pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: April 2010

30 April 2010

Sweet pea

Window box
30 April 2010

I like having window boxes, and in the one that sits at the kitchen window, I grow strawberries, herbs and spider webs. I always put flowers in the others, and the sweet peas began blooming last week. I grew them from seed from Renee's Garden and they are charming.

Tech stuff: Nikon D40 and clear afternoon light.

29 April 2010

Sometimes the picture isn't pretty

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
18 August 2003

We look for the beautiful in nature, the grandeur, the amazing contrast, the spectacular shot. And sometimes what you get is this.

Montana was devastated by wildfires that summer, and the smoke that obscures the Grand Tetons in this photo was from those fires. The day we actually arrived at Jackson Lake, the mountains were almost completely invisible. It was a stark reminder of the power of nature.

Tech stuff: Canon PowerShot S110.

28 April 2010

Sometimes you'd think the sky caught fire

Randolph Park
Tucson, Arizona
ca. 1967

The thing I love about this photo is its overexposure. If you've ever been outdoors in Arizona when it's 114F, then you can feel the heat coming off the ground here. And, naturally, I love that my brother is holding a broomstick that he was using as a fishing pole. I also marvel at the complete lack of greenery at Randolph, with the exception of those palm trees. All my memories of the place revolve around cool shade, grass and trees.

Tech stuff: taken by one of my parents with a camera. That's all I know.

27 April 2010

I saw these shoes rather a lot that summer

Moline, Illinois
20 May 2008

I did not take this photo; the person who was standing next to me did with his cell phone. He sort of owes me for this, so I don't think he'll mind that I posted his picture here without (much) attribution or identification of any sort.  Not that he's likely ever to see it here. Fortunately, it's hard to tell what you're looking at unless you know what you're looking at.

Well, yes, they are shoes.

When all this actual life played out, I was right there, no camera.  But I'm glad that KH was there to document it.  Because I haven't stopped giggling over this photo since he sent it to me almost two years ago.

(And whatever anyone may think, it's far, far better that D. and I don't believe in documenting our adventures.  Because...dude.  We are our own special brand of happy hell on wheels.)

Tech stuff: a cell phone. Other than that...

26 April 2010

If only I could save them all

30 April 2004

He loves the sun. He dislikes being picked up and held, but he enjoys being a lap rug, and is most relaxed asleep on someone's legs. He has a sweet voice, but becomes strident if he thinks he isn't going to be fed.

His nightmares are clearly terrifying, and he sometimes moans and cries in his sleep. Occasionally, he will spring from his slumber and run, panting, eyes dilated. I know he is frightened of birds. I brought him home when he was five months old, scheduled to die on the Monday if I hadn't committed to him on the Saturday. I don't know what horrors he experienced in his babyhood as a feral, but clearly, they still haunt him.

Tech stuff: Canon PowerShot S110.

21 April 2010

Bounty from the market

I was supposed to go up to Los Angeles today as sort of a last minute thing, but that all got canceled right about the time I stepped out of the shower. So I was left to rethink my day, and try to remember what it was I'd planned to do before Los Angeles intervened.

Wednesday, I thought. Farmer's market, and oh yeah. I need something for dinner tonight because the last couple of weeks keep getting discombobulated and my pork roast hasn't gotten marinated, and I'd been planning to get some fresh fish to make up for the pork roast that hasn't been roasted and turned into Cuban sandwiches and tacos.

So, I wandered off to the market, hoping the fish dude was there because it's supposed to rain some more, and fewer folks are there when it rains.

I was immediately distracted by tomato dude, who usually sells amazing heirlooms (currently out of season), but instead had some nice red tomatoes. And unshelled peas. We have all become entranced with the cover recipe on the current Bon Appetit, which features a fettucine with pancetta, fresh peas and asparagus. So I bought a pound of peas, just in case.

Fish dude was present, but didn't have halibut, which was what I wanted. Instead, he had black cod (sablefish), so I bought a pound of that, figuring I'd work something out.  Curry it, broil it, roast it.  Something.

I made another pass through the market and kept getting hit with the scent of strawberries.  Everybody had them, huge baskets and 3 packs.  I bought some from the organic guy who usually sells me corn.  Then the smell of roasting peanuts reminded me how much the spouse and the son like the fresh nuts.  So I bought a little bag, still warm from the roaster.

I'll have a fresh tomato for lunch, and I'll do something to the cod for dinner (probably roast it with some soy sauce, sesame oil, honey and ginger), and serve it alongside wild rice with fresh peas.


Tech stuff: Nikon D40. Probably safe to say I do not have a future as a food stylist.

16 April 2010

Little mermaid

Copenhagen, Denmark
7 July 2006

The daughter, continuing a conversation: "His name was John Milton? Heh, that's funny."

Me: "Hilton. Like the hotel. Not Milton."

The daughter: "Well, John Milton wrote Paradise Lost."

The son, acerbically: "You thought he wrote Pippi Longstocking."

The daughter looked downcast for a moment, and then decided to ignore her brother, asking brightly: "Who did write Pippi Longstocking?"

Me: "Astrid Lindgren."

Yes, I'm a font of trivia.

Silence ensued. Possibly because I knew of someone called Astrid Lindgren.

The son ventured: "Well, I've never heard of her."

The daughter: "Me neither."

Me: "She was Swedish. The books were originally written in Swedish and later translated."

The daughter: "But I thought...Well, where was Hans Christian Andersen from?"

The son and I in unison: "Denmark."

The daughter: "Really?"

The son, with older sibling exasperation: "You saw The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen."

The daughter, indignant: "No, I didn't!"

I observed: "You practically walked up to it."

The son: "See?"

The daughter bristled with the porcupine-like defenses of a 13-year-old: "I didn't KNOW!"

Tech stuff: Take with a Canon S110 on a drear and murky day.

15 April 2010

Fumarole under the bright blue sky

Namafjall Hverir, Iceland
25 July 2008

Geologically speaking, Iceland is very young. It sits partially on the Mid-Atlantic ridge and straddles the boundary of the North American and Eurasian Plates, and new volcanic islands like Surtsey have sprung up near its southern coast. My own interest in Iceland began with Surtsey when I was very young and read an ancient National Geographic magazine article on the smaller island's formation.

We looked at the actual plate boundary in this volcanic area, and the daughter still talks about standing astride it. It pleased her no end. The spouse, who is the resident geologist, as well.

This photo was taken in a geothermal area near Lake Myvatn, which is at the more northerly end of the island. The volcano below Eyjafjallajökull glacier, the eruption of which has shut down air traffic across Europe today, is near the southern end of Iceland. What makes Iceland so amazingly gorgeous is the combination of ice, mountains, glacier-fed rivers, lava beds and moonscapes like that above. You can't turn around without encountering a breath-taking view.

I'm very anxious to go back and explore more.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40, ambient light, auto settings. I love the contrast between sky and land here. No Photoshopping; this is the actual photo I took with some minor cropping.

14 April 2010

Portrait of a grandmother as a young girl


My mother sent me this photograph with no comment at the same time she sent a photo of herself at 6 months old, wherein she was a ringer for the daughter at six months old. The resemblance between my mother and my daughter was astonishing.

For the most part, I look undeniably like my mother's family, though I wouldn't say that I resemble any one of them in particular. Then I got this photograph.

This is my maternal grandmother at the age of 18 on a camping trip. The back of the photo said nothing more than "Kat - 1923." So I don't know where she was, who she was with, what she was thinking.

But the profile is mine. The expression is mine. The resemblance is so strong and so eerie that my children thought the picture was of me.

Genetics are a funny thing.

Tech stuff: Good question!

13 April 2010

Historic mission. Squirming models.

San Juan Capistrano Mission, California
21 December 1998

Chances are that if you are a parent, you've tried at least once to take a nice photo of your children to grace your Christmas card. I recounted here the mess that was this afternoon, complete with the daughter climbing into the life-size creche on the grounds. And here is photographic evidence of how wrong it was all going! I never did get a photo at the Mission that year, and instead used one that I finally took at home. And obviously I was running late in the card department if I waited until nearly the end of December to take the photo. Is it any wonder I've abandoned cards at the holidays altogether?

Tech stuff: Shot with an early model Canon ELPH that I didn't particularly love.

12 April 2010

Viking kitten

Bergen, Norway
20 July 2008

With his evil, slitty little yellow eyes, this guy does look like the Hammer of the Gods. In reality, he was an immensely sweet-tempered, small, stocky cat who just wanted to say hello. He visited with the daughter, mewed, and then rubbed his cheek against my hand. Having give us a proper catly greeting, he sauntered up the road to go about his business, and we set off to hike Bergen's hills.

Tech stuff: Shot with my Nikon D40.

09 April 2010

In the garden at the museum

Getty Center
Los Angeles, California
6 April 2010

Between the two of us, the spouse and I have spent a good portion of our professional careers in service to the Getty. I worked for several years at UCLA under contract to the Getty, and then briefly for the Getty proper, while the spouse was intimately involved with building the newer complex in Brentwood.

It isn't often that we're in the Getty's neighborhood, so we don't visit much, and in fact, I don't think I've been to the Villa since I was at a cocktail party there whilst pregnant with the son. As we climbed off the funicular at the top of the hill, I suddenly remembered that the spouse and I had been to one of the opening gala parties there, something I'd utterly forgotten.

The new center seemed so stark when it was young, but I'm happy to see that it's matured rather nicely. I've always been a fan of the Robert Irwin-designed Central Garden, so much so that when the now-defunct Smith & Hawken featured a Getty-esque garden structure like those pictured here, I immediately went out and bought one, and planted a bougainvillea in it. Of course, mine is tiny, and the bougainvillea utterly overwhelms it, but it still makes me happy.

Tech stuff: Shot with my Nikon D40 in that hectic, post-storm light that tends to make Southern California glitter.

08 April 2010

No clowns, milady

La Fiesta de los Vaqueros
Tucson, Arizona
26 February 1976

Ah, the rodeo parade. I don't remember how old I was when I started taking my younger sisters to see it, but based on the date of this photo, not very old. The little blonde in the pioneer woman hat is my youngest sister. She liked wearing costumes, and when I took the girls that morning, she insisted on wearing the hat and pioneer outfit she'd worn to kindergarten the previous day.

I thought it was rather sweet that the clown stopped to talk to her, but she was scared to death. He wasn't very freaky as clowns go. The ones that always gave me nightmares were the full on white-face, red wig, big nose, It-style clowns. One of the worst dreams I ever had was that the front entrance of the Lucky grocery store we frequented when I was small had been turned into a giant clown face and anyone who stepped into the "mouth" was immediately eaten.

I snapped this photo quickly, and the composition wasn't all it could have been. It also didn't help that the camera was on its last legs, and I was getting light flare in the photos. One too many concussions, I guess.

Tech stuff: shot with a Kodak Instamatic X-15, on either Tri-X Pan or Verichrome Pan. Now, I never said that these photos were going to be the "best of." That's not the point. When all this actual life played out is the point.

07 April 2010

At twilight

Universal City, California
5 April 2010

Twilight may be my favorite time of day. The sky takes on a hue of blue that is so deep and amazing, and on a clear night, the sky looks like royal blue velvet. On Monday, it rained all morning, but by afternoon, the breeze was up and the air was cool and clear.

Venus was out as the sun set, too. It's that little speck of light to the right of the hotel.

(Click to increase size)

Tech stuff: Shot with my Nikon D40. Look, Ma, no tripod! To be honest, I was mostly just fooling around with settings on the camera, and yes, it's too dark.

06 April 2010

Baddest dog

Bad Dog
27 October 2004

She might have been the worst dog ever if you were giving awards for sheer, exuberant disobedience. And pigheadedness.

She didn't believe in fetch. She believed in you-throw-the-toy-and-I-run-away-with-it-and-you-chase-me. She believed in territorial rights: it was her right to eat anything in her territory, whether it was two-legged, four-legged, had wings, or was a gastropod. She believed that baths were for other dogs, and wasted no time rolling in the grass the moment she got home from the groomers. On a stink bug, if she could find one. She believed in barking, loud, long, and for no reason. She liked cats and loathed dogs. People, however, were the best, provided they offered her suitable adoration at all times.

She never stopped being curious about her world, and what we were busy doing in it. She loved to dance with us. She never stopped smiling, even as a brain tumor stole her away from us.

Worst dog ever. We couldn't have loved her more.

Tech stuff: Shot with a Canon Powershot S110. She also was a complete ham, and would always pose for a photo American Eskimos are a breed apart.

05 April 2010

Looking at the big sky

Lake Myvatn, Iceland
25 July 2008

Montana boasts a big sky. Iceland, too, has a glorious sky. Iceland, Greenland and Finland north of the Arctic Circle all redefined the idea of "northern light" for me.

Tech stuff: Shot with my Nikon D40 on a fine summer morning. If you read Out of the Kitchen, you might have seen this photo before, but it's one of my favorite, so I decided it deserved a showing over here.

02 April 2010

I am a rock

19 March 2010

When you live in the desert, you learn to keep your eyes open wide, alert to slight movement or the unusual. Usually, this sort of hyper awareness has allowed me to see the faintly moving flanks of a lizard or peccary hidden in the brush. Once, it alerted me to the rattlesnake by my left foot, which lucky for me, had a half-swallowed mouse in its jaws, and was more interested in fleeing the scene than striking me.

Sometimes the mere act of paying attention rewards you with a treasure like a pretty rock. As kids, we found all sorts of things in the desert and the washes: cool rocks, old glass insulators from the power lines, glass soda bottles that could be turned into nickels at the Circle K. I was about 9 when I found this rock and a couple of pieces of petrified wood. Chalcopyrite, along with bornite which tarnishes in similar fashion, is a copper ore, and southern Arizona was once known for its copper mining operations, so this find wasn't necessarily unusual, but I was completely captivated by the sparkle of the tarnish on its surfaces and the heft of rock itself.

Although I'm married to a geologist, I've never been one for collecting rocks, but this bit of peacock ore will always have a special place in my heart. It's always been my treasure, a secret gift from the desert.

Tech stuff: Shot with my Nikon D40 in ambient natural light during the workshop taught by Kyle Cassidy that I recently attended.

01 April 2010

They called her "Hawk Eye" for a reason

Softball game
26 January 1976

No doubt I was taking this for the yearbook, since it was shot in black and white and I actually had the back of the photo dated.

People are not my strong suit, but once in a while, you get lucky and get exactly what is there.

Sister Kathryn was our school principal (and my math teacher for years), and in retrospect, I think she was a bigger softie than Sister Angela Marie, who was One Tough Cookie (and who is also responsible for my ability to diagram a sentence like nobody's business). Sure, everyone who ever went to Catholic school has a nun story (mine has to do with the sister who taught my kindergarten at a different school. Ye gods, she was a terrifying little Spanish spitfire), but these two and their fellow sisters at our parish convent were strong, compassionate women, who had the sense of humor to allow us to have sleepovers at the convent once a year as a treat. Disciplinarians, absolutely, and they weren't perfect by any stretch, but I can honestly say that I learned a great deal of good from them and am far better for having known them.

Tech stuff: shot with a Kodak Instamatic X-15, on either Tri-X Pan or Verichrome Pan. I found the photo loose, though I know I've got the negative somewhere, and it would probably tell me. I used both at various times, but my options were generally limited.