National Chili Month at the Café: The Art of Chili, a Collaboration

Welcome to National Chili Month at the cafe, one of our traditional autumn celebrations. This year I’m pleased to report another Eclectic Cafe collaboration with blogger and chili lover, Under Western Skies, an avid, and excellent, chili cook.

Our last collaboration was in 2019, when we created a Halloween chili menu and recipe.

Coordinating blog posts again was all great fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed my role as food stylist, photographer and recipe consultant for the 2021 UWS chili recipe –– with the tasting and eating part a highlight of the proceedings.

Another highlight was creating photos inspired by one of my favorite artists: Wayne Thiebaud, modern American master, innovator and teacher turns 101 on November 15. As he approaches this milestone, he’s still thriving, painting every day, and continuing to delight viewers and inspire new generations of artists.

Thiebaud is best known for his colorful paintings of pies, pastries and cakes, though his prodigious body of work includes other objects, people, and city and river landscapes. I’ve always loved his imaginative food paintings like the iconic cake slices below.

Wayne Thiebaud, Cake Slices, oil on canvas, copyright Wayne Thiebaud 1995.

Somehow in the midst of Covid world, I missed Mr. Thiebaud’s 100th birthday. It was a joy to see news of his 101st and take time to revisit his work. It also provided immediate inspiration: For the Under Western Skies chili shoot I decided to incorporate elements of his style into my food photography. In this case, composition and his distinctive bold shadows.  

Here is Under Western Skies’ flavorful, textural chili, garnished with fresh cilantro and radishes:

To go with the chili, I made a batch of corn muffins. These Thiebaud cupcakes provided a perfect model for working out my muffin photo below.

Wayne Thiebaud, Four Cupcakes, oil on paper, copyright Wayne Thiebaud 1971.

There wasn’t time to experiment for this shoot, but next I want to add to my food photography that thick, luxurious, icing-like texture characteristic of Thiebaud paintings.  

This ends the art of portraying chili. Now, head to Under Western Skies for the art of creating and cooking a spicy New Mexico-inspired chili.

We both hope you enjoy this confluence of food, photography and art.

Copyright M. Vincent 2021. All photos copyright M. Vincent 2021.

All Wayne Thibaud art copyright Wayne Thiebaud.

Four Seasons at the Port

Last week – on Twelfth Night, a day we Shakespeare lovers always observe – we took one of our favorite urban walks at the Port of Los Angeles. After a bout of puffer coat and gloves weather, it was good to be out on a mild winter evening with beautiful light. Also, refreshing to leave behind for a while the disturbing U.S. political events of the day.  

I’d just finished reading Anthony Doerr’s fine memoir, Four Seasons in Rome, which catalyzed the realization that here we were in our fourth season of Covid-19 LA. Living in another fascinating city, but unlike Doerr in Rome, restricted by the pandemic from freely exploring its attractions, or even escaping to the natural world of our coastal environment with its fabulous beaches, trails and walks by the ocean.

As the months went by and Covid cases burgeoned, our radius shrank: Parks, trails and beaches closed, and when they reopened, crowds returned, many people failing to wear masks or observe social distancing. We stopped taking many of our usual walks and hikes, and the port became our primary getaway –– a reliable, sparsely frequented safe haven of solitude and space.

Even before Covid, we regularly walked there, forging various interesting routes, enjoying the colorful industrial landscape and constant hum of maritime activity. Fortunately, we like finding new things in familiar places, and our regular rambles at the port during the pandemic have not disappointed.

There’s so much to explore and photograph in our vast harbor landscape. Here is a mini tour of the routes we’ve taken through the changing seasons of the pandemic.

We’ll start with this peaceful, tree-lined city park with its spacious promenade, the scene of our Twelfth Night walk last week. It’s one of those quiet retreats you find in every city; once inside its leafy seclusion, you scarcely notice the busy thoroughfare that runs right next to it.

We’ve walked here so many times in the past year that we’re among the regulars who recognize each other despite the masks and exchange a friendly greeting, a few words, a wave, in Covid camaraderie.

Keep going past the shady benches, stone chess tables and a now dormant fountain, where children jump and squeal in the spray during a normal summer. On your left, you’ll come to the City of LA fireboat station, where you can sometimes catch sight of that big sophisticated boat at rest. You might even hear a loudspeaker staff alert that fresh cookies are available in the station kitchen.

Our final stop on this route is the small pier just past the fireboat station, dwarfed by a massive container ship in the photo below. Notice the people, similarly dwarfed, getting a very close-up look at the ship.

The pier offers great views of sea and sky, the port’s extensive shipping operations and the fascinating movement of maritime traffic.

Moored nearby are the tugboats that maneuver the giant cargo ships entering and leaving the port. Behind the tugs (below) is the 1,500-foot-long Vincent Thomas suspension bridge that crosses Los Angeles Harbor.

From this small pier with big views, you can see historic Warehouse No. 1, completed in 1917. Its distinctive tower, with a welcome greeting in many languages, is visible from miles away. The landmark building and its environs are the next route on our tour.

As the port’s only bonded warehouse, Warehouse No. 1 played a crucial role in LA’s entry into international trade. It’s a striking old structure with its many balconies, lion gargoyles and layers of grunge.

Here is a close-up of one of the lion gargoyles on the side of the warehouse in the photo above.

I like industrial landscapes and find art in them, so I always enjoy walking in this area and photographing interesting buildings and details. On one of our 2020 rambles, this sculptural outdoor warehouse equipment and its textural setting, like the gargoyles, appealed to me.

Walking this familiar route through three seasons of the coronavirus pandemic has not been without its elements of surprise. In spring, we encountered these companion flags, torn and battered, flying in the wind. They struck a chord as an apt symbol for a country in the midst of a deadly worldwide pandemic. With the rise of Covid cases and deaths, and our socio-political turmoil, the symbolism still feels apt.

On another spring walk, I found this bright explosion of California poppies at the curb of a drab industrial building. A cheering burst of color on an overcast day.

One summer afternoon, a whimsical “art installation” appeared on our route.

Who knows what we’ll find in this fourth season?

Copyright M. Vincent 2021

Port of Los Angeles tugboats at golden hour photo and Warehouse No. 1 photo copyright Brad Nixon 2021. Used with kind permission.

All other photographs copyright M. Vincent 2019-2021.

The Sweet Fruits of Summer

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The glorious summer fruit season is well underway in California, and here at the café we’re celebrating the abundance of sweet, juicy and colorful stone fruits arriving in our markets. Fresh local berries too.

As you know if you’ve visited my blog before, beautiful seasonal fruit is one of my favorite things to photograph (and eat!) — like these autumn-winter persimmons and fall farmers market finds

Paired with a complementary container, it also makes a simple centerpiece to add a special touch to your table. My photos in this post pair summer fruit with mid-century modern and other ceramics my partner and I have collected.  

Rainier Cherries

Washington state is the premier growing region for the lovely-to-look-at Rainier cherries above, their shiny yellow faces blushing with hues of rosy red and pink.

Given its pale color, I was surprised to learn that this cherry is a hybrid of two sweet, red varieties — the familiar Oregon Bing and the Canadian Van. Developed at Washington State University in 1952, it’s named, as you might have guessed, for Mount Rainier, the state’s iconic volcanic peak.

While the sturdier, more plentiful Bings with their sweet, rich crunch are one of summer’s great treats, I always look forward to the arrival of the delicate, creamy Washington Rainiers. Both have been delicious this year. Get the Rainiers while you can: the growing season lasts from June through August.

Apricots

According to University of California–Davis agriculture researchers, the apricot originated in China and was extensively cultivated in the Mediterranean before it was brought to North America.

Its initial introduction in Virginia was unsuccessful, but when Spanish missionaries brought the apricot to California in the late 1700s, its cultivation in North America took off.  California now leads the U.S. in apricot production, growing about 95 percent of the fruit. 

I found the delectable ripe apricots below in late June at our local Sprout’s market. I loved the rich orange tones on their velvety skin and couldn’t wait to photograph them in this Italian pottery bowl with its complementary blues and corresponding oranges and ambers.

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The bowl is one of my favorite pieces, for its design and its association. It comes from Deruta, a medieval hill town and historic majolica pottery center in Italy’s Umbria region, and always reminds me of the day my partner and I spent exploring the town and its famed ceramics.

We loved talking to people, learning about the antique and modern hand-painted pottery, and — smitten by what we saw — searching for a piece to take home. We came away with a set of these bowls, modern with a traditional design, which we use constantly.

Nectarines

Because nectarines are similar to peaches, but noticeably different in taste and texture, I always thought they were a separate fruit, perhaps a hybrid. Writing this post I discovered that a nectarine is actually a peach without the fuzz.

The two fruits are genetically the same, with just one recessive gene responsible for the nectarine’s smooth, fuzz-free skin. 

Our local stores have had a bounty of both types of nectarine, the tart-and-sweet yellow variety and the sweeter, low-acid white, pictured in the photos below. 

MV S8908-LR Nectarines WB-680

The ultra-bright reds of these beautiful fruits really popped against streamlined black and white and black-on-black backgrounds. I think the mid-century modern designers of the ceramics in the photos would approve. 

Russel Wright (1904-1976) designed the white ceramics. The long, black, oval bowl is by Ben Seibel (1918-1985). For several years, my partner and I enjoyed collecting their vintage dinnerware, and it’s always in service here at the cafe.  I love using these stylish retro pieces in my food photography.

MV S8905-LR Nectarines BW-680

In the final photo is the Russel Wright sake bottle. The cherry bowl in the photo at the top is a creamer from his Paden City pottery line.

MV S8918-LR Fruit and RW Saki-680

In difficult times it’s more important than ever to appreciate the beauty in our world and elemental human pleasures, like the delightful fruits of summer. Enjoy the season and make it special for yourself and those you love. ♥


Fruit information in this post was sourced from:

University of California–Davis, Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center, http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/

Specialty Produce, https://www.specialtyproduce.com/

Licensable, high-resolution versions of photographs in this post, and select images from other My Eclectic Café posts are available on Shutterstock.com. Click here to view my Vince360 Shutterstock photo portfolio. You can also find my photos on Adobe and Dreamstime.

Copyright M. Vincent 2020. All photos copyright M. Vincent 2020.

 

Fourth of July Dogs on Parade

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As Covid-19 cases resurge across the U.S., our Independence Day celebrations will be constrained, and numerous traditional events — fireworks, fun runs, festivals, parades — have been canceled, including a favorite local institution, the dog parade.

Let’s revisit one of these fun events held in our California neighborhood. My partner and I are fond of dogs, though we don’t have one, and what photographer could resist a chance to shoot cute canines in patriotic costume on a bright July morning in the park?

We quickly spotted the parade queen: a petite Hollywood star in stylish hat and sunglasses, relaxing in her elaborately decorated carriage. Here she is taking a beauty nap before the show gets underway.

MV C3182-LR Dog nap-680

With the costumes and accessories some dogs were sporting, I wondered: Do they enjoy any of this? Or, do they just gamely soldier through it to humor their beloved humans?

The queen’s owner assured me when I walked up to chat that the little star loved to dress up, caper around the house and elicit cheers for her performance.

Observing the scene, I found it plausible that dogs might enjoy these dress-up performances. They were certainly getting lots of attention from children, photographers and other parade goers, as well as their devoted families.

Some even seemed to be playing to the crowd: The parade queen sprang from her nap refreshed and sparkling when the event began, and here she is rolling along like a star engaging with an adoring audience.

MV C3179-LR Star on float-680

Imagine discerning dogs choosing their outfits, being groomed, arrayed, and checking the results in the mirror as the household cat trots by with a snicker heading for secret, solitary adventures.

The popular bulldog below outdid the parade queen for fancy attire in a dress with varied patterns, textures and decorative details. She even managed to keep those flags attached and intact.

MV C3197-LR Bulldog in dress-680

Next is the gregarious chihuahua I call “Ms. Congeniality.” She strolled the crowd before the event with her ruffled skirt rippling behind her, meeting, greeting and shaking hands. Was her stylish costume made by the bulldog’s designer? Look at the design details. Those two were the most elaborately dressed dogs we saw.

MV C3195-LR 4th July Chihuah-680

Other dogs chose the minimalist route, such as these two rocking some glamorous neckwear and a “less is more” attitude.

MV C3218-LR White dog in red ruff-680

MV C3234-LR Stars necklace dog-680

All were very civilized and fun to watch and photograph. I hope their photos and stories have provided some holiday humor and cheer.

Wishing all my readers and their canine companions a peaceful, refreshing and hopeful weekend.

Copyright M. Vincent 2020. All photos copyright M. Vincent 2018-2020.

Food/Photography Friday: Photography from Hell

MV Surreal door with quote

What to do when you feel like hell? Dream up a fun photography project and get shooting. That was my answer this week to the battering illness blues. My uplifting escape.

I’ve been fighting a mean case of bronchitis, with those coughing fits that crack like gunshots and feel like glass shattering in your chest. Recovery requires rest, but it’s not my strong point. I needed action, and doing art always takes me to a happier place.

Shooting Rabbits

With spring and Easter on the way, what better models than some playful rabbits? Here are some photos from my shoot:

Pink rabs 680

Hip-hop rabbits on pink background

MV S7626-LR Dancing rabs and kicker-680

Hip-hop rabbits on blue background

XOXO Rabbits 680

Rabbits with a loving greeting

No rabbits were harmed to create these photos.  Have a happy, healthy weekend!

Copyright M. Vincent 2020. All photos copyright M. Vincent 2020.

You can find licensable, high resolution versions of the photographs in this post at https://www.shutterstock.com/g/Vince360/sets/259568063. Or, click here to view my Vince360 Shutterstock photo portfolio.

 

 

Food/Photography Friday: Cookie Predator Invades California Cafe

MV S7206-LR Cookie predator lion-680

Welcome to Food/Photography Friday 2020. If you’re new to the series, you’ll find the kickoff post here.

By the look of today’s international news, we could all use some whimsicality and humor to start the weekend, so I’m doing my part with some fanciful food photography. I hope you’ll enjoy this harmless predatory visitor to the café.

No holiday gift is safe from an avid photographer, and the toppings on these cookies were so — well, over the top — I had to put them into a photo shoot. I took a few serious shots, the cookie plate on a festive holiday table sort of thing, then hastened to have some fun with the lion ornament among my props.

 

He and this wild version of Italian biscotti — their icing chunky with nuts, chocolate or caramel chips, and sprinkles — seemed made for each other. I imagined him prowling down a rocky road of these textured confections, investigating, and taking bites here and there.  Hence, the cookie predator.

Enjoy the weekend, maybe take a news fast, and create something for fun yourself.

Copyright M. Vincent 2020.  Photo copyright M. Vincent 2019-2020.

 

Food/Photography Friday: A Visit to the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson

Center for Creative Photography Tucson

In the last post of this series, I wrote about my trip to Tucson, Arizona, in July. A highlight of the trip for me and my partner was our visit to the University of Arizona Center for Creative Photography.

About the Center

In 1975, legendary American photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984), along with Dr. John P. Schaefer, then University of Arizona president, cofounded the Center for Creative Photography. Adams also entrusted his entire photographic collection and archive to the Center’s care. The archives of other masters followed, growing to a current 270.

Adams’ and Schaefer’s shared vision for the new institution was to create an educational, collecting, preservation, and exhibition facility that would include the work of many photographers. Today, the center holds more than 110,000 works by over 2,200 photographers and is recognized as one of the world’s premier academic art museums and study centers for the history of photography.

Why Arizona? While Adams’ work is closely associated with California’s Yosemite Valley, he produced a wide range of work throughout the American West, including photos of many iconic Arizona places –– among them, the Grand Canyon, Mission San Javier Del Bac, and Saguaro National Park below.

Landscape

Known for his striking black and white landscapes, Adams published some of his first color work in popular travel magazine Arizona Highways in the mid-1940s. He continued to sell photos to the publication in the 1950s.

We had a lot on our Tucson agenda, but for us the Center was a “must see.” We happily spent a goodly part of an afternoon there, seeing and absorbing as much as possible before reaching that saturation point that even the most intrepid museum goers experience.

If you’re an enthusiastic photographer or photography fan, you’re sure to find stimulation and inspiration in the Center’s collection and special exhibitions.

The Exhibition:  A Portrait of Poetry

On our July visit, the special exhibition was an intriguing portrait project by photographer and poetry lover, B.A. Van Sise.  Mr. Van Sise’s family lineage goes back to groundbreaking American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892), and the project was in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s birth.

Also an homage to Whitman’s masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, the show comprised about 80 photos of contemporary poets, primarily a who’s who of Pulitzer Prize winners, Poet Laureates and Chancellors of the Academy of American Poetry. Among them was one video portrait of acclaimed poet Sharon Olds.

Adjacent to each poet’s portrait was the text of one of his or her poems. Per Van Sise’s treatment of his subjects, each portrait was, as the Center noted, “at once a likeness of the poet, an evocation of the poem, and a presentation of a visual narrative fashioned by the photographer.” That tripartite quality created a thought-provoking experience.

We saw many familiar poets in the show, such as Nikki Giovanni, Joyce Carol Oates and Rita Dove. There were also several new discoveries, and we each made a list of poets to pursue further.

Van Sise’s book based on the expansive, three-year project — Children of  Grass: A Portrait of American Poetry — was published in September 2019.  See the Resources section below for more about both.

Exploring the Center’s Collection

The Van Sise show was absorbing, and it took some energy to get through it all, but we made it and pushed on to the adjacent gallery for a related show of items from the Center’s collection: selected photo illustrations that noted photographer Edward Weston (1886-1958) provided in 1941 for a new edition of poet Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.  

In the same gallery, we viewed other Weston photos and poked through drawers of various Ansel Adams materials –– personal photos, letters, and other memorabilia, tools he used in his studio, contact sheets. With our heads spinning, we headed to lunch. No time for more this trip, but we look forward to next time.

Planning Your Visit

Located on the University of Arizona’s urban campus with convenient parking nearby, the Center is free and open to the public. Its many offerings include free guided tours, research capabilities, and small-group viewings of items from the collection. Contact the Center for scheduling requirements.

For more information about the Center, directions, hours and current exhibitions:  https://ccp.arizona.edu/home.

Van Sise Project Resources

To learn more about photographer B.A. Van Sise, his range of work and creative projects, see: https://bavansise.format.com/ 

For an interview with Mr. Van Sise about his photo book, Children of  Grass: A Portrait of American Poetry, containing many of the photos we saw in the Center’s exhibition above, see: https://petapixel.com/2019/11/27/an-interview-with-photographer-b-a-van-sise/

The Van Sise exhibition opened at the Center in June 2019, and his related book was published in September. To find the book, including at an indie bookstore in your area: https://bavansise.format.com/children-of-grass

Copyright M. Vincent 2019

Center for Creative Photography photo copyright Brad Nixon 2019, used with permission.  Saguaro National Park photo by Ansel Adams is in public domain.

 

Food/Photography Friday: A Photographic Tale of Two Cities, Part II

MV S5647-680 Saguaro NP Tucson

This year, in search of our next home in the U.S. West, my partner and I revisited two cities we’d found appealing on earlier travels and took a longer, closer look. In Part I, I wrote about our stay in Eugene, Oregon in cold, rainy March. Part II takes us to a sunny Sonoran Desert clime in high summer.

Tucson, Arizona

On the East Coast, they’ve got “The Big Apple,” New York City.  Here in the West, we’ve got “The Baked Apple,” Tucson, Arizona. At least that’s what one witty local journalist calls it in its summer season, when temperatures regularly soar to over 100 degrees. If it’s not an established nickname for the city, it should be.

Could we handle the heat and thrive? Finding out was a major goal of our stay in July. At first, it quickly drained our usual energy. Day one was the worst –– like a slow motion prowl through a scenic oven –– but we kept going anyway and got acclimated fairly soon.

Starting the day’s exploring early is a must to beat the most intensive heat. Fortunately, we’re morning people, and it helped us make the most of our time, despite necessary breaks to cool off.  It was also great for desert hiking and photography.

Saguaro National Park

On our earlier trips to Tucson, enjoying the beautiful natural environment was our primary focus. We loved Saguaro National Park and couldn’t wait to get back on the trails. That’s the park in the photo above, taken on this year’s morning hike –– lush and green under a fabulous western sky.

The park is named for the iconic Saguaro cactus below, a well-known symbol of Arizona and the American West.  These giant cacti grow only in the Sonoran Desert.

MV S5636-LR Saguaro Natl Park landscape-680

Saguaro National Park is comprised of two sections, East and West. Our hike was in Saguaro East, also known as the Rincon Mountain district. It’s the older section, with mature Saguaros that may be more than 200 years old.

Summer is monsoon/rainy season in Tucson, and the desert was blooming. This prickly pear cactus is full of ripe, red-violet fruit growing from the edges of its fleshy green pads. The sweet “pears” are edible as well as the pads (the Mexican vegetable “nopalitos”).

MV S5616-LR Saguaro Natl Park Cactus-680

The University of Arizona

Tucson is home to the University of Arizona, with the associated cultural benefits –– another thing we like about the city. Its Center for Creative Photography, co-founder Ansel Adams, was a highlight of our trip.

We also enjoyed touring and photographing the attractive campus with its old red-brick buildings, green, shady lawns and groves of trees.

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That’s the Women’s Plaza of Honor in the foreground in this photo.

The first university in Arizona, “Old Main” opened its doors in 1891. In its early days, it stood in the middle of a desert. Now it’s an island of green in the heart of the city.

Historic Neighborhoods

On a prior trip, we toured Tucson landmark, Mission San Xavier del Bac, on the outskirts of the city. This time, we focused on the historic areas downtown: El Presidio and Barrio Historico.

The oldest neighborhood in Tucson, El Presidio was founded in 1775, when Spanish soldiers and settlers built a walled fort there. Barrio Historico dates from the mid-1850s as settlers spread out from El Presidio.

I especially enjoyed photographing the colorful old houses and buildings in these areas. Here are some of my favorites.

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A well-preserved El Presidio building displays the intersection of modern and traditional. 

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Bright colors and decorative details are a hallmark of the city’s downtown historic districts.

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A dwarf poinciana tree’s fiery orange flowers pop against a blue adobe wall in El Presidio.

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Barrio Historico: Old adobes often have shared walls to protect against the heat.

Mount Lemmon

No trip to The Baked Apple would be complete without an escape to Mount Lemmon, a refuge from the heat for locals and visitors alike. The steep, curving road goes up to a 9,000-foot elevation in a diverse outdoor recreation area with pine forests and panoramic views.

MV S5770-LR Curve nr Windy Pt Mt Lem-680

We didn’t get to the top on our drive, but we didn’t need to: Starting at 110 degrees in Tucson, the temperature dropped to the 70s as we climbed, with open windows, reveling in the cool, fresh air.

What are some of your favorite travels this year? Will you be off for one more trip before 2019 comes to a close? If so, where will you go?

Copyright M. Vincent 2019. All photos copyright M. Vincent 2019.

Food/Photography Friday: A Photographic Tale of Two Cities, Part I

MV C8381 Pre Trail Eugene OR-680

As 2019 draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the travels my partner and I took this year to two very different cities in search of our next home in the western United States. In March we spent about two weeks living like locals in Eugene, Oregon. In July, we did the same in Tucson, Arizona.

We’d visited each of these cities before and found many things to like, so we wanted to take a closer look. We went to Eugene in winter to see if we sun-loving Southern Californians could handle the cold, wet, often gloomy weather. For Tucson, we chose the height of summer to test our ability to thrive in the unrelenting seasonal heat.

I’m grateful for the time we had to explore each town, visit with friends, enjoy several side trips and have wonderful opportunities for photography. In this post and Part II, I’ll share some of my favorite photos from each trip, starting with Eugene.

Eugene, Oregon

“Track Town USA” is Eugene’s nickname, and the running community was among the things that attracted us to the city. That’s Pre’s Trail in the photo above, a broad path four miles long that commemorates legendary University of Oregon runner, Steve Prefontaine. Located in Alton Baker Park, it draws numerous runners and walkers every day.

Hiking in the scenic outdoors, close proximity to the Oregon coast, and university-town cultural/educational offerings also attracted us to Eugene.

A fascinating part of the city’s history is the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House, a Victorian-era mansion that sits on a hill overlooking downtown.

MV S4516-LR SheltMcMJ Vict full view-680

In the front garden to the right, notice the bright yellow daffodils that we saw everywhere in Eugene this March as winter moved toward spring.

Built in 1888, this commanding landmark, now a museum, is named for the three successive families who lived there. Learning about their daily lives and the antics of the spirited children who grew up in the house is a fun part of the tour.

The facade exemplifies the ornamental details of Late Victorian Queen Anne Revival style architecture.

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Side Trips

The Pre’s Trail photo dates from our summer 2017 visit to Eugene. Winter 2019 was a different experience, but we still had some sunny, if damp and chilly, intervals. Our luckiest weather break was the day we headed to the coast to see the Heceta Head lighthouse, which I wrote about earlier here.

This historic lighthouse, circa 1894, is a magnet for photographers, and you can see why.

MV S4131-LR Heceta Lt.house trees 680

Even the approach is special as you walk up the hill with the buildings in the distance among the trees.

MV S4178-LR Path to Heceta Lt.house-680

MV S4169-LR Heceta Light sea small people-680

We were so fortunate to be able to photograph it on a bright, dry day in a week of rain!

On our country-roads drive back to Eugene, we spotted this old railroad bridge and stopped to take some shots.

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We learned it’s the Cushman swing-span railroad bridge, Mapleton, which crosses the Siuslaw River near Florence. One of its three spans rotates to allow boats to pass under it. Built in 1914, the bridge has keepers’ quarters on top for those who operate its rotating drawbridge.

I enjoy photographing industrial landscapes and got another chance when we visited our friend Lori in Portland. After brunch and the Saturday Market, she gave us an energetic tour of the surrounding area that ended up with dinner in Oregon City.

That’s where I got these shots of the industrial area on the Willamette River near landmark Willamette Falls.

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George Abernethy Bridge, spanning the Willamette River between Oregon City and West Linn.

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Oregon City’s Blue Heron paper mill, site of various operations since the 1830s, closed in 2011.

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West Linn’s landmark paper mill, closed in 2017 after 128 years in business.

Other meetups with friends took us to Phoenix (near Ashland) and Jacksonville, Oregon, and Centralia, Washington. In Jacksonville, I spotted this sweet, petite historic home with its multi-story birdhouse.

MV C5053-LR Old house Jacksonville OR-680

That ends the Eugene, Oregon tale. Stay tuned for Part II, Tucson, Arizona.

What were some of your favorite travels this year?

Copyright M. Vincent 2019.  All photos copyright M. Vincent 2017-2019.

Food/Photography Friday: Fuyu Persimmon Photo Shoot

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I love creating still-life photos with beautiful seasonal fruit, so when I saw this perfect Fuyu persimmon in my local market, I grabbed it and got to work.

Fuyus are a bright symbol of autumn, arriving in mid-fall and lasting through the winter months. Their shiny skin ranges from golden amber to a deep, pumpkin-like orange.

This one stood out for its rich color and exceptional smoothness and gloss. Firm and unblemished, with its leafy green cap intact, it was camera-ready.  To create a distinct autumn vibe, I looked for props with complementary textures, patterns and hues.

About the Fruit

Two types of persimmons are commercially grown in the U.S. and sold in markets across the country: the Fuyu, which is the focus of this post, and the Hachiya. Both came to us via Japan, where persimmons are the national fruit.  Both are in season now.

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From first bite, I found the Fuyu delicious, as well as visually appealing. If you’ve seen them in your area and wondered about them, I encourage you to give them a try.

Called fuyu gaki in Japan, Fuyus are mildly sweet and taste rather like an apricot or pear, with a slight hint of cinnamon. They can be eaten at any stage of ripeness. In the early stage, they’re firm and crisp, great for slicing and eating like an apple (peeling optional) or added to salads –– their subtle sweetness pairs well with peppery arugula, for example. As the fruit grows riper, it becomes sweeter and softer.

In their varying stages of ripeness, Fuyus are used in chutneys and salsas, salads, desserts and baking.

Beware: If you’re unfamiliar with persimmons, don’t confuse the Fuyu in this post with the Hachiya, that other Japanese variety in season, or you may have a very unpleasant experience.

While Fuyus can be eaten crisp, Hachiyas cannot be eaten until they’re extremely soft. Bite into one before it’s ready and you’ll encounter a bitter taste and an astringent effect that can make it difficult to swallow. It made me avoid Hachiyas for years.  You can distinguish the two by their shape: Compared to the round, tomato-shaped Fuyus in my photos, Hachiyas are elongated and acorn-shaped.

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U.S. readers, Thanksgiving is around the corner. Maybe go a bit rogue this year and add Fuyu persimmons to your feast? You’ll find many appealing recipes online, from salads and chutneys to apple-persimmon pie.

If you enjoy Fuyu persimmons, what’s your favorite way to eat them?

Copyright M. Vincent 2019

Persimmon photos copyright M. Vincent 2019