settling into fall…

September 15, 2013

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photos:
1) while I was “watching” a movie with my kids, my son was using my ipad to take photos of our puppy resting his chin on my son’s shoulder…I laughed when I saw this one…at least my mouth wasn’t open…
2) my mother’s kitchen floor…my sister and I call her house “the sanctuary”…I feel taken care of there and her floors are always clean.
3) a praying mantis on a window down the hall from my office

A few random photos from the past month. Most of my photos are on my DSL camera, which is not with me today. But since I wanted to get back into posting, here are some random ones that I have with me.

Life has been intense, as life will be this time of year.

I squeezed much into that last week of summer: had a visit from my dear friend Cath, then a spontaneous trip up north with her and my daughter, applied for two jobs and had calls to interview for both, worked to get ready for a new semester at work, engaged in negotiations to get my son’s crazy high school schedule set (he’s taking classes at 3 schools again, including our local community college), and sadly attended a funeral for my dear neighbor’s mom.

And here we are. My kids are back to school, work has picked up and become more intense, the weather had changed to fall, the football season is in full swing in this college town, we celebrated my mother’s birthday last weekend and will celebrate my husband’s tomorrow and I had my two job interviews with the end result that I’m staying put at my current job and am even more grateful for it! More on all of that another time.

As I settle back into this more rigorous, but predictable schedule, I hope to be back to blogging more regularly! xox

what's making me happy 08.23.13: hair, nature, toast and shinola journals

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photos:
1) my daughter’s hair
2) black swallowtail caterpillars on my mother’s parsley
3) a weed going to seed, at gallup park
4) my mother’s honeysuckle
5) zingerman’s pecan raisin bread

The shadows are getting longer in the evenings. The tree frogs and crickets are singing with an almost deafening urgency at night. We are all feeling a little antsy here about the upcoming transition to our fall, and more intense, schedules.

I am feeling wistful about another summer gone; time going faster than ever.

And still, many things are making me happy this week.

Big thing: my little nephew, who has SMA, has been in the hospital with a respiratory infection, but he’s on the mend and is now bossing “his staff” around (the doctors and nurses).

Little things:

1) My daughter’s hair. Actually, that’s a lie. It doesn’t make me happy. It fills me with hair envy.

2) Nature. Caterpillars, flowers, trees, green, fresh air…Happy.

3) Zingerman’s pecan raisin bread. For those who don’t know,
Zingerman’s is an Ann Arbor based deli that has been featured in every food magazine/show in the US, maybe abroad. The owners made a conscious decision not to franchise and to stay local, but they do mail order and deliver bakeries and markets as far away as Chicago. Sorry San Fran, but you have not tasted sourdough until you’ve tasted Zingerman’s sourdough. No lie. I could write a whole post about Zingerman’s bread, but it’s making me too hungry to think about right now.

4) HAIM. I don’t know if it’s the music that makes me happy or the beauty and youth of these sisters…does in matter?

5) Shinola journals.
(they also make lovely bikes and are starting to make watches as well)

6)NYC old photo archives are fascinating…but a time waster (thanks Cath!).
article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2134408/Never-seen-photos-100-years-ago-tell-vivid-story-gritty-New-York-City.html
archive: http://nycma.lunaimaging.com

7) This old Kristen Wiig Confessions of a Tooth Fairy skit was posted on buzzfeed this week– which made me happy because it reminded me of when daughter and her friend did this for a variety show at school. It was a big hit.

8) Saw Woody Allen’s new movie, Blue Jasmine, last night…I feel like I saw it about 20 years ago but it was called A Streetcar Named Desire and it starred Vivien Leigh as Blanche Dubois instead of Cate Blanchett as Jasmine. I did enjoy it. Cate Blanchette and, my favorite, Bobby Cannavale, were wonderful. If you have not seen Bobby Cannavale in the Station Agent (with Peter Dinklage and Patricia Clarkson), or Win Win (with Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan)…you should.

Here’s wishing you happiness and steadiness, as we transition from summer to fall!

of bonsai and roller derby

August 20, 2013

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photos:
1) my neglected bonsai gingko
2) roller derby sign of support
3) vicious and jax check out the competition
4) shutting out the jammer, kamikaze
5) low fives all around, rochella de ville
6) my, formerly pristine, roller skates from middle school. (yes i had my own. be jealous.)

When I told my mother that my daughter and I had attended a roller derby event last Saturday she was bemused. “Tell me again why you were interested in seeing roller derby?”

This is a woman who had called me to encourage me to enter the bonsai gingko tree that she gave me several years ago in a bonsai show taking place in Ann Arbor this weekend. I laughed, but could have easily replied, “Tell me again why you are interested in bonsai, Mom?”

I’m kidding. I do appreciate bonsai and I admire her interest in it. I love the little gingko tree she gave me, thriving despite my neglect. But the practice of bonsai is not my thing; it’s hers.

All of the reasons I don’t share her interest in bonsai are probably the reasons I enjoyed watching roller derby for the first time— bonsai requires patience, roller derby doesn’t; bonsai is elegant, roller derby is scrappy; bonsai is individual, roller derby is team-based, bonsai is serious, roller derby is full of good humor.

I’m not sure roller derby is “my thing.” I’m not much of a spectator of anything. I did find it fascinating. The names/personas are my favorite part: Vicious, Upzette, Justice Fast, Missy May Knock You Out, Czarcasm, Kimikaze. The faux tough names are as much a part of the show as the ripped tights and tattoos. I have never seen a burlesque show (which, by the way, like roller derby, seems to be moving toward mainstream around here), but I imagine roller derby and burlesque share much of the same campy showmanship.

The big surprise of the night: my 19-year-old daughter loved it and wants to learn to play. She does have skills. She had to learn to roller skate for a play a few years ago, using my nearly pristine white roller skates from middle school. She decided her derby name would be: Princess Slay-ya (a name used in Drew Barrymore’s roller derby movie, Whip it!, filmed right here in Ann Arbor and Detroit).

Why not yoga? Running? Soccer? All of the things I am interested in? I know the answer is…bonsai.

photo 111: assignment 7, urban

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photos:
1) westside books and vintage typewriters
2) lorax in the alley with a switchblade
3) backdoor pacific rim
4) lightpost behind ann arbor art center
5) lightpost near the lucky monkey tattoo shop

If you were asked to take a photograph that represents the word “urban”, what would you photograph? This is what my classmates and I were asked to do for our 7th assignment.

Living in a college town, we don’t find too much of what you might automatically think of as urban in our fair city. There isn’t a lot of…edginess here. We used to have funk, but we’re losing that too.

We do have homeless people and pan-handlers, who, come to think of it, would have been great subjects for an urban photo. But I’m not that bold and anyway, it seems disrespectful. I wouldn’t want to benefit from someone else’s suffering.

My classmates and I submitted photos of buildings, alleys, trash, a rusty lock around a chain link fence, a crane at a construction site for a new apartment building, kids skateboarding…

I wasn’t thrilled with my photos. It was February or March when this assignment was due; I didn’t feel like being outside for too long. And one guy in an alley saw me taking photos and followed me to talk with me. He was a little creepy, so I decided it was time to go home.

Do I sound like I’m making excuses?! Yes, I do, because I am.

Some of my classmates needed no excuses. They did a great job on the assignment. Wish I had their photos to share. One of my classmates took a beautiful photograph of Detroit’s Renaissance Center. I looked something like this, but his was a better shot.

Another took a great staged shot of a group of people in a bar with a bokeh effect on a string of lights in the background that looked like this and a little like the red lights in the last photos above.

I learned several things from my FAIL on this assignment:

• people who make a good effort, don’t need excuses.

• if you’re taking grand shots, there has to be a focus or an unusual angle that makes the shot interesting. I took many shots of old Ann Arbor buildings that I consider beautiful. But when I look at the photos, they aren’t interesting at all.

• people are always interesting, even if it’s just a person’s feet.

• animals are always interesting, even it it’s just an animal’s feet.

• the bokeh effect with lights is pretty cool to have in a background (not necessarily illustrated in the photo above).

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08.03.13 whats making me happy this week

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photos:
1. first tomatoes
2. photo my daughter used for a screen saver…on my unsuspecting husband’s laptop.
3. finnegan cuddling up with our smelly shoes
4. my sister’s handwritten (love) recipe and the last of her bean and rice salad
5. cornflake marshmallow cookies
6. hibiscus
7. mid century library staircase
8. dr. who phonebox cake

What a week! Home from a trip to visit my brother’s family in Virginia, my son’s 16th birthday and too short visit from my dear friend Cathy. In addition to all of that BIG happiness, here are some little things that are making me happy thing week:

1. Our first tomatoes from our garden make me happy!

2. My daughter, who makes me laugh a lot, makes me happy. (Also we fight a lot.) You can see (above) the kind of desktop photos she puts on any unattended laptops when she has the chance. She was recently sitting across from me as we both “worked” on our laptops. She laughed aloud and said ‘This meme reminds me of you.‘I tried to login to my iPad, turns out it was an etch a sketch and I don’t even own an iPad, also, I’m out of wine.’”
Do you think I’m a good role model?

3. My puppy. He likes to sleep among shoes. I think because they smell like us. Lucky for him, my family provides ample opportunity for him to sleep among smelly shoes!

4. Summer salads. I love them for their use of produce, freshness and mix of flavors. Three of our staples include my sister’s bean and rice salad pictured above, Giada De Laurentiis’ Mediterranean Farro Salad and this panzenlla salad.

I also tried this tomato and watermelon salad from shutterbean.com and it was like eating a big bowl of summer!

5. Speaking of shutterban recipes…tracy’s Cornflake Marshmallow Cookies are pretty amazing. In fact they are too amazing. It will be awhile before I can make these again because they are so darn good, both baked and raw! I made one batch one night and then immediately had to make another the next day and then I had to make myself stop. So, so yummy.

6.The hibiscus are finally blooming in this part of the world.

7. Libraries make me happy, particularly this mid-century modern one pictured above, where I spend my time when my son volunteers at a zoo about an hour away from our house.

8. Comedian Jim Gaffigan. We just saw him at Meadowbrook Theater, near my mother’s house. He has two stand up specials on Nextflix and just published a book called, “Dad is Fat.”

9. The Dr. Who phone box cake above that my daughter made for her friend who loves Dr. Who.

When my daughter delivered it, her friend’s 11 year old brother, who loves my daughter, asked her, “Wanna look at baby animal pictures with me?” Yep. That’s how we grow our men in Ann Arbor. Love.

10. And speaking of growing men. I am excited by this new project by Jennifer Siebel The Mask You Live In, about the very restrictive and destructive models of manhood that our society presents to our sons. If you haven’t seen Jen Siebel’s Miss Representation, about girls in the media, please see it. It’s not just for women, or parents of daughters. We showed this on our campus last year to a large crowd of male and female students and there was clapping and cheering at the end by all genders. See it. Please. It has a hopeful ending!

11. These capri yoga/active wear pants my sister sent to me. At first I thought they were Lulu Lemon, because my sis is all about Lulu Lemon and because they were so quality…but no, they are from Old Navy! = affordable! I love them. She says they are her favs.

12. Something about the song Royales by Lordes makes me happy…it’s a great workout jam. Turn it up…even louder. I know I will be sick of it in a month…

13. Also this song, We Are Flowers sung by Eef Barzelay from the band Clem Snide).

14. It makes me happy when a story stops me in my tracks, transports me, and then haunts me for days after, as happened when I heard Ron Rush read his short story, “Something Rich and Strange,” from his collection of short stories Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Happy week to you! Watch Jim Gaffigan on Netflix, he will make you laugh!

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photo 111: assignment 6, unusual angle

Photo 111: assignment 6, unusual angle

photos:
1) a birds nest in the top door of my mother’s barn.
didn’t that male bird make it fancy for the ladies? i wonder if he was successful or if they all avoided him for being odd. or if his special lady friend slapped him upside the head and said, “why don’t you just put an electric sign on it that says ‘hey cats! there are tasty baby birds right here!’”
2) from under one of my mother’s many bird feeder’s. the slinky is to keep the squirrels out, and it works!
3) a blue birdhouse my dad painted so many years ago, through a knothole in the barn loft. so many reminders of my dad all over the place
4) little hedgehog feet, next to a toaster
5) grumpy, grumpy hedgehog, next to a toaster

Though I’m not sure I was successful at this assignment, I enjoyed it. Changing your angle can turn a mediocre scene into something interesting. But as demonstrated above, finding the right angle takes practice. I’m still learning.

My son says the birdfeeder photo above is not an unusual angle, since we normally view a birdfeeder from below. He’s right. But still, a shot from directly underneath an active bird feeder is unusual. Especially in the winter when you have to lie very still, on a beach towel, in the snow for some time before the birds will come to the feeder.

For my assignment, I turned in the bottom photo of Dandelion, even though it was terrible. So much out of focus. My classmates loved it. Haha. My instructor didn’t. (I posted my daughter’s superior photos of Dandelion in a previous post, hedgehog: real talk, and taken with a small Canon pocket camera.)

High angles, low angles, framing photos through things like branches, are a good way to try out unusual angles.

Here are examples from some amazing pros:
Elliott Erwitt, such a classic, and his dog photos are funny

Arno Rafael Minkkinen, really interesting use of bodies

Vernon Merritt , great photos of 1969 NYC

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photo 111: great depth of field

photos:
1) massimo vitali beach photo
2) helen levitt street photos (so love her photos)
3) john pfahl nature photos

I started writing about my photography class in past posts, and never finished, like so many projects in my life. Sigh. The class ended April. So I thought I would go back to those posts.

There were 12 assignments, I have written about 3 of them (I skipped assignment 3, panning motion, because my photos were so boring and terrible…):

photo 111: assignment 1, he is the eggman
photo 111: assignment 2, stop motion
photo 111: assignment 4, shallow depth of field, and not so shallow barbie

Great depth of field was not one of my favorite assignments, because it required photographing a scene with everything in the photo, from fore to rear, being in acceptable focus. I just couldn’t come up with a scene I liked…It was January in Michigan and everything was dull and grey. Plus, getting the light right was difficult. As I said, January, Michigan, and I didn’t have a tripod at the time.

I posted some of the photos I took for this assignment in one of my earliest posts, snow day. The photos above are much better examples. To be fair, these photographers have pretty amazing cameras and lenses…

When shooting for great depth of field, you need to use the smallest aperture (f-stop) your camera allows, usually f16 or f22. Small referring to opening in the lens, which is a greater number because it’s really a fraction 1/16 and 1/22. So f22 is a smaller aperture then f8. So confusing!

Since you’re using a small aperture, it’s best to photograph on a sunny day so you have enough light. You don’t want to use a shutter speed any slower than 1/60 because that will make your photo fuzzy, unless you use a tripod.

Or you can just point your iphone and click and be happy.

The only classmate photo for this assignment that I can remember was of a tree line across a field of snow. The trees were tall, slender and dark and in nice contrast to the white snow and light grey sky. At first, I thought it was a black and white photo, but no, January in Michigan.

discordant and antsy

July 21, 2013

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photos:
1) size 11 watershoes left on the patio
2) the cottage, looking in from the front porch
3) the cottage, inside looking out onto the porch where the men are playing a game over breakfast
4) the cottage, doggy doorstop
5) a stealth photo of my son cuddling finny as we watch television in the basement
6) too many days of this weather
7) finnegan finally gets a properly-sized pool

This summer has felt…discordant…just off in some ways. Parenting teenagers has been tricky. Schedules are feeling like tectonic plates grinding against each other. My expectations for everything I will get done in the summer are always too high and unrealistic. In fact, it feels like I am able to get less done during the summer because schedules and needs are unpredictable. And I am antsy for a new direction, one that involves creativity.

Today I am home alone. My husband and daughter are up north at my husband’s family cottage. My son is working all day. So I will try to make progress on a long list of tasks.

Hope your summer is feeling more settled than mine and that you are not, like me, feeling a little panicky about August lurking around the corner…

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someone left this line of pretty rocks for us

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sleeping bear dune in the furthest distance, and south manitou island the dark line to the left of it

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see the fuzzy black dots? not dirt on my lens. flying black insects…with no breeze to blow them away. at least they weren’t biting, just annoying.

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large prints and wee prints

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welcomed color on a gray day
(my parents were canadian and i still spell gray, “grey” first)

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a big bouncy dog found my daughter, i love the long shadows

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she has seen many sunsets at pt. betsie

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pt. betsie lighthouse with the lamp just lit

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reading “the autobiograpy of red” on crystal, recommended by my daughter, the sun finally shining

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wild turkeys bigger than my pug. i later noticed the christmas lights on the house. a newer kind. did someone live here so recently? or did they just decorate to draw attention to the antiques store next door?

weekend escape to the big lake

“i won again mom. did you see i used the word “idiosyncratic”? shall I put my can of whup*** away now?”

My daughter and I escaped this weekend to northern Michigan, to the big lake, Lake Michigan, and to Crystal Lake. My husband’s parents have a cottage on Crystal Lake, very close to Lake Michigan, which we have spent time at every summer since before our children were born. As a child my husband spent most of his summers there. He spent so many hours combing the beach for Petoskey stones, he would fall asleep with the pattern of Petoskey stones on his eyelids. I love that image.

It is not always easy for me to spend time at that cottage. Clutter, clutter clutter everywhere…I wish I was wired differently and that such unimportant things didn’t bother me, but I’m not and they do. I haven’t even mentioned the dog toys, crates, hair…gah. And I love dogs.

But it is in the midst of paradise and I am grateful for time there, especially since it is a place my children and husband love. (They don’t mind clutter…believe me and don’t get me started.)

It was a quiet weekend, almost too quiet for us. It was grey and cool. No waves on either lake. I have never seen Lake Michigan with no waves. No breeze in the woods surrounding the cottage. And very few people– that will all change at the end of this week when school is out for the summer.

Still, it was nice to get away together. We walked along Lake Michigan at Empire Beach, sat on the beach at Crystal wrapped up in towels and read and napped, bought coffee and giant soft chewy butter pretzels at the Crescent Bakery, watched the sun set at Pt. Betsie, ate at the Coho Café where our up north neighbor from Virginia was being trained to be a waiter (his family stays up at the lake all summer), and played Bananagrams, which I enjoy less and less every time I play with my daughter.

We plan to go back up north with the rest of the family in July, after my daughter’s job working at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival ends. Hoping the lakes and the air will be a little warmer!

What making me happy this week 06.07.13

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photos:
1. random photo of ant mural in ann arbor, on the back side of the now vacant borders building. did you know borders books originated as a single book store in ann arbor? in this town where brains count more than money, you were revered if you worked there…with your 3 phds, making less than minimum wage…because in order to work there you had to pass an impossibly rigorous literature test, or so i’m told. i miss borders.
2. the nasturtiums are starting to bloom.
3. the homemade gelato truck that we are going to lojack, for both the truck, named ingrid, and for the gelato.
photosource: annarbor.com (see direct link below)
4. played with these this last saturday. two robotic prosthetic hands, one with the fake flesh off and one with it on. kidding. only one robotic hand, the other is a real one…that we are going to attach to a robot. kidding. it’s just zach’s hand and we are going to leave it on zach, which makes him happy.
5. the basil is growing!

1. My friends and I are going to lojack this ice-cream truck. I want the truck almost as much as I want the homemade gelato that is sold from it. All local ingredients. I want to try the sesame fig and the salted caramel flavors. I will keep you posted on our success.
http://annarbor.com/business-review/hello-ice-cream-ann-arbor-entrepreneur-launches-italian-style-ice-cream-business/

2. From the Onion. This made me laugh because it is so much my life right now! “Man On Cusp Of Having Fun Suddenly Remembers Every Single One Of His Responsibilities.” The photo is the best.
http://www.theonion.com/articles/man-on-cusp-of-having-fun-remembers-every-single-o,32632/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_campaign=standard-post:headline:default

3. I guarantee you will smile—the fashion, the dancing. I want to be there. As I said in a comment to shutterbean.com today, I call being the woman in the orange extra bell bottom flowing pants– I call her hair, her clothes and her moves. And you?
http://www.good.is/posts/how-to-dance-properly-to-daft-punk-s-get-lucky

4. It’s graduation speech time, and here is one I love. I think his sentiment about realizing you don’t know anything so keep your mouth shut,
but sometimes you do, so open it up,
applies to old folks like me as well as those graduating infants.
http://www.upworthy.com/obamas-speechwriterstand-up-comedian-gives-a-graduation-speech-not-surprisingly-its-badass?c=ufb1

5. A teacher friend posted this on facebook. Teachers who got the last laugh. You have likely seen it by now. My favorite is the teachers who took selfies on a student’s confiscated iPhone…tee hee hee
http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/33-teachers-who-got-the-last-laugh

6. I don’t know much about Viola Davis. I have not seen one of her movies. But after viewing this Elle magazine Women in Hollywood award speech, I have decided I love this woman. I love strong women who reach back and reach out. Plus she’s beautiful. I could never give such an eloquent, fearless, compelling, seamless, off the cuff speech.
http://www.elle.com/video/viola-davis-women-in-hollywood-speech-video-1226838796001

By the time you read this, I hope to be on the road on my way to northern Michigan. It won’t be very warm, but still, being on Lake Michigan will make me happy in any weather. I hope you have found bits of happiness this week– if not, hugs to you.