Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bearded Iris and Perfect Moments

Even Grand Forks occasionally has beautiful weather! It was 80 degrees, only 24% humidity, a little wind, a lot of sunshine, the irises are blooming, birds are singing, the lilacs are fragrant . . .
. . . and it was my day off from work!

After digging out some crazy-multiplying lilly of the valley, I sat in a lounge chair under the lilac bush, drinking ice tea, watching a robin go nuts taking a bath in the bird bath. . .

and reading an historical/romance/spy novel by Michael White (Beautiful Assassin.)

And then I finished off the day by baking some biscotti. Just one of those days filled with perfect moments!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lilacs and Exif Viewer

Sweet! the lilacs are coming!

And aren't you curious about exactly what day I took this photo? What camera I used? The lens? (16-85 mm Nikon) The aperture and distance and speed? (f/5.6; 85mm; 1/100). You could find out this and all kinds of other exif information (200 ISO; manual mode; sRGB embedded profile; center weighted metering mode; CS4 editing; no flash; original color space RGB; auto white balance).

OK, OK, maybe you really don't care about MY photos exif data (and I don't really know what "exif" means, other than "lots of data"), but you might really want to know this stuff about another photo.

Well, Jeffrey's Exif Viewer provides a button you can add to your browser toolbar, and extract this information from a photo. The photo has to have its exif data enabled. That means that if you want to enable exif info in your own photos, when you use "save to web" in photoshop, you also check off the little option that comes up that asks if you want to enable this information. It's also a good way to make sure that your browser will use the actual color space you have embedded in your photo, rather than just arbitrariy pick whatever it happens to be in the mood to use. (Darn those cyclothymic browswers!)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bleeding Hearts and Safari

What a day! I celebrated our glorious 79 degrees and sunshine today by photographing these Bleeding Hearts. That, and a (ugh!) garage sale! And we Made Some Money! Want to know how much?

Wait for it! . . . Wait for it! . . . .

$83.75! Certainly, not really worth it, but it just felt so nice to sit outside anyway! And it was only a handful of boxes of stuff from a previous garage sale, and more things scoured from a recent garage clean-up. I like the decluttering process, and getting some things into the hands of someone else who can use them. (Like the almost new window, replaced after the Cedar Waxwings attack, which was suppose to go into another window. . . . but the installer measured wrong!!!!) So that's gone now, too.

And I just wanted to let you know about Safari, the browser. I recently switched to google chrome, which has some wonderful feature, but is NOT color managed! Firefox is, but not by default; you have to enter some code to make it color-managed. But if you download Safari as a browser, and check out your and others' photos (especially in the sRGB profile) you are GOING TO SEE COLOR! Give it a try, and look at these bleeding hearts under both conditions.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Springfest Happy, Grand Forks Style

After days and days of rain, and when the prediction is for more rain, then a 48 degree day and Sunshine for Springfest is like a total gift! So look at these happy faces on the University of North Dakota campus! Happy, drunken, faces. . . .

Ah, yes. . . I remember days like this in the 70s. . . . and sometimes we were even less "tame." Here's a shirt (click to make larger) for someone's Mom/Dad--your tuition dollars at work:

And don't these police officers look sad that they pulled Springfest duty again this year?

I'm not kidding--48 degrees! But you wouldn't know it from Mr. Buff here! He's really thinking he wants to impress her with his Ninja Turtle collection, don't you think?

And this Springfest is so much more organized than the ones from the 70s! I just saw photos from an old alumni magazine, showing the Spring Fling at Illinois State University. . . and the line for urinating was to . . . . ummmm. . . . stand in front of the bushes lining the administration building. Ewwwwww! Even if there were a number of sobriety checkpoint arrests Saturday night, the youthoftoday are so much better than they use to be. We just don't like to admit it very often.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day Flowers and the Hallmark Ambush

Ahhh, Mother's Day! It's a wonderful day for remembering our own mothers, and their mothers as well. And then, if we're particularly lucky in life, we've gotten to be mothers ourselves, and indulged in that uniquely self-indulgent process of mothering others. Because in the most paradoxical of ways, it's us that are enriched by the process of mothering others.

I know that on Monday, I'll hear many people who are particularly unhappy, feeling slighted by their loved ones, not remembered or indulged "enough." I wish they could free themselves up from this being "wronged" and "slighted," to not be blighted by the mother's day Hallmark marketing ambush, and just rejoice and bask in the process of having been mothered/getting to mother others. And let it be that, not anything more. Not tainted by manufactured expectations.

But I do love the flowers, and these days can spend hours on a bouquet, moving it this way and that, adding my external flash to my camera, bouncing the light from the ceiling, adjusting the ISO to get the right amount of light in the shadows and backlighting, manually adjusting the focus, spraying a bit of water, raising and lowering the tripod. . . .

. . . but my images never manage to capture the fragrance!

Happy mother's day, all you who have had mothers, are mothers or fathers, or hope to be some day!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mmmmmmmm Cake!

Do you ever find yourself reading a great book, and then suddenly the author talks just a little too fondly, a little too vividly, about food? I'm reading "South of Broad," by Pat Conroy, a fantastic book!

And in the first pages, he talks about making a recipe from a Junior League Cookbook for the neighbors. Well, I have a couple of Junior League cookbooks (which I don't understand; I mean, who exactly IS the Junior League?) and the mentioned recipe was not in either book.

But I perused the recipes anyway, and oh, my! This one called my name:

It doesn't look like much, and is deceptively easy to make. It's the Chocolate Cake with Rum Butter Sauce from the Junior League Centennial Book. Except instead of using rum, I used amaretto, and reduced the brown sugar. And tonight, when we have more, I'm adding some delicious dried cherries that I happen to have.

2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 stick butter
2 eggs
1 c granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c flour

Rum Butter Sauce
1 c heavy cream
3/4 c packed light brown sugar (I reduced the amount to about 1/2 c)
1 stick butter
3 T dark rum (I used amaretto)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Butter 9" springform pain.

For cake: Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler. Cool to room temperature. Beat eggs 3 to 4 min. Gradually beat in sugar about 5 minutes. Beat in vnailla, salt and cooled chocolate mixture. On low speed, blend in flour. Pour into pan. Bake 30 to 35 min. Cool on wire rack in pan.

Sauce: combine cream, sugar and butter in saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently until it boils. Boil 5 min, stirring occasionally. Remove form heat. Stir in rum and vanilla.

To serve: spoon a moderate (lots) amount of warm sauce on a rimmed dessert plate. Top with wedge of cake. Consider cherries, whipped cream, or spoonful of vanilla ice cream. Eat and lick dish.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

. . . because this man is now on the loose!

You may remember our recent bird wars. It all started with my benign intent to get Doug to relax more; you know, watch little birdies, hear them sing, be one with nature, etc.

Except then he took up this vendetta against the squirrels eating the bird food, stealing the bird suet, and took to chasing the squirrels around the yard. But what's really getting to Doug is the massive amount of bird seed he is now trucking into our garage, slaving away under the hot (not!) sun, filling multiple bird seed feeders, with the sleek, black, uniformed Gackles shouting "Faster! Faster!" at him.

But now this lone guy is fighting back and has taken up arms against the masses! He wants to feed the "good birds," the brightly colored little finches and orioles and robins and swallows, and get rid of some of the greedy Gackles. He bought a 1000 FPS with PSA amo Nitro 17 and is thinking long and hard about heading into the yard with it.

Long and hard.

Thinking. . . .

Because it sounded like a good idea. But last night, Doug woke up with a nightmare that he'd somehow put the bullets, pellets, whatever they're called, in his mouth. . . and they had lead in them. . . and this was going to kill him, so he tried to vomit them out of his mouth. . . or some such thing.

I've started obsessing about, "What if you shoot one and they bleed blood onto the ground, and Bonnie gets into it and gets rabies. . . ?"

We live in hunting country. People drive these big pick-ups with gun racks, and haul deer carcasses, hanging them upside down in their garages, usually causing me to have to drive blocks out of my way to approach my house from a direction that won't bring my past strung up dead things.

We're so out of our element!

Stay tuned; I suspect there will be more to this story. . .