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Preview: Life's a Picnic

Life's a Picnic

Photographing people, places and food! Eating and traveling on a budget. Life's a picnic, enjoy!

Updated: 2018-03-07T09:42:01.905-08:00


Instagram Ready


A simple toast/tartine for breakfast. Mostly healthy, beautiful and easy to make. All ready for Instagram!
Instagram Ready Breakfast

Oroweat Russian Rye
 TJ's whipped cream cheese
TJ.s mini heirloom tomatoes
TJ.s Pastrami style smoked salmon
 Fresh basil
TJ's Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Playing With Food


Food photo fun!
photo capture April 3, 2017 Amtrak Coast Starlight Dining Car
Photo effect Prisma Filter

Polenta for Breakfast


Avril made an updated version of what she had as a child, "fried mush." We had polenta last night as a side dish with chicken. The leftover was spread in a square dish and refrigerated. Today she cut the solid polenta and sautéed in olive oil and butter. When caramelized she plated, the now soft center polenta, with a honey drizzle and chiffonade of basil. Breakfast is served!  
Fried Polenta with Honey and Basil

Pho Ramen Mash Up


It is pouring rain and the skies are grey. This is a soup day if there ever was one. I scoured the pantry and came across a packet of Pho broth mix that I had purchased many moons ago. There is always some ramen noodles hanging out, so I put the two together with some roast beef, basil, lime and left over veg. Yummy!
Pho Ramen 

No Meat Monday


Field Roast Grain Meat Taco
My son is now committed to a meat free diet. He made these tacos from Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Grain Meat. Damn good food!

New Years Toast!


This time of year we tend to hibernate. We have made resolutions to eat healthier and not spend money like we had a lot. With those resolutions in mind Avril made bread and I butchered avocado for this delicious toast.
Avocado Toast

Peanut Butter Jelly Time!


Peanut Butter Jelly Time!
Alvarado St. Bakery sprouted California Style Bread,  Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves,   Trader Joe's salted creamy style peanut butter,  Rustic cutting board from Minkoff Custom Knives Astoria Oregon.

Pastry Love


Pastry Love
I think the photo speaks for itself!
Creekside Bakery Novato, Ca.

Cofee and Camera in the Garden


Every year we plant a small garden off the back deck. This year has been a slow starer but we are finally seeing some results. Early morning is a great time for photos so I gathered my coffee and camera and came up with some tomato still life photos. Nothing better than home grown tomatoes!

Meal Inspiration


As I surf the inter-webs sometimes ideas leap into my brain. In a Bon Appetit "Road Trip Week" article, by Rick Matinez,  he remembers tacos his parents brought along for their road journey. My kids'  memories would be of Triscuits and Easy Cheese, our warm weather road trip staples. In our defense we got a lot more creative after our arrival. During our vacations to Disneyland we would rent a hotel with a small fridge and a microwave. It was long before the days of prerequisite free hotel breakfasts, so we  brought our  Black + Decker toaster oven. It was almost like having our own secret kitchen. Breakfasts of toasted bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter were favorites. On a couple of days we bought very inexpensive Pan Dulce and orange juice from the Mexican Market next door. Trying to usher four kids around the market was like herding cats, so i promised them they could split  two packages of Pinguinos if they were good. Dinner items included hot dogs, frozen pizza and macaroni - cheese. For the vegetable-fruit meal components we bought snack packs of carrots, celery and sliced apples. We had the best times and did not bust the bank.

We decided on a small road trip to a local park today so I used Mr. Martinez taco for frugal inspiration. I put together some breakfast tacos and a thermos of coffee for less than three bucks. We drove past the Starbucks and headed to the park. Happy weekend!
Frugal Breakfast Taco

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!


The low cost home family meal experience continues. The family style platter below features citrus marinated chicken tenders (Kirkland), harvest grain blend (Trader Joe's) and garlic spinach ( Costco). This was a huge amount of food for the two of us! We used the leftovers for a fritatta breakfast  the next day. The total food cost was under six dollars! Eat good and be frugal.

Citrus Marinated Chicken Tenders

Budget Realignment


Due to an unforeseen decrease on the income side of our budget, a realignment was required on the spending side. One of the easiest cutbacks on spending is entertainment. I love to travel and eat at restaurants and blog about it. That is on hold for now.  Budget seemed like a obscure profane word!
We budgeted before and still had a wonderful time while the kids grew up. An attitude adjustment was in order. Eat well and have a good time on a frugal budget!  The credit cards  are paid and will stay that way for a while. With a little effort one can self entertain. Food and wine, in good company, tastes just as good on a budget. A three dollar bottle of Charles Shaw is on par with the forty dollar bottle at the hotel bar. What shall I blog about? Our food for sure! Look out for some budget home cooked meals. Lets start with a dinner at my place. Teriyaki marinated pork loin, creamy polenta and grilled green beans with tomatoes. What would you pay at a restaurant? The total food cost for this meal was under six dollars. A bottle of Charles Shaw added three bucks to the tab. Under ten bucks for a huge dinner for two! That is pretty darn cheap way to entertain.
Dinner at my place!

A Work in Progress


Emeryville Public Market

Any long term reader knows we like to take the train when traveling, boarding at the  Emeryville Amtrak Station for all our destinations. Before this train trip to Portland we hung out around the station. We were in hungry mode so we strolled over to the Emeryville Public Market. What a change is happening there! New stores and food shops shine. They have opened up the place in what I would call industrial chic style.  For a food photographer, the skylights provide an abundance of natural light. We wandered a bit and decided on Koja Kitchen, a Korean/Japanese fusion, fast - casual restaurant,  that started as a food truck. Avril chose the chicken Koja, burger style with garlic rice cakes subbing in for buns. I had the beef bowl, a rice bowl with lots of flavorful toppings. Both items were wonderful! In this age of Instagram Koja Kitchen's plating was camera ready, no styling or fluffing necessary. Feast your eyes!
Chicken Koja - Koja Kitchen Emeryville
Beef Bowl - Koja Kitchen Emeryville

Burger Burger!


Been traveling a bit and find that burgers are a go to item on our journeys. Even at some high cost hotel restaurants there is usually a reasonably priced burger on the menu. Portion sizes are always huge and we can normally split an order. In the downtown Portland area there many happy hours menus offering cheap wine and burgers under nine dollars. Wine and burgers! I scrolled through my photos of the last couple years and found lots of burgers. This collage should make you want a burger!
Burgers a plenty!

I Toast You!


There has been much written about toast lately. Depending on what side you fall, it is the best thing happening or it will lead to the hipster takeover of the world. Blah! Toast has been around forever. It is as healthy or unhealthy as you make it. Toast is simple, inexpensive and in my little world very photogenic. Enjoy!
Toast My Way

Blog Support Runaway Weekday


Before being charged with blog neglect and have to pay blog support, I best get back in the game! We made it a point to stay out of the crowds at Superbowl. Loads of people and high prices is not my idea of a good time. Avril had a job interview in the city Tuesday after the Superbowl. Rather than drive to the city or getting up before dawn to bus it, we decided to grab a room the night before. Hotwire produced a four and half star room at the Omni Hotel for a great price. The day before it would have been four times the price. We took the Larkspur ferry to San Francisco, after driving around for half an hour looking for a parking space in their lot. I hope the SMART Train connection happens in my lifetime! In the city Superbowl was still evident. They had begun to dismantle the structures that had closed the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street but the huge building signs remained.Superbowl SignsI has been a while for me being in the financial district and I was amazed that everyone walked eyes buried in their cell phones! We checked into the Omni. It is a beautiful place and remarkably quiet even though it is in the middle of traffic anarchy.Omni Hotel San FrancicoOmni Hotel San FranciscoIt was cocktail time and we decided to try the bar at Bob's Steak and Chophouse, located adjacent to the lobby. Avril had a cosmo and I, some savignon blanc. The drinks were $17 each!! Admittedly they were huge and came with a sweet, hot and addictive bar mix.  The people watching was fantastic. This is a place to see and be seen! Dress nice.Bob's Bar at the Omni Hotel San FranciscoThe next morning  I walked next door to Starbucks and grabbed coffee to fuel Avril for her meeting. It went well and she is hoping for a positive result. Still loving San Francisco![...]

I've Been Everywhere


The Johnny Cash song "I've been everywhere,"  plays in the background as I pen this blog. The song has been used in multiple commercials for travel and is appropriate for my travels of late. I have been absent from my blog instead choosing the instant gratification of Instagram and Twitter to mark my travels. I'm slowing the pace here and playing blog catch up.The final stop on our Alaska cruise was Victoria B.C. All cruise ships that board in the U.S. must have one stop outside the country to comply with U.S. law. This is quite O.K. with us. We love Victoria and have been here on several occasions. We decided to check out Fisherman's Wharf, a short walk from the ship port. I was expecting something commercial like the San Francisco Wharf. Instead it was a low profile wharf with a cute combo of business, residences and fishing boats. Add this to the places we could live. We had no plans or agenda, just to go with the flow. I have found the best adventures occur spontaneously! We wandered about and just then a water taxi showed up and we leaped aboard!Fisherman's Wharf Victoria B.C.Water Taxi Victoria B.C.Downtown Harbor Victoria B.C. On of our favorite spots to photograph in Victoria is the Empress Hotel. There is such a beautiful garden area with lots of flowers ready to pose for pictures.Rose Empress Hotel Victoria B.C.Here is where the spontaneous adventure occurred. We knew there were bee hives on property and as we approached there was a bee keeper working. He wore no protective gear but both he and the bees were real mellow. The bee keeper explained he was winterizing the bees. Avril has always wanted to keep bees so this was a totally awesome experience! I was in photographic heaven! Can you plan this stuff? A free show included.Bee Keeper Empress Hotel Victoria B.C.[...]

Glaciers - Icebergs and Irish Coffee!


A wonderful part of our cruise was traveling up Tracy Arm Fjord to Sawyer Glacier. No getting off and on the ship,  just a scenic journey with spectacular views accessible from a deck chair. As we entered the fjord I took up position on Lido Deck aft. I secured my deck chair,  garbed in  my warmest gear, with cameras ready. I was overlooking the stern pool watching were we had been. Having taken this trip before, I knew when we arrived at Sawyer Glacier the ship would turn around affording me a brilliant view of the glacier. Avril likes to be more mobile, so she wandered about using what photographers call the run and gun.Entering Tracy Arm Fjord AlaskaAvril - Intrepid Travel PhotographerTracy Arm Fjord AlaskaTracy Arm Fjord AlaskaBy now the crowds had begun to get larger. Princess, in method of marketing genius,  had a crew member rolling around a cart selling made to order Irish Coffee. He has made up a chant to sell his wares. "Oh we... get your Irish Coffee...make you happy... make you beautiful.... Irish Coffee oh we!"Irish Coffee vendor Golden Princess Alaska CruiseAs if on cue, two modelesque guys striped down to bathing suits and jumped into the warm pool. I wonder if they provided a well thought out photo opportunity or were just a couple of spontaneous, wild and crazy guys!Warm pools and icebergs Princess Alaska CruiseTracy Arm Fjord AlaskaSawyer Glacier Alaska[...]

Catch You in Ketchikan


We had a mission of sorts when we arrived in Ketchikan.  Avril's colleague raved about a restaurant in town called the Alaska Fish House.  He loved their smoked salmon chowder,  made with canned salmon. He had tried in vain to purchase their canned salmon online and  hoped that we could pick up some and bring it back to him.  We wandered the pretty downtown knowing we  would make our last stop the Fish House. The town was crazy busy because there was at least four big cruise ships docked. We dodged many a seagoing tourist.  It turns out there is no retail salmon sales at the Fish House! They must have seen the disappointment on our faces and were kind enough to send us down the street to the Salmon Marketwhere we loaded up on salmon for him and us.  Another beautiful day in Alaska!
Ketchikan Alaska 
Golden Princess Ketchikan Alaska 

Golden Princess Ketchikan Alaska 

Train Day in Skagway Alaska


Our second stop in Alaska was Skagway. We decided to do a shore excursion sold by Princess. I love riding trains and ships, this day we did both!  White Pass and Yukon Scenic Railroad pulls their train up to the ship and you jump on-board for  ride up and down the mountain. I wish it was  more sunny and clear day, but I still got some good photos! Click on the photo below for a slide show of our trip.

Skagway Alaska

Naturally when we got back to the ship the sun came out. The view from deck 14 was magnificent!
Golden Princess Skagway Alaska
Golden Princess Skagway Alaska

Exciting Days!


In the last three weeks we  have done all kinds of things! We took a ten day cruise to Alaska, celebrated forty years of marriage, became new grandparents and traveled, to and from, Portland on the Amtrak Coast Starlight. We had many fine meals and gathered award points from Marriott and Hyatt Hotels. Avril has been amazing! She is  pleasure to travel with and somehow manages to juggle work and personal time with grace. Thank God for high speed internet access and happy hour wine! I just now sat down and started to sort out all this adventure and figure out how to blog about it. I think I will hit the highlights a little at a time.Stern Pool Golden Princess- Looking back to San FranciscoRainy day in Juneau!The first stop of the cruise was Juneau. It was rainy and cold so we did not spend much time on shore. We wandered about in the bluster and ended up at Taku Store. We bought lots of salmon as souvenirs and gifts. In my brain, edible souvenirs are the best. We headed back to the ship for early dinner time in the Crown Grill Steakhouse, to celebrate forty years! Our great kids had prearranged gifts of champagne and wine and somehow managed to convince Princess to comp the cover charge for the Crown Grill. We both ordered filet mignon and lobster, our favorite! The entree arrived on huge plates surrounded by more plates with mushrooms, fries and grilled asparagus. It was the smallest item on the menu but still a enormous amount of food. I was wishing I had skipped breakfast and lunch!Crown Grill Golden PrincessGolden Princess a great place for our anniversary![...]

Happy Anniversary!


Princess Cruises is celebrating 50 years! We thought it was appropriate to celebrate our 40th anniversary on board the Golden Princess north to Alaska. Forty years! It was an arranged marriage, she was 6 and I was 9. Insert smiley face here!! ;)

Happy Fifty Princess Cruises!
 One of our favorite things to do on a cruise ship is eat! My favorite meal of the day is breakfast and the Golden Princess is a great place to eat it. I like to have two breakfasts! Breakfast number one is at 630 a.m. in the Piazza with coffee drinks and pastry.
Cappuccino Piazza Golden Princess Alaska
Pastry! Golden Princess Alaska
 Breakfast number one proceeds walking the decks for me, and Zumba for Avril. Got to work up an appetite for breakfast two at 1030! I have not had grits in many a day. So many breakfast choices in the Horizon Court Buffet!
Buffet Breakfast Golden  Princess Alaska

Power Breakfast !


We are in San Francisco to begin our latest journey. It is breakfast and we decide on our favorite spot Americano, inside Hotel Vitale. On entering I notice a large covey of suited business men. It appears Americano is THE spot for San Francisco politicos to meet and greet in the morning. Faces included former mayor Willie Brown and journalist Phil Matier. These guys know good food!!
Power breakfast Americano - Hotel Vitale San Francisco
We felt a little out of place casually dressed and Avril was mad I told her not to put on makeup. I think it was George Gobel who said, "Did you ever get the feeling the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?"

Living the Tomato Life


It's tomato season! Get one while they're ripe and sweet! Here is a breakfast "recipe."
Homemade Tomato Sando
Homemade Open Face Tomato Sandwich

"Recipe" and sourcing.

Whole wheat loaf, Creekside Bakery
Red tomato, homegrown
Best Foods Mayonnaise aka Hellman's Real Mayonnaise
Yellow Heirloom tomato, Harvest Market
Trader Joe's pink Hawaiian salt, fresh ground
Trader Joe's pepper, fresh ground

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Coffee Talking


The coffee kicked in and cleared my head this morning. As I cruised social media I realized i'm not the only coffee head around. If I had a dollar for every cup of coffee pictured on social media I would be a very wealthy man. I cruised through my photos over the year and made a collage of my caffeinated indulgences.
Coffee Talking
My home brew method is a little less photogenic. I hand grind the beans and use a Harrio pour over.
Coffee is a very profitable product. At home you provide the labor and save over eighty percent of the cost of a cup. I must admit it is fun to hang out and watch the coffee crowd.
Harrio Pour Over