Saturday, December 31, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever

It's almost midnight on the last day of the year 2011. I always feel melancholic at this time of the year. Today, I was far South at a rural place called the Knaus Berry Farm. This is a very popular place in the deep farming area called Redland, on SW 248th street (Coconut Palm Drive) and 159 Avenue. The Knaus Berry Farm and Bakery opens only mid-November thru the last Saturday in April. There is always a long line to get into their counter for some of the finest fresh baked goods, featuring their cinnamon buns, money can buy in South Florida. This farm, started over 50 years ago, is operated by the Knaus family, who are Dunkers (a sect of German Baptists) with a reputation for outstanding produce and fresh flowers, fruit flavored milkshakes and homemade ice cream.

In the back, near cherry tomato and tomato fields, is a strawberry field, kept meticulously manicured as you can see in the photo below. Unfortunately, their strawberries cannot be picked today, but the sweet strawberries can be bought inside.

Standing in front of this field, I can't help but to think about the famous song "Strawberry Fields Forever," which is a song written by John Lennon of the famed Beatles, inspired by Lennon's memories of playing in the garden of a Salvation Army house named "Strawberry Field" near his childhood home. This song was released in February 1967 and it was considered one of the Beatles' best recordings, defining works of the psychedelic rock genre. The song is soulful reflecting the nostalgia of days bygone. The music composition is very complicated with Lennon playing dissonant notes from his Mellotron. The lyrics are hard to understand, and you would need to do some research to know their true meaning reflecting Lennon's deep psyche at that time. It's beautiful once you understand. I am not going into that here to keep this blog short.

If you live in New York, you should know that there is a Strawberry Fields memorial in New York City's Central Park, named after the song.
Strawberry Field

Click on the player above to hear Strawberry Fields Forever from the soundtrack of Across the Universe, by the Beatles...

Friday, December 30, 2011


It is only about 6:30PM but you wouldn't know from the dark sky and the lights in the streets of Miami. We have shorter days after September like everybody else. This is US-1 going South at the Falls (SW 136th street.) Only when it's dark that you can see the nice neon lighting at the top of the tower that is the Falls shopping center's landmark. During this time of year, Miami's sky is mostly clear at nights and the starry sky is usually spectacular, especially if you are somewhat interested in astronomy. Last month's sky night was dominated by Jupiter but now Venus is taking over. The bright spot you see above the tower is the planet Venus representing the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky and it is known as the Morning Star or Evening Star. In December, Evening Star it is, and it is a beautiful sight in Miami many nights.

You can safely ignore the reddish glow on top of this photo. That is not any building because Miami does not have many buildings that tall. What you see is the reflection of the dashboard of my car. If you can read that, it says 18:26 which is the time this photo was taken.

Goddess of love... fancy that!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year "Summit"

Every year, about this time, I can't help to pay attention to this beauty. Isn't this gorgeous? I never mentioned that this Cattleya orchid never fails to bloom right around the new year. Left untouched, this will become a very large specimen. It received an award (not this one, but this species) and was named "Summit." You see the growth at the bottom? In a few days, two or three more flowers will emerge from the protective sheath to greet the new year 2012. These orchids not only are beautiful, they have a faint but delightful scent in the mornings too.
New Year Orchid

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winged Seeds

I can't wait forever for the experts to give me an answer so I am having my own theory regarding this T. sp. The beautiful red flowers you saw did last a long, long time and they went through some interesting color changing cycles. Now they have become winged seeds. I parked my car about 10 meters away from this tree today and after about 3 hours, more than a dozen of these brown three-winged seeds landed on it. From red, the flowers turned milky white as can be seen at the top of this photo, then brown which is the color of the fuzzy winged seeds. I hope the seeds I now have will germinate some day. I still would like to know how these flowers get pollinated. There is also a theory that the ants that nest inside the branches have something to do with that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Critically Endangered

In Miami, you see many beautiful royal palms (Roystonea regia) which is a genus of eleven species of monoecious palms, native to the Caribbean Islands, and the adjacent coasts of Florida, Central and South America. Although royal palms are considered a "tropical" palm, they can grow as far North as Daytona Beach and Jacksonville and also in Southern California, southern Arizona and the extreme southern Texas barrier islands near the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. They are on the right in this photo.

On the left side, you see the Hyophorbe verschaffeltii, aka the Palmiste Marron, or Spindle Palm which is a species of flowering plant in the Arecaceae family. Spindle palms grow in the USA only in south Florida and in isolated favored microclimates in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area and the Cape Canaveral area of central Florida. Spindle Palms come from Rodrigues island, Mauritius. It is critically endangered and included in the red list of threatened species.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Casual Miami

If you have never been to Miami, this is how some of us dress... very casual. My guess is that these two youngsters accompany their elder to an optometrist office for a visit. Notice the difference in style between the young colorful and carefree; and the more conservative older and wiser look. We love our sports and support them by wearing hats. Older visors point forward and younger ones point backward. Now you are an expert in Miami's fashion according to its popular youth culture.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Green Christmas

It's Christmas in Miami. We regret to say that we never ever, ever, ever had, have or will have a white Christmas here (well, I take it back, may be in a million years or so, when theoretically earth may have a new ice age, Miami may then have a white Christmas...) But look what we do have year round: bananas.

Almost all modern edible parthenocarpic bananas come from the two wild species – Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. The scientific names of bananas are Musa acuminata. In popular culture and commerce, "banana" usually refers to soft, sweet "dessert" bananas. By contrast, Musa cultivars with firmer, starchier fruit are called plantains or "cooking bananas". The distinction is arbitrary and both terms are used interchangeably. Banana bunches can be as large as 7 or 8 foot in length. This variety is much smaller, but these dwarf bananas are delicious. You can see that the owners pick them on a daily basis. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red; and they are a reliable source of potassium.

My doctor forced me to eat more bananas because he says I need more "K" and I oblige happily. Such a monkey I am!
XMas Eve

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Silent Night

It's Christmas Eve and in the US, it's a big deal! Tomorrow is Christmas Day and the kids will wake up taking inventory of what they got from Santa Claus who is supposed to come sometime tonight through the chimneys. Somehow, Santa kept track of who's naughty and who's nice and distributes his freebees accordingly. Expensive iPhone 4S or iPad2 with 64 GB of memory to nice ones, and low end Kindles or Snooks to naughty ones. Fresh from American mythology, Santa is supposed to fly across the skies in his sleigh loaded with state-of-the-art toys and electronic gadgets that is pulled by a team of reindeer. Due to the difference in time zones, the trip has started and in one of the pit stops for refreshment, one of his reindeer had one too many and I caught him red nose'ed in this clip. I guess Santa left him behind because he's obviously in no condition to pull the sleigh. Click on the photo to view the video and to see what's he so happy about. If you can't figure out what he's saying (or singing,) don't worry. I can't figure that out either. If you celebrate Christmas, have a Merry One! If not, enjoy the mini video anyway. You know, I stole it from YouTube. So convenient! Thanks to the person(s) who managed to put this video on the web for us to enjoy.
XMas Eve

Friday, December 23, 2011

Kitty Kitty

Now, how can you not blog this? This is one of the two cats that live in my backyard. I think this one is a she and she may be expecting, else she must have just eaten a big meal. She is very shy and would not let me come close. In this pose, she seems to be very happy... as long as I do not get any closer. Left to their own device, these animals can survive quite well in Miami because the weather is clement and there are plenty of food for them to hunt.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

F. racemosa

This is a ficus tree. Its name is F. racemosa and it is the same species as that of the wishing tree in the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Yoko Ono's wishing tree. With this one today, you can see how it bears its fruits. Again, its Vietnamese name is "Sung."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Miami Tough Life

How's this? You wake up, put on your short and floppy, put the top down, make a quick run to your local dry cleaner... then you stop by to get a late morning quick lunch at your favorite local outdoor cafe... and wait for a hot date in a South Beach night club... Yeah, dream on! But you can certainly enjoy a beautiful day like this fit for a very pleasant outdoor life in Miami at this time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Manatee Fest

South Miami "downtown" is ready for the 2011 Christmas season. Here and there along the streets, intermingled with decorated Christmas trees, you can see statues of a large manatee cradling a baby manatee. This is one such statue in front of a very fine Italian restaurant, the Trattoria Sole. All the manatee statues have the same size and basically the same mother-son manatees (I am merely repeating local news reports to say that this is a mother and a baby manatee... in fact, who is to say that it is not a father and daughter, or other possible combinations?) except they are all different in artistic details. These are the work by local pop artist Alex Yanes sponsored by the various local merchants. This particular statue sponsored by the Mile High Karate martial art school is named "Zen." These statues are the objects showcasing the South Miami Manatee Fest for 2011 - 2012.

Monday, December 19, 2011


This is becoming a habitually repeating sight at this location: a restaurant venture in a BAD place. You saw the last failed attempt as recently as in August this year. But it seems that newcomers have no fear of history repeating, they keep coming. Meet the new brave entrepreneur to open here sometime in the future.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


If you have time and find yourself in South Miami, take a stroll and you will discover many hidden treasures. I walked into one and OMG! If you have been living under a rock and do not know what that means, it's Oh My God! "Petits Fours!" That is what you see on the bottom shelf, these decadent French delicatessen. A petit four (plural: petits fours) is a small confection generally eaten at the end of a meal (e.g., with coffee) or served as part of dessert. The name is from the French petit four, meaning "small oven".

There are two different categories of petits fours. Petits fours secs (sec meaning "dry") include a variety of small desserts, such as special dainty biscuits, baked meringues, macarons, and puff pastries. Petits fours glacés (glacé meaning "iced") are iced or decorated, such as tiny cakes covered in fondant or glacé icing, small éclairs, and tartlets. In a French patisserie, assorted small desserts are usually called mignardises, while hard, buttery biscuits are called petits fours. There are also petits fours salés (salé meaning "salted" or "savoury"), which are bite-sized salted appetizers usually served as part of cocktail parties or buffets. I do not care much for the salted type at all, but I can eat the other type with abandon!

I was looking for a place that has the "petits fours," and now that I found them here, in one of the two "Chocolate Fashion" bakeries in Miami which is on Sunset Drive, I am working on rearranging my budget to move these on the top line item. Here comes the bulge at the belt line!
So Sweet

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Deli Lane

At the corner of Sunset Drive and US-1 in South Miami, you can find this cafe that is a very popular spot for lunch on weekends. You can see that its outdoor terrace is packed on this gorgeous Saturday morning in paradise South Miami. Some of my friends swear for the pressed duck sandwich they find here, but I do slightly differ on that. I tried it once and well.. what can I say? Didn't think that got many stars from my rating. Nevertheless, it is a great place to sit and enjoy life with friends. Only in Miami!
Deli Lane

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Mother of All Santas

If you follow the news, you'd have known that on Thursday, December 15th which was yesterday, the Iraq War officially ended after a long nine year. The phrase "The Mother of All..." was popularized during this infamous Iraqui war by the now defunct President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, after his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Bulletins to Iraqi citizens advised them to prepare for an invasion and "the Mother of All Battles" promised in a speech if the US-led coalition forces of one attempted to evict his army of occupation from Kuwait. The phrase "Mother of All Battles" was a translation of the Arabic expression "Umm al-Ma'arik." This is a common literary trope in Arabic public rhetoric. As Saddam's audience would have understood, it refers to the Battle of Al-Qādisiyyah in AD 637, when an Arab army defeated the Persians.

With that firmly in mind, now you understand the true meaning of the title of today's blog. You can't find another Santa that is larger than this one. Don't even think about trying! This Santa clearly says out loud that you can stop by to get your Christmas tree here at the intersection of SW 117th Avenue and 87th Street. I can safely ignore all this because I have a "Mother of All Fake Christmas Trees" that is at least 30 year old but still looks like a real tree every year.
Santa's Mother

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Best Choir

I was at a luncheon today and had the chance to listen to an excellent choral recital. This is a yearly event organized by the Rotary Club of Coral Gables (RCCG) and because this is Coral Gables, tog was there too! This year, the Everglades Legacy Choir of the Everglades Senior High School in Miramar won the Rotary Music Award from the RCCG . Today, they are here at the atrium inside the Coral Gables Country Club to give a great holiday cheers performance and to demonstrate why they won the Grand Prize Full Choir Senior Division winner of 2011 Caroling Competition AND winner of the 2011 Rotary Music Award ("Where Angels Lately Knelt" by Thomas Courtenay.)

The Legacy Choir is directed today by Mr. Shanpatrick Davis who is its director for the past eight years and who has been a voice teacher for 13 years. This year, in May, Everglades had the pleasure of touring and performing in the New York Area. Next year, also in May, they will tour Washington D.C. This choir is filled with dedicated individuals who all bring their vocal talents to enhance the choir's single voice. Together they sing with inspiration to leave a legacy that fills one's heart with music. I thoroughly enjoyed the short time they sang for the audience from the elevated platform in the atrium.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fuzzy Worm Vine

I have no idea what this vine is and I call it the "Fuzzy Worm Vine," but it is too aggressive. It has climbed all over my Ambarella (Spondias dulcis) tree and established a killer canopy over the top. It looks tough, but this vine is no match for my clipper. I hesitated a bit because it has beautiful purple flowers at every turns that become these fuzzy worm-looking fruits that do give me the willies! In only two days, this vine is all gone. My Ambarella tree must be very happy that it was rescued from an almost certain death by suffocation that can't be fun!
Worm Vine

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lonely Bird

If you feel that you are lonesome... put yourself in the shoes of this bird, a black heron (If you could see, you'd realize that this bird's feet are yellow.) Do birds have family to come back to at nights? Some do, but I am not sure about this one. The Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca,) also known as the Black Egret, is an African heron. It is native South of the Sahara Desert, including Madagascar, and prefers shallow open waters, such as the edges of freshwater lakes and ponds. It may also be found in marshes, river edges, rice fields, and seasonally flooded grasslands. In coastal areas, it feeds along tidal rivers and creeks. The Black Heron has an interesting hunting method called canopy feeding by using its wings like an umbrella, and uses the shade to attract fish.

This bird startled me with a loud screech when it landed out of nowhere, in this botanical center. I was hoping to see it begin an attempt to catch fish by transforming its wings into an umbrella... but it was waiting for me to scoot so it can fish in peace.

Some herons feed in group, but this one is certainly all alone. I think it's sad to be a bird and I am glad I am not one with feathers and wings. A plus is being able to fly around without having to buy airline tickets... but I don't want to be alone. That's a bad deal, no, thanks!

Monday, December 12, 2011


Victoria's Secret is an American retailer of sultry women's wear, lingerie and beauty products. It was started in San Francisco, California, in 1977 by Tufts University and Stanford Graduate School of Business alumnus Roy Raymond, who felt embarrassed trying to purchase lingerie for his wife in a department store environment. Really? You wouldn't catch me setting foot into this store either! He, Roy Raymond, opened the first store at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, and quickly followed it with a mail-order catalog and three other stores. In 1982, after five years of operation, he sold the Victoria's Secret company for a cool $4 Million. It now has sales of over US $5 Billion and an operating income of $1 Billion in 2006. Outside of the US, besides stores opened in Canada, the first Victoria's Secret stores outside North America opened in Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Can you believe that? Of all places! I would have never guessed! This one is more at home, in the Dadeland Mall in South Miami.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Boar's Head

This is the deli section inside the Publix grocery store in Dadeland village. This is where I need to come to stock up on my easy way out for a speedy lunch. With this supply, I can whip up a sandwich (delicious, mind you) in about 10 minutes. In the US, we are paranoid about the things we eat... too many calories, too much cholesterol, too much fat, bad fat, good fat, too much carbohydrate, too many eggs, too few calcium, too few Omega 3, we need vitamin A, B, C, D, E, F, G... Sorry, I am going overboard here, I don't know why, but vitamins F and G have not been invented... but our biggest preoccupation is too much SALT! I am reluctant to worry about salt... but the assault against salt is relentless and I somehow got into the habit of reading the labels on stuffs I buy to eat or to cook with. If you did that, you would discover that we are surrounded by salt hiding inside our food.

At this place though, the Boar's Head folks who sell the infinite variety of goodies ready for making sandwich swear that they are salt masters and can make their food plenty good with far less salt than their competitors. I am not sure if that is true, but their stuffs are so good, I don't really care if they lie.

To tell you what I really think... if I want to control my daily sodium intake, it will take me... say... a half day each day to tabulate, measure and count all the milligrams of salt that get into my body. No... that's too much time lost. I'll let my kidneys worry about dealing with the salt. My plan is to talk to both of them once in a while to make sure they still work well. I remember in the old Tarzan movies I watched, the fellows who lived in the deep jungles would kill for a bag of salt. What happened to these good old days?

Saturday, December 10, 2011


This is another lovingly restored classic car that you see once in a while in Miami's streets. It's a Datsun. I am not sure what year it is dated, but most likely in the late 60s.

Datsun was an automobile marque. The name was created in 1931 by the DAT Motorcar Co. for a new car model, spelling it as "Datson" to indicate its smaller size when compared to the existing, larger DAT car. Later, in 1933 after Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. took control of DAT Motorcar Co., the last syllable of Datson was changed to "sun", because "son" also means "loss" (損) in Japanese, and also to honour the sun depicted in the national flag, hence the name "Datsun" : Dattosan (ダットサン Dattosan.) Nissan phased out the Datsun brand in March 1986. The Datsun name is most famous for the sports cars referred to as the Fairlady roadsters and later the Fairlady (240Z) coupes.

For the past 27 years, classic Datsun car owners meet for the Best of Show award. In July 2010, the 26th yearly Datsun Roadster Meet was held at Mt. Shasta. A pristine 1967 silver car from San Francisco won the coveted award. This one does not look as good and may not win that award, but it sure looks a lot better than my car.
Classic Datsun

Friday, December 9, 2011

Power Serve

There is a championship tennis tournament going on at this time at Miami Dade College in its Kendall campus. It is called the Casely International Championships... and it shows. There is a large number of participants, all looking young, athletic, fit, formidable and exuberant. All the tennis courts are occupied and matches are being played continuously. Take a look at this young woman serving her tennis ball. It looks so professional. I would hate to be on the other side of the court when her ball strikes my racket. It probably would make a hole as large as a cannon ball. Ace! Or something like that is what they say.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Get Their Queen

In Miami, we sometimes have to deal with fire ants. Do you know that fire ants do not bite? Worse, they sting like wasps and bees by holding on with their pliers-like-mouth and inject venom into your skin through a stinger. Ouch! That hurts like the devil. If that's your only problem, you may just stay away from their nests. But... I do grow a ficus tree and the fire ants nesting near the tree can quite quickly kill it by exposing the roots due to their tunneling network. So they must be dealt with using bait. The bait is a mixture of a carrier, attractants and a killing agent or insecticide. Dosage of the insecticide must be measured carefully so the ant workers cannot detect the poison, but it must be strong enough to exterminate the entire colony, including the queen. Easy said than done!

Here is a red ant mound that has been baited and as far as I can tell, the ants have all but disappeared. The yellow pellets are particles of bait. Now my ficus tree can be safe until the next battle with a new colony that may decide to migrate to this place.
Battle Royal

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Printed Books

The South Miami Branch library is here at the address of 6000 Sunset Drive. Recently, it had an extensive remodeling that included a redesign water fall out in front. With the internet encroaching on every day's life, I fear for the survival of these landmarks. Everyone I know knows that Google is the way to get information... who would take the time to check out and read books from library any more? Mea Culpa! I no longer read printed books, and all my books are either on my laptops or my iPad, sadly so!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Walking Ficus

You can find a large number of Banyan trees in Miami. This one is quite large and it demonstrates well how ficus trees "walk" and grow large to occupy extensive surface areas.

Ficus benghalensis is native of the Indian subcontinent. It produces propagating roots which grow downwards as aerial roots. Once these roots reach the ground, they grow into woody trunks that can become indistinguishable from the main trunk.

Also known as the Indian Banyan, F. bengalensis is the National tree of India and considered sacred. Worship is observed on a day in summer when the full moon occurs near the last star of the constellation Scorpio. There is a huge ficus tree known as the Great Banyan in the Indian Botanic Garden in Howrah. It is considered to be one of the largest trees in the world in terms of area covered.

When a toddler, I believed banyan trees are the home of scary ghosts and always ran as fast as I could when I had to go past them. I think I still believe that is true and would not come near here at night.
Sacred Banyan

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dolce Vita

Look at this Indian peacock (in his blue outfit) perching on this tree. Not an iota of worry in the world... perhaps only about how best to woo the next peahen. Such a good life!
Sweet Life

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Guys Are Cheap

This is one of the two Starbucks in Dadeland Mall. There are two women buying the coffee here and no men so the score is 2 - 0. There is a theory about the gender gap concerning frequenters to Starbucks coffee shops: Women outnumber men six to one! Speaking for myself, as a male, I only go for this kind of strangely flavored coffee when I have to, but never, ever on my own doing. A theory ventures that women in general are more affluent than men. On the other hand, the majority of guys say that is a waste of money. So what do you think? Me? It's simply sexual dimorphism if you ask me.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In Ius Voco Spurius

This is not quite Christmas, but it's getting close! Macy's has this "Believe Santa Mail" mail box for the kids to send their letters to Santa. I am sure the kids will ask for toys. If I could have it my way, I would force Macy's to answer all the letters with the corresponding toys the kids have asked for. It's too cruel otherwise... to mislead the kids into believing and get no reply or what they asked for. If you are a lawyer and you are reading this... did you get my gist?
Petit Papa Noel

Friday, December 2, 2011

Free Samples

This is the food court smack in the middle of the Dadeland Mall in South Miami. This place is always full of people during lunch and dinner time. This is lunch, and the two very popular selections are the Mandarin Express and the Sarku Japan. Let me give you a good tip: You can come here and get almost a free lunch by taking samples from each of the food stalls here. The workers hand out small cups of free samples for passer by to taste. Beware though, you'd be consuming so much salt you may think you are related to the Atlantic ocean. I never spend any money here. I just come for the samples...
Food Court

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Action Shot

You want to see action? Look at this... taken during the woman volleyball match between Florida State University (crimson red) and the University of Miami (green.) Watch out! The "red" team is going for the kill! You see the ball in mid air? It was nicely set up and the lady in red approaching the net is going to jump up and squat the ball over the net with such thundering force that there is no way the three "green" defenders on the other side can counter punch. I hope that was not the match point! Ouch!
Action A' Plenty