Friday, October 31, 2008


Halloween marks a turning point on our calendars: we're half-way through autumn and looking ahead to the year's grandest holiday celebrations. Thanksgiving is all well and good and a great day all its own, but to say that Christmas has always been the biggest deal around here would be a gross understatement. We make ornaments all year and spend days decorating the house, pulling out all the stops to make a winter wonderland in sunny southern California. We keep it lowkey outside - only a few thousand lights - but inside, it's a virtual explosion of snowmen, Santas, reindeer and trees, trees, trees. As the boxes are pulled down from the closets and the collections unwrapped, pictures will follow. Any tendencies toward minimalism and restraint are thrown to the wind and the motto "The more the merrier" rules the entire month of December.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Photography Of Lewis Hine

Lewis Hine worked for the American Red Cross twice - during and after World War I, documenting relief efforts in Europe, and during the Great Depression in the United States. He also documented life in the mountains of eastern Tennessee and was the chief photographer for Franklin Delano Roosevelt's WPA National Research Project duing the Depression.

In 1930 he was hired to photograph the ongoing construction of the Empire State Building in New York City. He put himself in precarious positions to capture the efforts of the men erecting the steel and iron framework of the great building. He used a custom made basket to swing out and away from the building, 1,000 feet above Fifth Avenue, the better to document such an incredible project.

5,000 of his photographs are in our Library of Congress, 5,000 more at the University of Maryland, and 10,000 are part of the vast collection of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, New York, which has what is considered one of the finest collections in the world.

The photograph above was made by Lewis Hine in 1920. He called it "Powerhouse Mechanic Working On Steam Pump".

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Favorite Fabrics From Far & Near

This fabric is cotton lawn from Italy. It was purchased from the back of a magazine in the early 1970s, way back before fine fabrics were just a click and a UPS truck away. An irresistible ad promised European fabric swatches for a small remittance and when they came, it was easy to choose. Most of the fabrics were wool boucle, mostly suit weight yardage in tweeds, herringbone and houndstooth checks. But in the midst of all that stuffiness was a soft as silk 1" square sample of this fine Italian cotton lawn.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tilting At Windmills

Windmills were initially used for grinding grain, then pumping water and nowadays, for generating electricity. The first windmills were invented in Persia in the 9th century, with sails made of reed material or cloth. Very similar windmills in China in the 13th century were used for water irrigation.

Windmills used for pumping water were integral to pioneers in the American West. They opened up vast expanses of land for settlement, farming and ranching that didn't have readily available water. Railroads were able to expand, as well, once water became available for their steam locomotives.

The photograph above is of the windmills at Campo Criptana in La Mancha, Spain, made famous by Miguel de Cervantes classic book, "Don Quixote".

Monday, October 27, 2008

Capturing California

William Seltzer Rice was born in Pennsylvania in 1873, the son of a carriage painter. He began painting at a young age and after working as a staff artist for the Philadelphia Times, accepted a job in California as art supervisor for Stockton public schools. He continued to work for various Northern California public schools for many years.

Initially a painter, his exposure to Japanese printmaking at San Francisco's Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915 led to his becoming an accomplished woodblock and linoleum print maker. He eventually authored books on the subject. His works are displayed in the New York Public Lbrary, California State Library, Boston Public Library, the Library of Congress and the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.

His painting above perfectly captures a California coastal canyon at this time of year. The hillsides are parched after a long dry summer.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Walking On Water

The Santa Ana conditions have held for over a week, and although the surf has been small, the conditions have been perfect, and that means my daughter has gotten in the water almost every day. The wind has come up most afternoons, but the evenings have been glassy, and with most of the tourists gone home, there are plenty of waves to go around. Amanda caught her share on Friday evening at Pipes, Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Rare White Hummingbird

About 5 miles south of here, a massive restoration project, 15 years in the planning and 3 years in the making, is nearing completion. 440 acres of tidal salt marsh, where the San Dieguito River meets the Pacific Ocean in Del Mar, are almost restored as a refuge for water fowl who travel the Pacific Flyway. The acreage is bisected by Interstate 5, the main route between San Diego and Washington State.

A project of Southern California Edison, as mitigation for the loss of fish attributed to its seaside San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, 33 miles to the north, restoration is being funded by rate payers in Orange and San Diego counties. 2 million cubic yards of earth have been moved to create 150 additional acres of bird and fish habitat, with berms high enough to withstand a 100 yeard flood.

The salt marsh will be permanently open to the ocean, whose tidal waters will keep the wetlands alive. Creatures galore are already being attracted to this safe haven. A white hummingbird, the rarest of all hummingbirds, stopped there earlier this year, as have ospreys, brown pelicans, terns, gnatcatchers and egrets, to name just a few. The white hummingbird sighting is quite remarkable, as only 5-10 sightings are documented a year in the entire United States. Earlier this year, work stopped for several days when a heavy equipement driver spotted the nest of an Anna's hummingbird under the Interstate 5 freeway overpass bridge. Work did not recommence until it was determinded that the rumbling of earth movers had no detrimental effect on the nesting birds.

Once the restoration is complete, scheduled for February 2009, there will be hiking and biking trails for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts, alike.

Thanks to Southern California wildlife photographer Chris Mayne for the beautiful photograph of the rare white hummingbird, captured in Del Mar earlier this year.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Harvesting Ice In 1914

The above lithographed poster was made for the United States Food and Drug Administration in 1914, at the outset of World War I. It was printed by Ketterlinus in Pennsylvania.

The unknown artist's choice of color is really interesting, particularly the pink. Usually, we associate cold with blue, and most definitely associate blue with the sky. The man casts an aqua shadow on the white ice, under a pink sky, and the water is olive green and aqua. The use of pink is really eye-catching and in combination with the other colors chosen, very effective and dynamic.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Natural Wonders At A Navajo Tribal Park

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are part of a Navajo Tribal Park in Arizona. Over the centuries, flash flooding rainwater has carved the sandstone to produce these canyons of staggering beauty. Every year, the Upper Canyon, known as "The Crack" is touched by light beams from March 15th until October 7th, with the strongest beams from May to September. The first photograph shows such light beams ~ thanks to Lucas Loffler for sharing his stunning photograph. The Lower Canyon is called "The Corkscrew" and is much more difficult to enter. Entry to both canyons is by guided tour only. The photograph below, of the Lower Canyon, was made by Moondigger ~ thanks for sharing such a beautiful image. Both canyons are considered a great challenge to photographers, given the narrowness of the canyons and the difficulty of the lighting.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


The caption to this photo reads "Winners ~ Paramount Motion Picture School 1925". That's pretty vague. Did they win an acting contest to attend the school? Were they aleady students who won the contest? Was it an acting contest or a drawing? Regardless of the details, they all look happy to have won.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Harvesting Autumn's Waves

If you're familiar with the ocean, you know the tides become more extreme as the Moon becomes full. Last week, during the Santa Ana conditions, we had some of the highest and lowest tides of the year. High enough for waves to crash against the cliffs in the mornings and low enough in the late afternoons for the reefs to be exposed, with acres of sand up and down the coast. The air temperature was in the 80s, but the water temperature has dropped enough to break out the wetsuits that were folded away last June.

My daughter rides both long and shortboards, depending on the size of the waves. Here's a picture of her last week, hanging five at Turtles, back lit by the setting autumn sun at the end of a golden California day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Favorite Fabrics From Far & Near

This lily pad art nouveau silk has been waiting for just the right garment since 1974. It was purchased in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in a little wooden shop around the corner from the main marketplace. No telling how long it had been there. It was rolled onto a cardboard tube, under a tarp, and unlike any of the other fabrics there, which ran to generic ginghams, calicos, polyester and African geometic prints.

My best guess is that it is Liberty of London. The design suits the fabric so well, very fluid and light.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Our Library Of Congress

The Library of Congress is really our national library. One of the most important in the world, it holds the world's largest rare book collection, untold manuscripts, photographs, recordings, newspapers, magazines, maps and documents. The best part is, many are available for viewing online. If you're a history fan or interested in photography, the Library of Congess website is a virtual treasure trove.

The photograph above is an example of the quality of their images. It shows Charleston, South Carolina in ruins, just months before then end of the Civil War in 1865. The first shots of the War had been fired at a Federal ship in Charleston Harbor in Jan. 1861. The picture shows the ruins of the city from the Circular Church. The photograph below highlights the beauty of the Library itself.

The website is You can spend hours there, transported by their fascinating files.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Swami's Point At Sunset

When the Santa Ana winds blow this time of the year, they help create some incredible sunsets and night before last was no exception. My daughter captured this dream-like, unphotoshopped shot of Swami's Point, looking north from Cardiff. Swami's is a world famous surf spot, and above the ocean at the top of the cliff is the Self Realization Fellowship, founded in the 1930s by Paramahansa Yogananda, who was known locally as the Swami.

SRF was completed in 1937, at the height of the Great Depression, when my dad was ten. My dad grew up just down the street from the Fellowship, and the Swami was no stranger in the neighborhood. The Fellowship had extensive, lavish gardens, a pingpong table in one of the golden lotus towers and a massive pool stocked with fish and water lilies. The pool was large enough that the Swami could launch his small boat in it. He always welcomed the local kids, knew all of their names and gave them the run of the grounds. Yogananda was seem in town on a regular basis, driven by chauffeur/disciple in a shiny Rolls Royce, which he frequently took onto the beach at low tide.

When my dad came back from World War II, after serving in the Marshall and Solomon Islands, he worked for Santa Fe Railroad as the town's telegrapher. Telephones were a rarity back then, so he hand delivered telegrams to the Fellowship. Yogananda remembered my dad as one of the neighborhood kids and always asked after everyone's families and well being.

Paramahansa Yogananda has long since passed, and the largest tower and pool slid into the ocean many years back. But his gardens remain and the grounds are as beautiful as ever and open to the public. If you ever find yourself in Encinitas, it's one of the nicest places in town.

Friday, October 17, 2008

An Antique Fan

This tortoise shell fan was woven in 1918 as a gift for the departing 6 year old daughter of American missionairies who had carried their Christian message to the South Seas and raised their girl amongst the local children. The picture below shows a group on Tonga that same year.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Underwater Kingdom

A long time Russian folk hero, Sadko has appeared in epic stories, a poem by Alexi Tolstoy, an opera and a film by Aleksandr Ptushko. In the story illustrated here, Sadko is a humble gusli player from Novgorod, a city between Moscow and St. Petersburg. A gusli is a Slavic zither-like instrument. As the story goes, Sadko was playing his gusli, when the Sea Tsar, who admired his playing, appeared and gave him a tip to win a bet against wealthy merchants. Sadko followed the advice, made and won the bet and untold riches followed. Later, while Sadko was sailing his fleet of merchant ships, they all stopped dead in the water, unable to sail on. He jumped overboard to bribe the Sea Tsar with gold, but to no avail. The Sea Tsar was appeased by more gusli playing, though, and offered Sadko a new bride. As Sadko lied down with the maiden of his choosing, he awakened on the shore and rejoined his true wife.

The painting above is called "Sadko In The Underwater Kingdom", painted in oil on canvas in 1872 by Ilya Repin. It currently hangs in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. It depicts Sadko in the Sea Tsar's kingdom, chosing a new wife from amongst the Tsar's maidens.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Downtown Encinitas ~ Circa 1887

This is what our town looked like in 1887. Originally from Switzerland, my great great grandparents and their son Otto and daughter-in-law Clara, my great grandparents, had settled here 6 years earlier. The population consisted mostly of farmers and their families, with some merchants to keep them supplied. Two blocks to the west is the Pacific Ocean, 25 miles south is San Diego and Los Angeles is roughly 100 miles north. Water has always been a challenge in this area, but with the proximity of Cottonwood Creek just blocks away, Encinitas was chosen as a stop on the railroad line between LA and San Diego.

The railroad brought people to the area who otherwise would never have given Encinitas a second thought. The population exploded to around 5,000 in the 1950s and once the interstate freeway cut a wide swath through town in the late 1960s, the die was cast. Flower growing had become the largest industry here - gladiolus, carnations, roses and poinsettias. But with increasing competition from overseas, the land that had been greenhouses and flower fields became more valuable for housing, and the building boom was on. Some 40 years later, the town is nearing build-out and we're bursting at the seams.

This picture was taken at what is now the Pacific Coast Highway and E Street, where a drive-thru hamburger/taco establishment, a second hand clothing store and a sandwich shop now stand.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

California Native Plants ~ #23 In A Series

The California Bay Laurel grows along the west coast from southern Oregon to San Diego and inland to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This evergreen is known as myrtlewood in Oregon. Its leaves have a pungent smell, just like a bay leaf, only stronger. It is a slow grower and may take 80-120 years to reach its full size, which can be between 60 and 120 feet tall.

The wood is hard and fine and made into small bowls and other objects. Native Americans used the leaves medicinally and sometimes as an insecticide.

The photograph shows a fallen log from a bay laurel that is sending up numerous new shoots. Amazingly, the tree has the ability to regenerate itself from a fallen log.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Discoverer's Day

The second Monday of October is celebrated on the mainland as Columbus Day, but in Hawaii the same day every year honors Captain James Cook, of the British Royal Navy, the first European to visit the Hawaiian Islands. Captain Cook had already charted vast areas of the South Seas, the entire coast of New Zealand, Newfoundland, and the coast of California and north, all the way to the Bering Strait. It was during his third exploratory voyage, after an unsuccessful attempt to find the Northwest Passage, that he made landfall in Waimea, Kauai, at the rivermouth of the Waimea River, in January 1778. He was the first navigator to record the coordinates of the islands and share their existence with the world.

The portrait above was painted in 1775 by Nathaniel Dance-Holland and hangs in the United Kingdom's National Maritime Museum. The statue below of Captain Cook stands in Waimea, Kauai, near the sight where he landed with his two ships, Resolution and Discovery, at the Waimea rivermouth. It is a copy of a statue in England by John Tweed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hawaiian Menu Art ~ #5 In A Series

This Royal Hawaiian Hotel menu cover , circa 1950, by John Melville Kelly is called "Fisherman". In Hawaii, some of the reefs are so shallow at low tide, one can stand with a spear at the edge and catch fish that are swimming in the tidepools. Especially if there is a barrier reef that creates a lagoon, the water is clear enough to see the fish darting about. The trade winds blow most days, but unless there's a storm, the ocean normally glasses off in the evening and depending on the tide, fish can be caught just in time for dinner.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Favorite Fabrics From Far & Near

These are traditional polished cotton kimono fabrics, made in Japan, and purchased from the remarkable treasuretrove Kapaia Stitchery on Kauai in the 1990s. As you probably know, kimonos are traditional t-shaped ankle-length robes worn by both men and women in Japan. Kimonos have full wide sleeves, wrap from the left to right and are secured by a wide sash called an obi.

Symbolism in Japanese fabrics and embroidery motifs is strong. A kimono worn in springtime might have a cherry blossom or butterfly design, a winter kimono might feature plum blossoms or pine trees and an autumn theme could be leaves of the Japanese maple. Summer kimonos often had water themes. Each design element is even more deeply symbolic beyond the season it may represent. Bamboo, pine trees and plum blossoms represent endurance, as they stay green through the cold of winter. Cranes and turtles represent long life, ferns symbolize prosperity, plums express hope, and fans are a wish for abundance.

These fabrics, besides being incredibly soft and with lustrous polish, have outstanding color combinations and are shot through with subtle gold threads that only show when the light hits just so. The designs on these pieces don't lend themselves to anything with lots of pieces and seaming, so they may very well be made into the type of half circle skirt that normally is made from a border print, but cut on the bias to drape well.

Friday, October 10, 2008

On The Beach

For a town that has grown to almost 60,000 residents, it's amazing how few of them choose to be on the beach early in the morning. Surfers will go out for waves regardless of whether any are breaking or not - they'll settle for getting wet and a good paddle, especially on a beautiful morning. There were two men fishing from the shore - they probably don't have to catch any fish to be happy. It's enough to be in the elements with your gear, casting your line into the sea with a salty wind in your face.

There's always a lot to see down there. There was a cone of sand building up at the base of the cliff, from a small river of erosion, complacent seagulls so used to people they don't bother to fly away even if you get close, and a couple of stand-up paddlers out close to the kelp beds.

One local surfer makes all his own equipment and has mastered surfboards, paddleboards and stand-up paddleboards. He was getting ready for a race this weekend. Pictured below is the logo he designed for his boards.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #22 In A Series

The coastal live oak is a California native evergreen tree that is not only beautiful, but useful to man and beast alike. The acorns were a food staple for Native American tribes and the roasted seeds can be brewed like coffee. Squirrels and black deer eat the acorns and the foliage is a feast for jack rabbits and field mice. The trees have a spreading tendency that makes them a perfect shelter for all manner of creatures. Even mountain lions are attracted to the trees, as they know deer are likely to be around.

Live oaks have been known to live 250 years and more. The above photograph with the massive coastal live oak tree was made in Lincoln Park, in Alameda, California in 1912.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

WPA Poster ~ Michigan Art Month

The artist of this circa 1936-1941 WPA poster was Maurice Merlin. He was commissioned through the state of Michigan and a Federal Art Project, to design a poster that would encourage citizens to familiarize themselves and purchase art made by local artists.

The WPA was the largest program under FDR's New Deal. Critics were numerous and nicknamed the program "We Piddle Along", "We Poke Along" and "We Putter Around". The goal was to remove millions of people from the relief rolls and into jobs during the Great Depression.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hawaiian Menu Art ~ #4 In A Series

This is another menu cover made by John Kelly for the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki in the 1950s. It shows Hawaiians riding the waves in their outrigger canoe. The outrigger allows the canoe to be paddled or sailed in rougher seas, as it stabilizes the canoe and prevents it from capsizing. The Hawaiian word for outrigger canoe is "wa'a". Outriggers are still actively raced and paddled for sport and competition between clubs, not only in Hawaii, but around the world.

You can see part of Diamond Head in the background. It is Hawaii's largest tuff cone, part of a volcanic chain. It was given its name by 19th century British sailors who thought the calcite crystals in the rock were diamonds. The picture below shows a current aerial view of Diamond Head.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Art Of Louis Rhead

Louis Rhead was born in North Staffordshire, England in 1857, the son of a pottery gilder. He was born into an artistic family. Both his brothers were artists and he collaborated with them on book illustrations. He was uncle to famous potters Charlotte Rhead and Frederick Hurten Rhead.

After study and training in France, Louis Rhead relocated to the United States, where he realized success as a graphics designer for both posters and books. In the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, a deep interest in the sport of fly fishing led him to a study of insects. He wrote "American Trout Steam Insects - A Guide To Angling Flies & Other Insects Alluring To Trout", pubished in 1916, and designed a line of flies based on his studies. Fly fishing is a recurring subject in some of his work.

The lithograph above was an advertising poster for Century Magazine's Midsummer Holiday issue, printed in 1894, illustrated by Louis Rhead.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Face Of Coca Cola

Hilda Clark was the "face" of Coca Cola from 1895 to 1903. She was the first woman to be featured on one of their tin advertising trays and also appeared in print ads for the beverage. Hilda was born in 1872 in Leaveneworth, Kansas, the daughter of a baker. The lure of the big city took her to Boston and a successful career as a music hall singer and actress. She started modeling for Coca Cola when she was 23 and continued for 8 years, all the while active in Boston society. She retired from both her stage career and modeling in 1903, upon her marriage to a millionaire railway director, the nephew of the then governor of New York.

The illustration above shows Hilda Clark as she appeared in a chromolithographed print advertisement for Coca Cola in the late 1890s.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #21 In A Series

One of the prettiest California native wildflowers is the blue dick. This beautiful flowering plant grows from a corm, which was an important source of starch for Native Americans. In the wild, it grows in meadows, grasslands, open woodlands and forests, spread by animals who dig up the corms for food. Black bears, deer, gophers, wild pigs and rabbits all dig for the corms, and as they do, they aereate the soil, thin the plants and leave behind cormlets, which encourages even more growth. Some corms will lie dormant for years, waiting for a forest fire to clear away shade and provide nutrients to the soil before they burst forth by the thousands.

Thinning the plant population allows them to thrive. Although the plant can be propagated from seeds, it grows faster and spreads more readily by cormlets. This California native can be easily introduced into your home garden, where it mixes strikingly in borders with the bright orange of the California poppy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hawaiian Menu Art ~ #3 In A Series

Called "Hawaiian Night", this image, probably an aquatint, was created by artist John Melville Kelly and eventually included in a series of 7 covers for Royal Hawaiian Hotel menus in the 1950s.

The ukelele, pictured, originated in Hawaii in the 19th century, styled after a small Portugese guitar called the cavaquinho, brought to Hawaii by immigrants. The Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 introduced the ukelele and lap steel guitar to the world, as the Hawaiian Pavillion featured the Royal Hawaiian Quartette.

Ukeleles have four strings and come in four sizes ~ soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. Their tone and volume depend on size and construction.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Another Morning On The Beach

The long, morning shadows belong to me and my mom. We walk on the beach together early in the morning, once a week, for fun and exercise and to catch up with what's new with each other. We only live a couple miles apart, but time has gotten more elusive as we've gotten older, so we make a point of getting together. My mom's an avid gardener, so we always discuss who's been planting what, exchange updates on other family members and just enjoy being together.

We're having a really warm spell, upwards of 80 degrees, so the beach is especially beautiful. Perfect conditions, but no surf to speak of (yet), just a few stand-up paddlers, a kayaker and two fishing boats just offshore. Plenty of birds on the beach and hardly any other people on the sand. Autumn is finally here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Garden Stalwart

The daylily is one of the all-time hardiest landscape plants and with 60,000 registered cultivars, there's sure to be one that pleases you. This perennial puts up multiple blooms on individual stalks, each of which opens at sunrise and lasts only that one day. They come in many colors, some ruffled, some plain, some large and some small, most unscented. How useful they are in bouquets is debatable, but as a border plant, where you want a burst of color, they're worth giving a try. Along the coast in Southern California, "Judith" is a good choice. It has a nice orange color, not too brassy, is easily divided and establishes itself readily in even relatively poor soil. Snails are attracted to the foliage, but seem to ignore the flowers.

In Asian markets, some daylily flowers, known as golden needles, are sold for use in cooking hot and sour soup and moo shu pork. However, not all day lilies are edible, so best to purchase from someone who knows which ones are.