For better or worse, here I am—trapped in paradise. As long as I continue to live in this vital, inimitable spot on the globe,

I will continue to seek out the unique…the delicious…the innovative products, services and traditions of San Luis Obispo County.

Stay posted for a few of my favorite things.

About Me...

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A wanderlust at heart... captivated by the California Central Coast. Join me on my culinary and vino-infused adventures as I explore and discover the regional novelties of San Luis Obispo County that make living here...easy to stay...and hard to leave.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 Cayucos Polar Bear Dip

At high noon today, screams erupted in unison as hundreds of scantily clad souls ran willingly into the frigid waters near Cayucos Pier. The Annual Carlin Soule Memorial Polar Bear Dip provided a crowd of gutsy participants and curious onlookers an exceptional way to ring in the new year in San Luis Obispo County.

Now in its 37th year, this California Central Coast tradition brought people together who thought nothing of plunging into the wintry waters of the Pacific Ocean. Some sported costumes, many wore bathing suits, and a scant few donned wet suits. No matter what their attire, they all melded harmoniously when rushing the icy waters in this long-standing tradition. 
My first year to ever attend this quirky event, I immediately got swept up in the fervor after arriving at Cayucos State Beach. Diverse characters wandered the sand wearing bright hats and punky wigs, others rollicked in polar bear pajamas. I caught sight of Santa Claus, Elvis Presley, super heroes, a band of pirates, a family of pink pigseven Hugh Hefner and his surly bunnies

When the time neared 12 o'clock, I snagged a prime spot on the pier and waited for the announcer's booming go-ahead to start the polar bear dip. The gutsy crowd charged forward, straight into the brisk waves. Amidst the joyous screeches and wails that soon erupted as the new year washed ashore, I understood the allure of this intense SLO County deluge.

This annual tradition allows some to be creative, many to be brave, others to be curious, and more than just a few to experience pure elation. Not a bad way to start 2017. Happy New Year!

Click the video above to view some of the fun from this year's polar bear dip!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

San Luis Obispo County Public Art Festivals

Creativity is contagious throughout San Luis Obispo County. As we “moove” into the autumn season along California’s Central Coast, 101 life-size fiberglass cows stand gleaming in various locales around the county. 

CowParade, an international public art event that raises money for local non-profits, brings sponsors and artists together to create expertly crafted bovines. One-of-a-kind works of art such as “The Vineyard Diva,” “Dia de Los Toros,” “Moo with a View,” “Joie de Vivre,” and “Cow-a-fornia Cow” are on display until May 2017, when they will be auctioned off to charity. 

To track down SLO County’s embellished cattle, visit CowParade’s website for a trail map.

While you’re out exploring the cow trail, consider heading north on Highway 1 to visit the offbeat coastal community of Cambria. The annual Cambria Scarecrow Festival unleashes the power of imagination during the entire month of October. Over five hundred whimsical scarecrows greet visitors outside Cambria and San Simeon businesses, where folksy creations like “Queen of the Sea,” “Barb-B-Crow,” and “Buttercup,” are definitely not your average straw decoys.
If scarecrows and cows can transform into public art, then why not surfboards? The sleepy seaside town of Morro Bay is hosting its third annual Surfboard Art Festival. Used surfboards are revamped into artist canvases, and almost 30 boards are on display in various sponsoring Morro Bay businesses. Click here for a map to find where these swell boards will hang through the beginning of December. You can bid on these tubular works of art at their December 3rd auction, with proceeds benefitting Morro Bay in Bloom.
Hopefully you’ll find time to visit these amped up San Luis Obispo County public art festivals, where imaginative cows, scarecrows and surfboards display artist’s visions, create community spirit, and ignite your creative senses. Enjoy!
"Dia de Los Toros"
Artist: Brandy Maynard
Sponsor: Oso Libre Winery

"The Vineyard Diva"
Artist: Mary Clark-Camargo
Sponsor: Cambria Tourism Board
"Cow-a-fornia Cow"
Artist: Kerry Donlan-Bowen
Sponsor: Ranchita Canyon Vineyard
"Joie de Vivre"
Artist: Debbie Gedayloo
Sponsor: HWY 101 Communications

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cambria: Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

San Luis Obispo County is wrapped up in a cold winter's spell. 

But the wintry conditions didn't stop me and some of my clan members from braving the elements on Christmas Day. For our family's Yuletide hiking adventure, we bundled up in fleece jackets and headed to the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

Situated on the bluffs of Cambria, this northern Central Coast cache is full of ecological treasures that span over 400 acres. With an immense network of trails that transport hikers along jagged cliffs and clattering waves, then up through grassy hills and hulking pine trees, this wide open preserve is a splendid place to explore no matter what time of year. 

Following are a few glimpses of this SLO County haven, which I hope you are lucky enough to traverse. Click here for more information and directions. 

Wide open spaces and wide open skies. 

Verdant grasses from the recent winter rain. 

A fortuitous winter rainbow!

Monday, December 14, 2015

2016 San Luis Obispo County Calendar

2015 is going, going...almost gone. 

I've put together a small calendar that includes some of my favorite San Luis Obispo County ocean scenes that I was fortunate enough to capture during the past year. If you'd like to order one, just click on the picture below. 

I hope your holidays are full of love and laughter and that 2016 is the year that all of your dreams take flight. 

Thank you for stopping by throughout the year!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Guanajuato, Mexico: Dia de Muertos 2015

A vendor's tablecloth in Guanajuato City, Mexico. 
I'm a human being first, an anthropologist second. At the end of October, I took my two selves to the state of Guanajuato in central colonial Mexico.

Leaving behind the comfortable surroundings of San Luis Obispo County, I delved into another country's tradition: Dia de Muertos

Day of the Dead—the Mexican holiday of remembrance that falls on the first two days of November—was remarkable. As an anthropologist, I keenly observed ornate altars and lively celebrations dedicated to departed family and friends. As a human being, I reflected on life and death. 

I am still processing my recent journey and will have more stories, pictures and videos to share, but for now I have this to say: Death is inevitable. Life is grand. Remember those who are gone and how you want to be remembered.

An altar at Universidad de Guanajuato. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pismo Beach Sunset: October 8, 2015

Over the last several years I've witnessed many breathtaking sunsets throughout San Luis Obispo County. But last Thursday's nightfall in Pismo Beach is one of the most divine displays of light I have ever seen—it literally brought me to my knees on the sand. 

As the sun started its twilight descent, molecules and small particles in the atmosphere scattered, generating a light show in the clouds and over the water that captivated everyone on the beach. Intense hues of gold, pink and lavender lit up the night sky.

Following is a short video of this symphony of colors. You can view more images from this dazzling evening by clicking here

Saturday, October 10, 2015

2015 Cambria Scarecrow Festival

During October, you never know who's going to show up in the free spirited town of Cambria. 

This year's Cambria Scarecrow Festival brings eccentric characters like E.T., Frankenstein and Tinkerbell to San Luis Obispo County.

In its sixth year, this festival attracts scarecrow enthusiasts who roam the thoroughfares of Cambria's bohemian villages in search of magical stuffed creations. 

Here's a peek at this year's visitors, who will line Cambria's streets through the end of October. 
I hope you find time for a visit!

Click here for more information on the festival. 
Hundreds of scarecrows are on display now through October 31 in Harmony, 
Cambria, Moonstone Beach Drive and San Simeon. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

One-Pot Farmers Market Pasta Recipe

My one-pot pasta recipe is a mouthful of easy. 

Made with fresh ingredients that I picked up at a San Luis Obispo County farmers market, this mixed-up seasonal dish is ripe with end-of-summer goodness and will carry your taste buds directly into the fall season. 

By throwing together the bright flavors of sweet red onions, colorful bell peppers, juicy crimson tomatoes, freshly-dug garlic and fragrant basil, this carefree dish bustles with flavor and is a snap to throw together. 

Prep your veggies, saute your onions and bell peppers, pulse your tomatoes and garlic, then let your pasta pot do the remainder of the work. As the vibrant ingredients bubble away with vegetable broth and dried noodles, all you have to do is keep an eye on the pot and stir every so often.

Maybe the best part of all? You don't have to drain the pasta. Just serve and indulge. 

One-Pot Farmers Market Pasta Recipe
Serves: 4 - 6


1 large onion, sliced
2 cups sliced colorful bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Pinch or two of raw sugar
4 cups vegetable broth
12 ounces dried spaghetti (I used pasta made with pureed tomatoes and carrots to pack in even more veggies and color)
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
8 ounces fresh mozzarella
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste


STEP 1: Get out your large pasta pot and heat up the olive olive oil over medium heat. Throw in your onions with a little salt and pepper and sweat for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often. 

STEP 2: Add the chopped bell pepper and stir, letting the mixture sweat for another 5 - 10 minutes. 

STEP 3: Add the tomatoes and garlic to a food processor along with a pinch or two of salt and pulse until melded. 

STEP 4: Add your tomato mixture to the onions and peppers. Then add the red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, and raw sugar. 
Stir and bring the heat up a little. 

STEP 5: Bring your veggie medley to a simmer and let it bubble for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Taste and adjust for seasonings, but don't over-salt as you'll be adding broth. 

STEP 6: Add the dried pasta and fresh basil. 

STEP 7: Add the broth, turn the heat up and bring it to a boil. Let it rip for 7 - 10 minutes, until pasta is cooked al dente. Stir the pasta frequently during this process as it keeps the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pan and also allows the starches to release and thicken up the flavorful sauce. 

STEP 8: Once the pasta is finished cooking and reaches al dente, taste and adjust for seasonings again. 

STEP 9: Serve up, top with sliced fresh mozzarella and shredded Parmesan cheese. 

A mouthful of easy!

Monday, September 7, 2015

San Luis Obispo County: Humpback Whale Euphoria

A humpback whale swimming near San Simeon Pier. 
Avila Beach. San Simeon. Morro Bay. Cambria. Pismo Beach. I've lost track of how many times I've spotted humpback whales along San Luis Obispo County's coastline this summer.  

Regardless of the number of times I snap photos of these gargantuan mammals, the sight of them gracefully frolicking along California's Central Coast never loses its magic. 

Last Wednesday I was in the right place at the right time. While standing on San Simeon Pier, three whales followed bait balls of fish around the cove. The trio included a mother and calf, who thrilled visitors from all over the world by lunging up out of the water together in perfect unison. 

Over the Labor Day weekend, I got wind that at least ten whales were feeding in Pismo Beach. What a sight. With so many whales spouting and lunging in so many places just past the pier, it was difficult to know where to point my camera. Just as I was about to leave, one of the giant beauties put on a grand lobtailing show. The whale dove down—leaving its tail in mid-air—smashing its flukes into the water over and over again.  

Following are a few videos of this past week's whale sightings. Enjoy SLO County's humpback euphoria. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

San Luis Obispo County: Hot August Days and Nights

Shell Beach sunset on August 29. 
San Luis Obipso County's fiery month reached a glowing finish. 

Some of the August highlights—both good and bad—included 2,400 acres burning just south of Santa Margarita in the Cuesta Fire, a great white shark chomping on a woman's surfboard in Morro Strand State Beach, humpback whales feeding along the Central Coast, and scorching sunsets lighting up the sky. 

Hats off to the 1,800 brave firefighters who brought the fire to a halt. Kudos to the gutsy Los Osos resident who swam to shore after the feisty shark bit her surfboard. Thank you to the giant mammals who continue to entertain us. Gratitude for the opportunity to witness kaleidoscopic evening skylines. 

Following are a few of my photo highlights for this hot August month.
 (sorry, no shark pictures

August 1: The juvenile humpback whale that's been feeding around San Simeon Bay since mid-July lunged up right in front 
of me while I was standing on the pier. A moment I'll never forget.

August 5: The Morro Bay sunset seduced everyone in its wake with a red-hot sliver of color. 

August 13: "Junior" the whale couldn't get enough to eat in San Simeon. 

August 17: The Cuesta Fire fumed up the San Luis Obispo skyline. 

August 29: On my second great sailing adventure this summer, I witnessed the after effects of a giant 
humpback whale breaching near Avila Beach. Boom!

August 30: This complacent humpback whale danced along Cambria's Moonstone Beach. 
August ended on a very cool note. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Summer Corn Chowder Recipe

The 12th Annual Paso Robles Olive Festival 
This past weekend I braved the triple digit heat and headed to northern San Luis Obispo CountyAt the Paso Robles Olive Festival, held in Paso's Downtown City Park, this annual event brought a legion of farmers, olive oil producers and epicurean tasters together for a celebration of olive that's good. 

I paid homage to the khaki-colored fruit—born by the tree that has symbolized peace, wisdom and prosperity since ancient Greek times—by meandering through the park's booths of modern-day purveyors. 

My discerning pick of the day? 

The extra-virgin Arbequina oil produced by the family-owned ranch, Templeton Olive Oil. Cold pressed within hours of harvest, this bright olive oil was fresh and clean on the palate, peppery on the finish. I picked up a bottle and put it to good use. 

Following is a corn chowder recipe I devised that utilized this healthy, rich, buttery olive oil, along with Talley Farm's fresh sweet summer corn and some other savory veggies. Summer might be hot, hot, hot, but this seasonal dish is well worth heating up your stove for a few hours. 

Serves 4 - 6


4 - 5 fresh ears of corn
1 1/2 - 2 cups red potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 - 3 cups chopped carrots
2 stalks chopped celery
1 large onion
8 cups vegetable broth
2 cups half-n-half or cream 
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Chardonnay (optional if you don't consume alcohol)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
A few sprigs of Italian parsley
2 bay leaves 
Salt & pepper to taste

If you don't consume dairy products, feel free to omit the cream. Although adding dairy lends an extra depth of richness and transforms your dish from mere soup into chowder, the end result will be still be summery and delicious. 


Shuck your fresh ears of corn, peeling away the husks and fibers. 

 Break the lower knob off the end of each cob. 
Hold cobs upright and securely in a large bowl. 
Slice downward and evenly to remove the kernels. 

Set your corn kernels aside. 


Place the naked cobs, vegetable broth, 1 bay leaf, a few sprigs of parsley, 
and some pepper into a large soup pot and bring to a boil. 
Place a lid on top, reduce heat and simmer for one hour. 


Remove the corn cobs and strain your fragrant,
 sweet broth into a glass bowl and set aside. 


In your soup pot over medium heat, add olive oil, onion, carrots, celery, thyme, 
and salt and pepper to taste. 
Sweat these veggies out, stirring frequently for 20 - 30 minutes, 
until the mixture starts to soften and slightly caramelize. 

Deglaze the pan with the wine (or some of the broth), stirring frequently for a few minutes.

Add the corn kernels and potatoes. 

Add the broth, one bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste, then stir. 
Kick up the heat to bring to a low boil. 
Let it roll uncovered for 20 - 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Don't forget to taste test along the way for seasonings!

STEP 10 
Turn the heat down to medium-low and get out your blender. 
Purée between three to four cups of the mixture and add back to the soup. 

STEP 11 
Add the cream (if desired) and simmer for about ten minutes. 
Taste again and adjust for seasonings. 

STEP 12 
Ladle up and enjoy the remainder of your summer!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

San Simeon Bay: Baby Humpback Whale

A baby humpback whale makes its debut in San Simeon Bay in July 2015.
The days of mid-1800's whaling are long since over in the town of San SimeonNowadays, whales still migrate along the Central Coast of California but are protected—as well as revered. 

Late last week I heard about a humpback whale and her calf who were spotted feeding in San Simeon Bay. I couldn't resist a trip up San Luis Obispo's northern coast to try and catch a glimpse of these magnificent mammals. 

Last Friday I showed up mid-morning at the William R. Hearst Memorial State Park and headed straight to San Simeon Pier. With my camera readied and my expectations high, I arrived to find a small crowd of onlookers peering out to the east side of the pier. Amidst the breaking fog and the local bird life, the juvenile humpback whale weaved its way in and out of kelp beds. 

Left in the safe enclave of the bay while its mother went out to sea, the young humpback followed schools of anchovy, and over the next several hours (I stayed until my camera battery went kaput) the 15 - 20 foot barnacled beauty circled around both sides of the pier, providing us human bystanders with the thrill of a lifetime. While standing on the pier, people came and went throughout the day, and I listened to languages spoken by visitors from all over the world. Every time we caught a glimpse of the whale reemerging, or bursting up out of the cool, clear water in a head lunge—the universal excitement and pure joy felt by everyone was unmistakable.

A day I'm sure none of us will ever forget, and a whale of a time. 

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