Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Holiday Boat Cruise on Newport Harbor, Southern California

The month of December is set aside for seasonal tours, and one of them is to go on a holiday boat cruise around Newport Harbor. Except for some blocked-off dates for the Newport Beach Boat Parade from December 14 - 18, boat rides are scheduled for the holiday fun seekers who are delighted with a sort of festival of lights, or a "parade of lights" as it is commonly referred to, when Newport Harbor is brightly illuminated with decorated boats, yachts, and homes that dot the coastlines of the different islands.
The Newport Harbor holiday boat cruise has been a tradition for over a 100 years, and it has become a popular Christmas holiday attraction for the locals and tourists. With several companies offering this thrilling boat ride at this time of the year, there is room for over a million people to come to see the themed Christmas lights all around Newport harbor.

This year, my friends and family were among those who took this cruise.
A view of the Balboa Pavilion which is next to the Fun Zone

Without checking how to get to the take off point, I drove through Balboa Island, from the mainland, only to realize that we had to take the Balboa Island Ferry to get to the other side. The Balboa Island Ferry provides the people and car ferry service across the harbor to the southern end which is the Balboa Peninsula, where the Fun Zone area is. 

It was a 5 minute, scenic ride in a three-car ferryboat, and then we rushed and  parked and hurried to the ticket counter to present our pre-bought coupon vouchers in the nick of  time, for the 5:30 schedule. A second boat was added as there was an overflow of people in the first one, maybe, because there were  discounted coupon deals offered by several daily-deal companies that brought in a much bigger crowd.

We departed from the Fun Zone near the Newport Beach Nautical Museum to start our holiday cruise around the harbor, on Newport Bay.
The night was perfect - with a full moon, clear skies, and just a bit chilly in Newport Bay. 
From a distance, we could see the homes decorated with Christmas lights along the coast of Balboa Island.

This area of Newport Beach is actually comprised of three islands in Newport Harbor, with Balboa Island being the largest one, and to the east is Little Balboa Island which is smaller, and these two are joined by a two-lane bridge. Collins Island, which is a private, residential  property, is the smallest one, situated northwest of Balboa Island, joined to it by a very short and gated one-lane bridge. The island grouping is connected to the mainland via Jamboree Road, by way of a two-lane bridge, on the northeast side of Balboa Island. 
The moon seemed to show up all around us.

The Gingerbread House

The round white images in some of my pictures are "orbs."

I clean my camera lens each time I go out to take pictures. For sure, these white spots are all part of the scene I am shooting. "Orbs" is the term for them. There is a bit of controversy as to what these mysterious images are. The usual definition for an orb is "a spherical body, a globe." With the appearance of these mysterious forms in photos taken with digital cameras, they are identified as spirits in paranormal circles.
This is the two-lane bridge that connects Balboa Island to the mainland, straight from Jamboree Road.

Today, Balboa Island is very densely populated, even more than San Francisco. The real state values rank among the highest in the nation. It's a quaint town with a European flavor, with easy access to the bay. Homes located on the island's perimeter have their own docks. Its mixed population of retirees, professionals, celebrities, and students is augmented by the influx of tourists during the holiday and summer months. Much of the action after spending time in water activities takes place on the main street, where many restaurants, fashion and craft stores will get your attention.
Our tour of the lit-up homes on Lido Isle was next. 

Across from Balboa Island and Collins Island is Lido Isle, a man-made island that was made a part of Newport Beach in 1906. Originally "part sandbar and part mudflat," it is now a residential area for about 1,800 people. Some of  the "Who's Who" among the rich and famous call this place home. Included in the roster of residents are big business owners, sports figures, and celebrities.

This is one of several yacths already decorated with lights, moored in front of the owner's house.

The parade of gaily decorated boats began in the 1920s when a man named J. Scarpa decorated his gondola with lights. He inspired other boat owners to do the same thing. This has led to the annual "Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade."

Boat owners who take part in the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade spend $50,000.00 and up, to dress up their vessels in Christmas holiday lights and decorations. This event has become so popular and has become the biggest harbor boat parade in the whole world, and it can be seen from as far as Catalina Island. It is a popular holiday event to watch, especially for tourists who come to visit Southern California during the mildly, cold winter season. In a seasonal tour scheduled for four days only, dubbed as  the "Newport Beach Harbor Christmas Parade of Lights," the boat ride will take you up-close to the participants cruising up-and-down and around Newport Harbor.

The former location of John Wayne's residence

One of the Newport Beach old timers was John Wayne. His real name was Marion Morrison and he was a football player for USC. His sports career was waylaid by an injury while he was bodysurfing near the Balboa pier. One of his football fans was a cowboy star, Tom Mix, who got him a job as a prop man at Fox Studios. His good looks were soon discovered by John Ford, while he was loading some articles onto a truck at the Fox lot.

In 1966, he left Beverly HIlls to move back to Newport Beach. With his failing health, he found the fresh and sea air of Newport Beach more suitable for him. He settled down in a waterfront location, in a one-story, ten-bedroom, seven-bathroom house. His ranch-style residence, at the tip of Bayshore Drive, had a swimming pool. Right in front of his house, his yacth "The Wild Goose" was moored, which he continued to sail until his death in 1979.

Pilar Wayne, John Wayne's Peruvian-born wife - the mother of his three children and an accomplished woman as an author, artist, restauranteur, and interior decorator - continued to live in their home after his passing. When the residence was sold, the property was bought by a couple - the owners of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. It was torn down and a brand-new house was built in modern style. This property is now valued at six million dollars.

The Snoopy-themed decorated house

Some of the interiors of the homes are visible to the onlookers.

The residence of singer, songwriter, and actress, Cyndi Lauper, who achieved fame in the 1980s

Residential and business establishments on Coast Highway
We are almost back at the Fun Zone. This was a family and friends thing to do this Christmas season, and we are sure glad we got to do it. At other times of the year, there are other guided, harbor tours to take and enjoyable things to do in this part of town.

As this year comes to an end, I wish you a very happy new year. 

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Old Towne Orange Farmers and Artisans Market

I was in search of a Christmas market, online, instead, I came across the Old Towne Orange Farmers and Artisans Market link. What was inviting was that for the holiday season the Artists Alley, featuring specialty arts and crafts, had been added. There is one more Saturday to catch this, December 17, and then things will be back to normal at this market.

Open all -year round from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., this market is set up in Chapman University's Historic Villa Orchards Packinghouse. The Villa Park Orchards Packinghouse was formerly owned by the Santiago Orange Growers Association (SOGA) which was organized in 1912 when a group of local growers got together to harvest, pack, and market their fruit products. It was the largest packing house for fruits in the city of Orange in 1918. The Villa Parks Orchard Association's (VPOA) operations were moved here in 1967, when SOGA went out of business.

Orange County was mainly planted to oranges in the 1940s. The orange groves comprised 65,000 acres of the territory. With the residential and commercial development in the county in the last five decades, the orange groves have been reduced to less than a 100 acres. 

In 2004, Chapman University purchased the packinghouse and leased it back to VPOA. By 2006, the packing operations had ceased and the plant was left vacant. Orange Home Grown Inc. (OHGI) - an association of long-time Orange residents, aims to work on cultivating a healthy community. Through educational programs for the families in the community, with emphasis on "wholesome nutrition, sustainable prices, health and fitness, and strengthening neighborhood and  community relationships" they have been successful in their efforts.

It is so fitting to find a market in this place, once a center for local farmers to pack their produce to market. In partnership with Chapman University, OHGI has organized the Old Towne Orange Farmers and Artisans Market. Local California farmers and artisans have been given a place to bring their products to sell, to the community.

To my surprise, my visit here has turned out to be some kind of an educational tour as I learned new things. What attracted my attention were some of the banners' messages, which were succinct, descriptive, and question provoking in my mind.
Does this mean it's organic?   
I found bee keeper/honey expert, Bill Walter of Guerilla Beekeepers, to answer my question.

I have bought organic honey elsewhere in the world and have been looking for one, locally. According to Bill, the USDA has not formalized any standards to certify honey production as organic. Perhaps, it's understandable when you think about the population of the bee colonies who travel within a 6 mile radius in search of flowers to draw nectar from, to bring back to their beehives. In this case, Guerilla Beekeepers maintains their surroundings for their bee colonies chemical-free, pesticide-free, and also by keeping their bee colonies healthy through natural means. Therefore, no antibiotics are used to keep the beehives disease-free. Just regular maintenance. In my books, this is organic.

Bee colonies are so important in our eco system. They are nature's pollinator. They create a third of what we eat. We need to protect them and keep them around. This group specializes in residential and commercial honeybee rescue and relocation. 
Aside from their unfiltered honey that is produced in Silverado Canyon, Southern California, they now carry a rich, natural, nourishing line of facial and body products from the uncontaminated wax derived from the beehives.  

Organic produce from Ray's Ranch of Temecula

When people look to a nutritional approach to healing, organic raw fruits and vegetable play an important part in healing the body. Much of the websites that talk about the raw food diet, juicing, detoxification have their roots in the Gerson Therapy that was developed by Dr. Max Gerson in the 1920s. He found, through the process of elimination, that the foods that cured him of his severe migraine condition was by eating organic fruits and vegetables, and detoxification through coffee enemas. He passed on this diet to his other patients who also got cured, not just of their migraines but also of their other diseases. Eating organic produce is free of chemical, pesticides, and fungicides, which are toxins to the body and impair liver functions.

The nutritional approach to healing many serious conditions seems to be the most effective, and economical in the long run. Since natural treatment protocols cannot be tested in the laboratory, they are not FDA approved. I invite you to read about it, understand it, and try it. 

At Ray's Ranch, other organic foods can be sourced for those who want to eat healthy.

DeyDey's Best Beef Ever products come from their ranch in Santa Rital Hills. They are hormone and antibiotic free, grass fed, and "pasture raised.".

What a difference it is to eat grass-fed meat and poultry. They are more tasty, tender and leaner. With the promise of bigger livestock at an accelerated rate, farmers began giving grain feed to their animals. In time, it has been discovered that animals fed with a low-fiber diet have nice marbled meat but are higher in cholesterol levels. Back to basics. Livestock farmers are beginning to give the animals their natural food, grass. It's the same scenario with poultry.

Rancho La Viña's organically grown premium, coastal walnuts 

This is a first for me, to come across organic walnuts. When I sampled it, it was sweet tasting. That sweetness turns out to be characteristic of walnuts grown along the coast. It takes 5 years of maintaining a farm according to approved organic standards, with the use of only natural means, for it to be certified organic. Chemical and pesticide free, Rancho La Viña farms (since 1869) in Santa Rita Hills on the central coast of California continue to raise livestock and grow agricultural products suited to the soil and climate in the area.

If you look at a walnut, it looks like the brain. This will help us remember that walnuts are brain food with 15 to 20 per cent protein, containing omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, vitamin E and Vitamin B6. As nourishment for the nervous system, walnuts help us to be in good spirits as it has anti-depressant effects from the omega 3 acids.
Aside from a variety of walnuts, waiting to be certified organic is their walnut oil. This oil is manufactured from walnuts coming from three farms. Two have been certified organic, and the third one is in the process of being certified, soon.

So Good Gluten-Free Foods' line of products  for those who suffer from celiac disease and other auto-immune diseases

More and more people are being diagnosed with celiac disease, fibromyalgia, and other auto immune diseases. These diseases have symptoms that overlap, so it is easy to mistake one for the other. Going on a gluten-free diet is one of the major steps to take, to start feeling better. For the celiacs, being on a gluten-free diet is for life.

Lindy Pine, the chef and owner, draws from her personal experience of fighting an auto-immune disease. It is for this reason that she has created this line of products made in a dedicated gluten-free facility in Temecula.

There is more to see in this market:
From the Fat-Plant Man's stand - adeniums, pachypodiums, desert tropicals, and caudiciforms

To us, these are simply cactus varieties or succulent plants. Cliff Meng started as a hobbyist,  getting a cutting of this and that, or buying a plant each week, as a reward for giving up  smoking. After gathering a small collection of these beauties, he started to join shows. Propagating and selling them became the next thing do. Speaking engagements came after. This  has become his home business that supports him and his wife in their retirement. These all started about thirty years ago.

Using these plants in ornamental containers and landscape gardening have become the vogue.  You can see them in nurseries, specialty stores, in mall landscaping, and in some people's homes. If you know enough about them, they are easy to maintain. For a wide variety to choose from, get in touch with The Fat-Plant Man himself.

From Maureen Mac Donald of Springbrook Studios

Maureen works out of her kitchen to design her ceramic creations. It is something she had studied when she was younger, and got back into it after she retired from working an eight-hour job. This hobby has grown into her business. Here are her unique, hand built Christmas ornaments, bowls, plates, tiles, and other decorative and functional items. 

LOVE Propagation finds another way to send out the "seeds of love, peace and joy." 

Wear a button or a bandana to deliver this message. Or, give them as gifts. A bandana can be decorative as a fashion accessory, useful  to wrap or carry something, and in this case, a good way to deliver positive messages to others, to lift their spirits.

Love Propagation partners with local charities, donating a percentage of their earnings to help them financially. In the spirit of giving, let's join together to bring love, peace, and joy to others.

In the artists alley, there were other vendors of fashion jewelry and accessories. If you are running out of ideas, you may find gift items here for some on your Christmas lists.

Goodies from...

Debbie's Homemade Delights' baked goods and sweet and savory dips and sauces

Debbie offers a sampling of her products. I had a taste of the Basil Pesto and that was so good. Her baked products are served in several coffeehouses in Orange.

Cookies for all occasions, made from traditional Italian recipes by the Angel Bites Cookie Co.

A taste of their cookies brought me back to a memorable visit to as faraway as Florence, when I entered a shop there specializing in cookies. Amaretto is one flavor I like. For my order, I will take the biscotti to dip in my thick chocolate.

Prepared-food stalls:

From Mom's Specialty Foods - Mediterranean appetizers, taboule salad, pita bread, hummus, grape leaves and more

Our palates have become so international. Mediterranean influences in what we eat is so common, anywhere we go. There is a great variety of products from Mom's Specialty Foods, at this market. It will be so easy to have a Mediterranean meal ready in an instant, when you get home.

Tamales - a traditional, Mexican dish

It is made with masa - a starchy dough that is usually corn based. It is filled with different ingredients: pork, beef, chicken, cheese, sweet corn, fruits and vegetables in a variety of preparations. It is wrapped in corn husk and steamed in a flavored liquid. Delicious and filling! The early preparations of tamales are traced back to the Ancient Mayans.

The artisan bread selection from OC Baking Company

On a Saturday, it is likely that you will run into executive baker Dean Kim, himself, to  give you recommendations on which bread to use for your sandwich preparation or for your lunch or dinner bread pairings. With it's proximity to this community, the OC Baking Company's facility which is located in Orange, assures their  consumers of freshly-made daily bread. 

Sweet treats from Sweet Lilikoi Patisserie - French pastries, cakes, candies, and confections.  

This patisserie's pastries and sweets are made under the watchful eye of pastry chef, Louise Chien. If you love French pastries, you can find croissants, macarons and other sweet and delightful things that are typically French, locally made in Orange. 

This is a delightful market with something for the health conscious, the decadent in tastes, and the creative. It has attracted fabricants from Orange and the nearby cities, and the farmers from around Orange County. Come visit and see for yourself. 

As for me, there is an emphasis on my part to eat healthy. It's the natural way to healing, with no drug side effects. Eating organic foods makes a big difference in getting and feeling well, again. It is a blessing to have reliable organic sources in our midst, in the markets and in the stores. Thanks to the farmers who have continued or gone back to the healthy, natural, basic farming and production practices.

There is still room for more vendors to join this market. Vendor application forms are available at their  websiteThe market will be closed for the Christmas holiday, after December 17,  and will reopen on January 7, 2012.

Old Towne Orange Farmers and Artisans Market
304 Cypress Street (corner Palm Ave.)
Orange, CA 92856


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