’m adapting the recipe to work with my sourdough starter.

Day 1: I started with a light sponge to rise and sour overnight. Mix

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon sugar

together in large bowl.  Cover and let rise overnight.

Day 2: Stir down and remove one cup of mixture for new sourdough starter. To the remaining sponge, add

½ cup whole wheat flour

and let rise for another day.

Day 3 (the day of baking): Mix into the sponge

1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt

with bread hook. Knead in an additional

¼ cup bread flour

by hand, to get a smooth dough. Place the ball of dough in a bowl with a little oil (turning to coat the ball with oil), cover, and let rise 3–4 hours until doubled.  The dough seemed a little dry to me—there may have been enough evaporation from the long rising of the sponge that I should have increased the water.

Knead the bread again “for a few seconds”.  Divide the dough into two parts and shape into ovals. Our family refers to this bread as football bread, because the shape is like an American football, but Marcella Hazan calls them “cigar-shaped rolls”. Perhaps because of the dough being a little too dry, I could not get the shaped loaves to cohere—I may need to add a ¼ cup more water next time I try this recipe.

Preheat oven to 450°F (which means setting 500°F on my oven).  While the oven is warming up, let the dough rest on baking parchment.  Just before baking, make a single, 1″ deep lengthwise slash of each loaf.  Brush the loaves with water (oops, I forgot to brush them) and slide onto the baking tiles in the oven.

Bake at 450°F for 12 minutes, then turn down the oven to 350°F (about 400° setting on my oven) and bake for another 35 minutes.  Cool for a couple hours on a rack before serving.

The loaves “exploded” in the oven—the lack of cohesion in the shaping becoming rather obvious.

2022 January 11

Secret Walks: North Riverwalk

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:52
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Last weekend my wife did not feel like doing one of our long walks, so on Sunday 9 January 2022, I did the North Riverwalk walk from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover.  The whole round trip from home to the Chinatown pedestrian bridge plus the loop itself was only 4.1 miles. The book cheats a bit in the Riverwalk chapter, listing three walks, when there are really only two (North Riverwalk and South Riverwalk) and their concatenation.  The next edition of the book should replace the concatenation with a real different walk (it should also fix the mention of the lawn bowling green, which is no longer turf but indoor-outdoor carpeting).

My wife does not like walking on the Riverwalk, because of the number of homeless people camping on the benchlands and on the levees.  I sympathize with her discomfort—the Riverwalk could be a very attractive park if not for the homeless encampments.  The City keeps promising to do something better for the homeless, but nothing ever seems to happen (despite spending a fair amount of City money).


I noticed this plaque in the sidewalk in front of the Cooper House downtown—I think that it is a claim that some of the sidewalk is privately owned and not city right of way.


The river was very low on Sunday, and there were islands with driftwood on them.


More driftwood caught by the willows further upstream.


Looking downstream from the pedestrian bridge just below Highway 1, you can see that the river is only filling a small part of the channel.


Upstream from the pedestrian bridge the sandbar and debris from when the river was much higher a couple of weeks ago are clearly visible.


Coming back along the east levee gives another good view of driftwood caught by the willows.


Looking upstream from the Chinatown pedestrian bridge shows the islands and sandbars left by the high water of Dec 13, 4 weeks earlier.


On the way home, I snapped a picture of one of my favorite tree-fence interactions (on Cleveland Avenue). The tree seems to be winning now.


Also crossing Cleveland is a little streamlet that has been channelized into a very narrow concrete channel. It nearly always has a little water flowing in it, even in the summer.

These pictures were taken with my moto g(7) cellphone, because my new ultrazoom camera did not arrive until Monday. Next weekend will be the last of the walks from the Secret Walks book, and the first using the new camera.

Christmas tree-topper aftermath

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:35
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In Christmas tree 2021, I showed the use of a Buddha’s-hand fruit as a tree topper for our Christmas tree:


The tree topper is a Buddha’s hand fruit from the New Leaf grocery store.


Here is the tree topper from the other side.

When we started undecorating the tree, we found that the fruit had grown mold in an interesting pattern:


The parts exposed to light remained orange, but the parts nestled into the tree grew a green mold (Penicillium?) surrounded by a white mold.


The borders between the moldy and unmoldy parts are particularly striking.

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