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Author Archive

Orange Beach is Golden!

Posted by alainaflute on August 5, 2014

Flip Flop Parking Lot

Flip Flop Parking Lot

After last year’s National Flute Association convention in New Orleans, Mom (Jody) and I traveled east along the Gulf of Mexico from Louisiana through three more states: Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. On our coastal driveabout, we saw beautiful white sand beaches, tumbled shells, great blue herons, and surfers. I expressed shock and glee simultaneously at my first jellyfish sighting (my mom was less than impressed).

We made Orange Beach, Alabama our home base. Our hotel was right on the beach, and we took in the refreshing sea breezes from our balcony. We ate breakfast on the sun deck and kicked off our sandals at the flip flop “parking lot.” The beach was as long as any I’ve ever seen. To be honest, I had no idea how wonderful those gulf beaches could be! The sugar-white sand squeaks under foot and goes on for miles and miles (really, we just set a time limit for our turn-around because the beach just kept on keeping on).

Here’s a look at our golden day on the white sands of Orange Beach:

Click on any photo to enlarge and scroll through.


Posted in Gulf of Mexico Beaches | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The International Beach Traveler: Trash v Treasure – Battle Japan

Posted by alainaflute on November 4, 2013

I was very fortunate to be able to visit my sister for a couple of summer weeks when she was living in Japan. Although she had work and studying to do most days, she took some time to take me sightseeing in the Kanto region (which includes both Gunma, the prefecture in which she lived, and Tokyo, the capital of Japan). One of the highlights was our visit to Kamakura. This city was once the capital of Japan and is well known for being the home of one of Japan’s National Treasures, the Kōtoku-in Temple Daibutsu, or giant Buddha bronze statue.  It also has beaches within easy walking distance from the train station and temples (my sister and I did most of our non-train travel on foot).

Yuigahama Beach and Zaimokuza Beach are on the same small stretch of coast on the Sagami Bay. The two are separated only by a river outlet that I don’t remember crossing.

View of the bay from Meigetsuin Temple (Photo by E.G.D)

View of the bay from Meigetsuin Temple (Photo by E.G.D)

The first Japanese beach sighting for me was from the Meigetsuin Temple, famous for its lovely hydrangeas.

Tully's on the Beach

Tully’s on the Beach

After touring the Starbucks, temples, and shops selling Hello Kitty cell phone dangles, we made our way down to the beach with some plums we brought at a produce stand (this begins a story for another day), enjoyed some Tully’s coffee from the shop located right on the sandy beach, and dipped our toes into the water. On the wet sand we found some shells, shell fragments, and small pieces of ocean-tumbled china. These were all fun little treasures that we thought would be worth bringing home.

While we were combing the beach, a very nice middle aged Japanese couple approached us to chat (they had a son studying in America). While we were conversing, the wife asked to see what we had picked up off of the beach. I opened my hand to show her, and she started picking through, throwing back the broken ones and my other bits of who-knows-what. My goodness, I had to think she didn’t think I knew what was worth keeping and what wasn’t. I was trying to subtly keep my eyes on where she was chucking things so I could try and pick them up again later.

That Nice Couple (Photo by either E.G.D. or Alaina Diehl)

That Nice Couple (Photo by either E.G.D. or Alaina Diehl)

Don’t worry- shell pieces aren’t too difficult to find on this beach. It wouldn’t take too long to pick up enough different shapes and colors to make a nice display of some sort.

The nice lady on the beach wasn’t the only person to think that what we found on the beach wasn’t treasure-worthy. My sister’s okaa-san (Japanese mom) didn’t understand why we would pick up broken bits and pieces off of the beach, either!  Anyway, in spite of the adversity, we did get away with some nice shells, bits, and bobs.

Some of Alaina's Kamakura Treasures

Some of Alaina’s Kamakura Treasures

Editor’s Note by E.G.D. : Okaa-san, once we explained that our shell finds were intended for decorative purposes, used the shells we gave her to decorate a bathroom counter, and to my knowledge, they’re still there today.


Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Beaches of Asia, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Madagascar Beaches, or “We Like to Move it, Move it!”

Posted by alainaflute on February 19, 2013

Madagascar Location (Vardion/Wikimedia Commons)

Madagascar Location (Vardion/Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve got to get myself to the beach! Of course, chances are higher that I’ll find myself on a beach in the United States in the next few months, but I can keep dreaming of those far off destinations, can’t I?

In an online search for fun and exotic beach destinations, I stumbled across “Imagine Africa,” part of a British travel group. This site lists many enticing beach destinations in Madagascar. I’ve only included those that do not directly pertain to a resort.

Let’s move it, move it!

Nosy Be coast. This island lies off the northwest coast of Madagascar (Susi4/Wikimedia Commons)

Nosy Be coast. This island lies off the northwest coast of Madagascar (Susi4/Wikimedia Commons)

Located 5 miles (8km) off the northwest coast of Madagascar, Nosy Be (“Big Island”) is a tropical paradise. With several activities to enjoy, such as snorkeling, hiking, cycling, and diving, you can experience what promises to be an amazing vacation on this volcanic island. There are several close-by islands in the archipelago to explore as well: Nosy Komba, Nosy Mitsio, Nosy Sakatia, and Nosy Tanikely.

Made (slightly) famous by 1994 BBC Reality TV show Girl Friday, Tsarabanjina is an inlet of the Mitsio Archipelago in the northwest of Madagascar. Although it appears that the island is managed by Constance Hotel Tsarabanjina (the only hotel on the island), the description deserves still mention: “Fringed by white sandy beaches with extraordinary birds, lush vegetation and encircled around by coral reefs, the region is bathed in sunshine all year round.” Activities include wind surfing, canoeing, water skiing, and excursions such as boat trips to the nearby great basalt columns and Les Quatre Frères islands. This is truly heaven for the birding beach-goer.

Nosy Iranja, Madagascar (Moongateclimber/Wikimedia Commons)

Nosy Iranja, Madagascar (Moongateclimber/Wikimedia Commons)

The only island in Madagascar to be visited by both the endangered Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtle, Nosy Iranjaspans two stunning islands which are joined by a 1.2km sandbank, Iranja Be and Iranja Kely which is home to Iranja Lodge & 13 hectares of paradise.” You might be able to catch a glimpse of turtles frolicking in the water or eggs hatching (if you come at the right time of year). You can also enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, Hobie Cat sailing, and excursions to Nosy Komba to spot some lemurs.

Pirate Cemetery, Île Sainte-Marie (Pauk/Wikimedia Commons)

Pirate Cemetery, Île Sainte-Marie (Pauk/Wikimedia Commons)

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Doesn’t Ile Sainte Marie just look like a pirate’s dream? Right off the eastern coast of northern Madagascar, this is no longer a den of thieves and vagabonds, but a tropical “treasure island for those seeking palm-lined beaches, coral reefs and relaxation.” A hot spot for whale watching from July to September, you may well be able to spot humpback whales migrating through the channel between Sainte-Marie and main island Madagascar. Rich with activity and nature, you can cycle the island or dive to explore wrecked pirate ships and coral reefs. Have fun spotting one of the many lemur varieties that lives on the island (including black-and-white ruffed lemur, brown lemur, mouse lemur, and grey gentle lemur) or even the Parson’s chameleon (one of the largest in the world). I don’t know about you, but this one definitely makes the top of my list!

"Beach at Sainte Marie" (M worm/Wikimedia Commons)

“Beach at Sainte Marie” (M worm/Wikimedia Commons)

They like to move it, move it!


Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beaches of Africa, Tallies & Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Best Beaches of Batangas, Philippines

Posted by alainaflute on January 22, 2013

A popular destination near Metro Manila, Batangas is a province known for its gorgeous beaches. According to, these are the top 5 beaches close to Manila-Philippines (all found in Batangas):

Map of the Philippines showing the location of Batangas (© Eugene Alvin Villar, 2003)

Map of the Philippines showing the location of Batangas (© Eugene Alvin Villar, 2003)

Matabungkay Beach

Located in Lian, Batangas, Matabungkay Beach is popular among locals and tourists alike. The sea breeze is refreshing, and the waves are gentle, thanks to a small coral reef about 50 meters off shore from the low tide mark. Matabungkay is known for its bamboo raft rentals for swimming, snorkeling, or even picnicking on the water!

Matabungkay, Lian, Batangas, Philippines (Hyougushi / Hideyuki KAMON / Wikimedia Commons)

Matabungkay, Lian, Batangas, Philippines (Hyougushi /Hideyuki KAMON /Wikimedia Commons)

Calatagan Beaches

A popular destination of the elite, Calatagan is home to several beach resorts, some of which “have swimming pools adjoining the sea to give guests the choice of enjoying the pool, the sea, or bothColorful fishing boats also dominate the seascape and some are made available to tourists who wish to roam the shorelines for a fee.”

Map of Batangas showing the location of Calatagan (Mike Gonzalez/ Wikimedia Commons)

Map of Batangas showing the location of Calatagan (Mike Gonzalez/Wikimedia Commons)

Bauan Beaches

The town of Bauan, Batangas touts several great beaches that are great for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Notably, the Portulano Dive Resorthas an ideal beach front and coastline conducive for good and satisfying dives.” Also, you’ll be able to find lovely places to enjoy “the cool and gentle waves of the azure South China Sea and ample grounds of fine sandy beaches for sun bathing, leisurely walking, frolicking, and picnicking.”

San Juan Beaches offer stretches of fine sand with great views of the “cerulean” sea (I had to look that up – it’s another word for azure). San Juan is also known for its beach resorts. You’ll have absolutely no trouble shedding your cares on these relaxing beaches!

Virgin Beach, Laiya, San Juan, Batangas, Philippines (Urville86/Wikimedia Commons)

Virgin Beach, Laiya, San Juan, Batangas, Philippines (Urville86/Wikimedia Commons)

Kabayan Beach

If you’re looking for affordable quality, Kabayan Beach is your destination for “clear water, gentle waves, fine and clean sand, comfortable amenities for sun bathing, some water sports, picnicking, and cooking…”

I don’t know about you, but I’m putting Batangas on my beachy vacation to-do list!  Sun, fun, sand, surf, and a reason to use the word cerulean!  Who could ask for more?


Posted in A Treasure of a Beach (Best Beaches), Beaches of Asia, Tallies & Tips | Tagged: , , , | 18 Comments »

Mele Kalikimaka lā ‘Oe: A Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches Last-minute Gift Guide

Posted by alainaflute on December 17, 2012

Rock Barnacle Found Beachcombing at Newport, Oregon (Photo ©Jody Diehl)

Haven’t finished your shopping yet? You could be cutting it pretty close! Never fear, though, because you can still get or make these fun, beachy gifts before the holiday.

We’ve divided the gifting ideas into two categories: one for people with ready-access to the beach and one for those who live too far away to get there and back before Christmas. Many of these ideas are described in greater detail somewhere else on this website, so I’ve added the links so you can take a closer look!

For those of us living by the beach:

There is still time to make some lovely crafts to give, decorate your tree, or to jazz up your gifts!

1. Find a number of shells (or stones) from the beach that have a hole made by Mother Nature. Thread some ribbon through them for a quick and easy gift decoration or ornament. You could also make a very giftable pendant by this same technique.

A happy (limpet) memory for our Christmas tree!

2. The sea shell salt shaker: always a lovely and thoughtful gift. Head over to your local Target, Walmart, or wherever clear, glass shakers of all sizes are sold. Depending on the yield of your sandy shores, pick an appropriate shaker size for your current collection or head to the beach. Simply scoop up some shells and smooth beach glass! Be extra careful to make sure you only take home shells that have lost their residents. At home, you may want to clean the shells and set them out to dry. Place them piece by piece into the shaker to give it a personal touch. We often cover the top of the glass with plastic wrap before screwing on the cap, or you can cut out a bit of thin card stock, so that the shaker won’t leak shell bits if upturned. Tie a ribbon bow to the top to give it a festive touch!

"On Display" by Jody Diehl

Salt Shakers “On Display”

3. A short while ago, Jody and E.G.D. had a wonderful project of turning large bivalve shells into angels and carolers. Everything you need to know is here.

Seashell Christmas Ornaments (Photo by Jody Diehl)

Seashell Christmas Ornaments (Photo ©Jody Diehl)

4. A fun idea for children to make and give is the classic Beach in a Bottle. This thoughtful and inexpensive gift can stay on Nana’s shelf year-round.

For those of us living far from the sea:

If the receiver of your holiday gift-giving merriment is a fellow beach-lover, then here are some ideas to help share the love for those of us who can’t get to the beach.

1. Cookies! Homemade Christmas goodies always make wonderful gifts. You should be able to find beach-themed cookie cutters at a local cooking store (for us, it’s Now We’re Cooking). You have free rein: the sky is the limit to your creativity! You can decorate gingerbread seashell shapes or simply make a sugar cookie you can decorate with fun, Sunset Tellin seashell colored icing (or any color, for that matter).

Sand Dollar Cookies Heading into the Oven

If you don’t have a specialty store with an extensive cookie cutter selection nearby, you can easily make the “Festive Sand Dollar Cookies” that Jody made last week. We’ve been eating them happily for days!

2. If you’d rather buy than make, that’s perfectly okay! A candle is a  beach-inspired gift you can buy. Yankee Candle makes a variety of beach scents: Beach Walk, Beach Wood, Christmas at the Beach, Coconut Bay, Pink Sands, and Sun & Sand. A plus of going to Yankee Candle is that you can mix and match a dozen votive candles, so you can gift a variety of scents. If you don’t have a Yankee Candle store nearby, you might be able to find what you’re looking for at Cracker Barrel or Kohl’s (they both carry Yankee brand along with other brands). You can also shop online, but it will cost a little more in shipping to have it arrive on time.

3. Give the gift of music this holiday! One way to get into the Christmas spirit is to listen to your holiday favorites. Here are some CDs that remind us of the holidays and the sunny seashore with links to Amazon (only so you can see the album covers, not because we endorse shopping at Amazon).

The Beach Boys: Merry Christmas from The Beach Boys/Christmas with The Beach Boys/The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album

From Hawaii: Hawaiian Slack Key Christmas/Kī hō ‘alu Christmas Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar/Hawaiian Style Christmas/Hawaiian Style Christmas 2

Hopefully our list got you thinking of more holiday gift ideas! Please feel free to share them with us in the comment section. We’d love to hear about your last-minute and beachy gifting ideas!

Mele Kalikimaka lā ‘Oe!


Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Monday Miscellaneous, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Happy, Happy Birthday!

Posted by alainaflute on November 13, 2012

Today is our Blogger in Chief’s birthday, so we’re celebrating with The Beatles on the beach! Let’s just imagine that they’re singing for Jody.

Everybody, now!

Happy Birthday, Mom!


Posted in Today's Special | Tagged: , , | 19 Comments »

Friday Fun: Seashell Pancake Art!

Posted by alainaflute on November 2, 2012

Inspired by an idea she saw in Real Simple, my mom (Jody) got to work scheming up ideas for seashell pancake designs, and today, we finally got around to making them! The article, which showed how you can make edible autumn leaves out of pancake batter, suggested one use a turkey baster to do the drawing. We found plastic squeeze bottles to be an easier alternative because they offer more control.

Let’s make seashell pancakes!

For our template, we used some shell pictures from my mom’s field guide and some simple shell designs she printed off of the internet, including a sand dollar, scallop, and sea star.

To begin, we made a simple pancake batter from scratch (or you can use a boxed mix). Then, we made it slightly thinner by adding almost 1/2 cup water (so it would be squeezable). We heated our griddle to about 375°F (190°C) and added a thin layer of canola oil to prevent sticking.

To make the pancakes, we started by squeezing the outside of the design onto the griddle, along with any markings we wanted to show up when we flipped them. Patience is the real trick here. You want your outlines to show, so they must be significantly darker than the rest of the pancake. Wait for 3-5 minutes or so before squeezing in the rest of the batter (filling in your outlines). Flip and admire your artwork!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Start with simple designs, such as the moon snail, sand dollar, and sea star, and then work your way up to the more intricate whelks, murexes, and conchs.

The sea’s the limit!


Posted in Beachy Keen Art, Friday Finds | Tagged: , , , | 40 Comments »

Friday Fun: Chica vs. Shark

Posted by alainaflute on October 19, 2012

At first, you might not think that Halloween and the beach go hand in hand. But pirates, haunted lighthouses, and ghosts who walk the craggy shore; that’s what Halloween is all about! In my case, rather than the spooky delights of the holiday, I favor the fun and laughter (okay, and the candy). I’ve had a great time dressing up my dogs over the years, and this was the first year I saw the opportunity to go with a beach theme!


When I saw this costume online, I booked it to the store to pick it up. Lucky for me, there was still a size small! Not only is this costume good for a laugh, it’s a reminder that one can never be too careful when if comes to shark safety! Actually, I would never bring this little dog to a beach. She’s definitely a shark hors d’oeuvre (and she doesn’t really enjoy water).

Doooooo do….Doooooo do…

Posted in Friday Finds | Tagged: , | 12 Comments »

A Sea of Balloons!

Posted by alainaflute on October 12, 2012

Every October, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta draws balloonists and visitors from around the world. Hundreds of hot air balloons take to the air in waves, dotting the bright blue, New Mexican sky with vibrant color. Today’s post features pictures of beach and ocean-themed balloons taken in The Land of Enchantment at this year’s event.

A giant globe! (Photo by Alaina Diehl)

97% of the earth’s water is in the oceans! 100% of these balloons are awesome!

Sea Fantasy,” an ocean sampler: octopus, fish, sea star, dolphins, and a sea horse. (Alaina Diehl)

On my mission to photograph beachy balloons, this one stuck out like…well, a colorful octopus covered in other sea creatures! Said creatures are not to scale.

Smiling Sea Star on Sea Fantasy (Photo by Alaina Diehl)

Doesn’t a smiling sea star just make your day?

Crazy Crab looking not too crabby! (Photo by Alaina Diehl)

This happy crab is such a fun special shape! With the blue sky acting as the wide open ocean, there are many more sailing and swimming balloon shape ideas to discover.

Do you have an idea for a beachy special shape?

The Shark  (Photo by Alaina Diehl)

Doooo do. Dooooo do. Dodododododododododododododododododododo! You’re gonna to need a bigger boat! I’d hate to be a giant fish in the sky when The Shark comes to town.

Look out, giant guppy!

Gus T. Guppie from Balloon Fiesta 2011

Yo ho ho and a barrel of root beer! This one is so much fun. As large as it seems by the photograph, the main body of the balloon is a barrel. On the top, a fun-loving (and eye patch clad) kid sticks out with his spy glass. He be flyin’ the Jolly Roger!

Little Pirate (Photo by Alaina Diehl)

Arrrrr! Shiver me timbers!

A Closer Look at “Little Pirate” (Photo by Alaina Diehl)

The next vessel that’s ready to set sail is Noah’s Ark, aka ARKY. Even the balloon’s ground tarp is special; it depicts a rainbow.

 The Balloonist’s Prayer

May the winds welcome you with softness.
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God
joins you in laughter and sets you gently
back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.

Are you missing the Fiesta this year? Never fear, it comes around during October each year. The 2013 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is scheduled for October 5 – 13. Happy sailing!

Posted in Friday Finds | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Happy National Coffee Day!

Posted by alainaflute on September 29, 2012

What’s better than a good cup of coffee? A good cup of coffee on the beach, of course!

Tully’s Coffee on the Beach in Kamakura

Several years ago, Elisa and I enjoyed a cup of Joe on the beach in Kamakura-shi, Japan. Although Kamakura is best known as being the home of the famous Daibutsu (“Great Buddha”) at the Kōtoku-in Temple, there is plenty to love about this beautiful city. Although I’ve already told you about our Kamakura beach adventures, here is a part of the story I had yet to mention: the plums we bought and brought down to the beach were stolen by some very scary, large black birds. Their beaks were big enough to grab a whole plum and fly away with it. Since that was the case, we decided it would be safest not to argue and let them have our plums.

View of the Beach in Kamakura-shi from the Coffee Shop

So, word to the wise, giant black beach birds don’t try to steal coffee. Stick with coffee!

Posted in Beaches of Asia | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

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