Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Picture of the Day

It snowed here in NY. I had no idea it was going to and was surprised to wake up to clouds and swirling flakes. As you can see my sage is still alive despite of the snow. I shot this with the d200 and the macro. I also figured out how to work the very fancy flash. Turns out, it needs batteries.

Oh and I totally abandoned the idea of not writing a blurb with each picture.

Good F'ing Riddance 2008

Except for my dad dying, 2008 wasn't a bad year. I nominate myself for understatements of the year. For us it wasn't too bad of a year, we bought an apartment, moved back into the city, and enjoyed the love and support of family and friends. But for the world, 2008 was pretty crappy.

2008 is divided into two distinct sets: pre-election and post-election. Before the election I was still clinging to the hope that the election of Obama would solve everything. It was a great delusion and it carried me through some tough times. After the election, I still had hope but all the hope in the world couldn't deny that we were witnessing a global shit storm of epic proportions.

I have basically forgot anything that happened this year before my dad got sick. I lived and worked in DC for two months, sat front and center for the Eliot Spitzer sexy-time, and very much disliked the movie Cloverfield. Early last year was all about losing our property virginity, finding a new job, and two months of a two hour commute and long-weekend trips back to DC.

The only thing I remember about the spring is some major work stuff, the season finales of Battlestar and Lost, and my husband's joy at discovering Vic's sweatpants. I can still smell the hospital.

Summer was all about the Olympics. We must have watched every single event we could. I always cry, seriously weep, when people win sporting events and I think I must have cried my eyes out for those two weeks. I honestly don't remember anything about the Olympics other than the incredible opening ceremony, Michael Phelps, and Shawn Johnson's cameltoe. It's a blur but I loved every minute of it.

Did we have a fall? I just vaguely remember being really angry all the time, mostly at John McCain. The campaign seems like a lifetime ago and Obama's win is already ancient history in my mind. As soon as the campaign was over, the year descended into doom and gloom and a lot of photography.

I never really make resolutions but here are a few:
- Pack my lunch more
- Take a photography class
- Take a photo every day

I suspect that globally 2009 is going to pretty dismal but I predict an onslaught of new babies, increasingly excellent food, and many many rounds of drinks with friends and family.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Picture of the Day

I'm doing flickr's 365 day photo challenge. It is exactly like what it sounds like. I'll be starting on 1/1/09 but I wanted to get a head start. No words, unamusing anectdotes about the pictures or incoherent ramblings about why I liked the picture. Just the picture. I give myself two days before I start writing narration.

Monday, December 29, 2008


My husband grew up in Northern Virginia and every time I visit the place it seems like a magical fantasy land. Everyone's dad is a four-star general, no one's mom can talk about what they actually do, and all the kids are above average (really I think they all went to Ivy league schools). I don't want it to sound too "Lake Wobegone" but the place attracts interesting, talented people like LA attracts fake boobs and eating disorders.

Because everyone is above average there are always kookie traditions that I get to witness. This year we made it down to see the annual model plane flight. A bunch of overachievers gather in a playground and witness the flight of a model plane, this year, the Enola Gay. The wonderful thing about it is that these people have been coming down to this field for years and years and have known each other since grade school. I guess my friends in NJ have similar traditions but they usually include the word "mall", "shoes", or "wrestle over the last of the christmas ham".

So here is the 2008 flight, I'll let you see how it turned out.

Same place, next year?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Welcome Back Sunset

We were treated to a beautiful sunset to end this balmy day. After a couple overast days in VA and a dreary 8 hour ride back, I was very happy to be greeted by a beautiful sunset that I shot from our roof. It was warm enough up there to enjoy the whole thing.


Six Months Out

It's been a little over six months since my dad died. Do you know what is the hardest thing? Six months ago, when he first died, I wasn't sure what it would be, I wasn't sure I would be out of bed yet. I was talking to my sister-in -law and she said she just couldn't imagine how she would deal with it and I said "You just do" and we are. Right now, six months out, I really miss our everyday phone calls about absolutely nothing.

When my dad first died, well actually, when he first got sick, much of the emotional support that he provided was quickly picked up by friends and family. He was my biggest cheerleader, my rock, and my sounding board but very quickly, other people filled in those spaces almost seamlessly. Those people were always there but perhaps I just let them in more than ever before.

But the steady stream of articles, voicemail, and emails has stopped completely and I can't count the number of times I've been excited about something and thought to myself "he would love this". Our conversations were always about kind of silly stuff, an article in MacWorld, a Yankee trade, a new gaffe by the Bushies, or just some new shoes that he had found. I really miss his curiosity and that reassurance that no matter how redundant, extravegant, or minor, he would think it was "cool", "neat", or "interesting". We would spend hours on the phone, gabbing away about nothing. I'm pretty sure that nothing was everything.

I really can't think of a period in my life where I didn't talk to him on the phone at least once a day (actually I can but it was so unbelievably painful that I still haven't begun to unpack it). What I've realized is that no one can or should really fill that void, it was the essence of our relationship and I shouldn't try to substitute something else in there. I think that's why it continues to hurt so much because I know that I really can't replace my chatty, curious dad.

I have a lot more to say but for right now I'll just leave it at this. This picture is of my dad, my sister and me at disney world. He has a beard! The picture is labeled February 1982 and I think he might have brought us down on his own. The picture is totally typical of the three of us: I look like I just poked myself in the eye, my sister looks like a model, and my dad looks like he is trying to absorb every ounce of his time with us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Cheer!

I think I'm going to start a regular feature called the Denial Phase. It will be a place where I put on my PFA (positive fucking attitude) and tra-la-la-la-la-la all is magically better in my world. Perhaps I'll have the bad judgement to post my actual feelings in a post entitled "Six Months Later" after the holidays.

(Another note on the swearing: PFA comes to me from my wonderful mother in law, who knows how to use swearing for maximum effect. Since PFA is sanctioned by her, my own mom and step-mom should think of my swearing as charming and percussive, not crass and a sign of my poor upbringing.)

Here's are a few things that have brought my great holiday cheer and joy in the past few days:

- Cramming chili fries in my mouth while talking to Ab
- My adorable yellow knit slippers with giant pom poms on the front from my sister
- See post about my adventures with my mom
- My most delicious chicken sandwich and stepmother therapy with my step mother
- Looking through a box of baby pictures with my mom and sister
- Sharing a wonderful meal with my sister and her newly minted partner boyfriend (Yay Vic!)

No offense to anyone above but the most holiday cheer came from my step-mom's cat Leo, the giant orange one that you shouldn't pet since he's a biter.

I bought all the kitties in my life bags of organic, locally grown, $12 a pound catnip for Christmas. Leo loves catnip, he's actually a bit of a tweaker when it comes to the stuff. He immediatly sniffs out the bag and begins to rub his jaw on it (without even reading the card!). I sprinkled some on his scratching bed and then the fun began.

He started by just lapping it up with his tongue. Then he started blowing on it so that it would fly up in the air and land on his head. Next was the intense jaw scratching where he rubbed his jaw and ears all over, then a few full body rolls to completely cover himself in it. Finally full out flop as if to absorb by osmosis.

Then it hits and he sits, completely stoned, staring out the window, occasionally sneezing, for the next 15 minutes, with a long string of cat drool slowly making its way to the floor and finally a plaintive, drowsy meow.

That was by far the best reaction to any present I have ever given anything or anyone in my whole life, he's raised the bar really high for anyone that wants to show appreciation.

The other cat (the little orange and black one that loves to be pet) just sniffed her bag and licked her butt.

Below are some pictures of holiday cheer for your enjoyment. I think they go well with the newly released Weezer holiday songs that are just the right mix of driving chords and sweet holiday charm.

Wow, just writing that made me feel better.

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Christmas Feast with my Mom

I'm spending Christmas with my lovely in-laws in DC and wanted to find some time to spend with my mom to celebrate the holiday. We haven't been in Brooklyn very long and I wanted to show her some of my favorite spots.

We started down in Red Hook. I took her out to the Lehigh Valley museum pier to see the harbor. It was freezing, windy, but just warm enough so that the ground had large puddles of slushy water to wade through. My mom is up for anything but I hadn't really checked her footware before slogging through the gardens and skittering down the icy pier. She loved the little holiday decorations on the front gates of the museum.

We then proceeded inside Fairway to get our feast. Fairway is opening a store in NJ near my family and there is apparently quite the buzz. We walked around the store, my mom's mouth agape as she stared at the combination of speciality items and bulk toilet paper. I, being a beast when I'm hungry, practically dragged her to the back to grab our lobster rolls.

I introduced my mom to my favorite Sunday afternoon treat: lobster rolls at Fairway looking at the weather come across the harbor. We grabbed on to go for my husband and watched some radical clouds pass overhead. She assured me that the afternoon was shaping up to be sunny and as we sat, a sharp lines of dark clouds ended and a bright sunny day opened up. As my mom ate I ran back and forth to take some pictures. I also filled her in on the history of the trolley cars and of the area in general.

When we finished we bundled back up and went outside to take pictures again. The weather was incredible and we were warmed up a bit when the sun came out.

We stopped to take pictures of this old car. She told me some funny stories about a friend of hers who had a very similar car. Apparently though, it had big holes in the floor and as you drove along, you could see the road rolling below you.

My mom is the executive director of our town's Chamber of Commerce and very aware of issues facing small local businesses and land use in general. She was tickled pink at the development of Fairway, the live/work apartment, and the use of water taxis to supplement the public transportation system. I warned her about how out of place Ikea looked in the industrial landscape.

Quite frankly, Ikea looks pretty out of place where ever you plop one. I grew up in the land of the malls and you can count six major ones between the George Washington Bridge and the house I grew up in. They put in a new Ikea a year or two ago and it doesn't fit in nestled among the malls of Paramus, so I'm not quite sure why they thought one would fit in with the industrial landscape of Red Hook.

Oddly enough, Ikea did kind of blend with the ominous dark grey sky.

Okay, this is where I need to apologize to my mom but I think she knows that I just can't help myself. As drove from Fairway to Ikea a gate was open that usually isn't. I slammed on the brakes (I looked in the rearview of course), back up, and hopped out of the car. Luckily, my mom was shouting, "look in there" and "get that picture", she was just as excited as I was.

The reason I need to apologize is that when I take pictures, I head into my own world. I wander, I make sudden stops, and I generally act in a non-directional manner. My husband bears the brunt of this behavior but my mom got it yesterday. She wasn't just patient with me, she actually enabled this behavior by shouting out ideas for shots and pointing out things that I hadn't noticed all from the comfort of the car.

Given that she's didn't use her mom voice and was encouraging of this strange photo tick of mine, I hopped out and got a few more shots.

The Port Authority Grain Silos in the Winter.

The abandoned lot behind Ikea. If I remember correctly she insisted that I go through the fence to take this. When I turned around she was taking pictures of me taking pictures. I admitted that this was the first time I had tresspassed in front of her.

For my final trick, I opened up the sunroof, popped out and took some pictures of the seagulls with Bay Ridge in the back while she giggled and squeeled with delight.

Merry Christmas Mama Joan, thanks for all of the adventures!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowmen In Prospect Park

I'll admit it, I'm feeling lazy so here are a few pictures of snowmen from Prospect Park yesterday. There were a number of large snowmen attempts abandoned in sad soggy piles and a couple of complete small ones. My favorite one was the more column- like one I found on 9th Ave, he wins because he has an incredibly expressive face for a snowman. He seems to be saying "Halo" in a funny British accent.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


We've lived in Brooklyn for four seasons but I've only been taking pictures since early July. Here are some of my favorite places and summer, fall, and winter.

The View Out our Window


Dog Beach

Audubon Boathouse

Year in Pictures

I was having a very interesting conversation with my step-mama the other day about why I like certain photographs and why some are universally loved others are much more subjectively liked. For me as the photographer there is a narrative behind every picture and I think I fall in love with them when the picture matches my experience in the narrative. When you're taking pictures of strangers a great photograph captures a moment in time, a smile, a frown, or specific body language that a viewer can read even if they don't know the narrative or the relationships.

Below is a series of stories run by the Boston Globe to highlight the best pictures of 2008. The Olympics, large hadron collider, and Hurricane Gustav seem like the distant past. The past few months have been terrifying and it seems like the good will and hope leading up to the election immediately disappeared on November 5th when we realized what a pickle we were in.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow, oh wait, Slush...

When I left the UWS it was beautiful, perfectly snowy and holidayey. It was picturesque. When I arrived in Brooklyn it was raining, the snow had turned to slush, and there already were those horrible lakes of slush, ice water, and road runoff around every curb. I wanted to run out to the park and take some perfect winter scene pictures but didn't even make it out the front door. Cameras and rain don't mix.

I did manage to get rare documentation of the elusive garden gnome rooting around my window box looking for grubs.

Dorking out math style

Do you ever go to a party and get stuck with a group of people who's conservation consists entirely of inside jokes? Or perhaps you in a car with your boss and she says "Snakes trump heights" and everyone laughs and you have to pretend to laugh and the she asks if you like "the show" and you show your true political prowess by saying "oh I just that episode"? It's painful to know enough to know that you don't know anything and to realize the truth of the statement "ignorance is bliss".

Inside jokes and catch phrases are all based upon group inclusion, something that we in academia we would call being an "insider (and we call it that so that you don't feel apart of our little club).

I found a test of mathematical inside jokes and found it hugely entertaining.

Daivid Freidman, blogger and photographer listed the following numbers and asked for people to vote on their favorite. The comments section is priceless. I'll steal his numbers and add some of my own and you can test yourself to see where your dork status lies.

0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13
4 8 15 16 23 42

My numbers:
6.02 x 10^23
4 5 6
2 3 5 7 11 13 17 23

In the original sequence I immediatly got 2 of them. Upon futher inspection I got a few more and I'm still not sure about 2...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Simple Tomato Sauce

Ever have one of those nights when it's cold, you're hungry, you have nothing in the house, and you don't feel like walking down four flights of stairs, outside, around the corner, and then back up four flights of stairs to get dinner? Well last night was one of those nights where I needed to rely entirely on my pantry to make dinner.

I decided to chef up a quick dinner of tomato and sausage sauce on angel hair pasta. Why? Because that's what I had in the pantry. The key to learning to cook is a well stocked pantry and the confidence to know that what ever goes wrong the worst thing that will happen is that you order pizza. (Okay, okay the worst thing that could go wrong is burning down your house, poisoning your family, or cutting yourself so bad you need to go to the hospital but generally, the worst thing that happens is that you order pizza).

Once you gently push aside your fear of failing and embrace a more improvisational style of cooking you'll be a pro in no time. Of course the secret to improvisational cooking is to know a few very simple basic starter recipes and again, a well stocked pantry.

Here's a quick, pantry made tomato sauce for your laziest of week day evenings.

Simple Tomato and Sausage Sauce with Pasta
Serves 2

1 package of sausage, I like hot Italian sausage
1 large can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cloves garlic
2 tbs onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh herbs*
1/2 cup red wine, one your would drink
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
5-6 large fresh basil leaves, diced
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste

1/4 pound pasta, Angel hair cooks the fastest but other shapes can be nice

Set your pasta water to boil. Add the pasta when the water begins to boil, stir occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking.

In a large cold skillet, add your sausage and enough water to cover the sausages 3/4 of the way. Turn your stove on to medium high. Cook the sausage through, turning the sausages, and cooking until done, approximately 7-8 minutes. Follow the instructions of the packaging since cooking instructions vary.

When the sausage is done, remove it and the water from the pan. Slice the sausage into 1/4 thick rounds and set aside.

Add the olive oil and heat the pan on medium heat. Add the onions and saute until softened. Add the garlic and saute until you begin to spell it. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, fresh herbs, and sausage back into the pot. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste. Start with a dash of each and then taste.

Continue to cook down the sauce until the tomatoes have largely fallen apart. This should take 10-15 minutes. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, I like to serve this up in a big bowl.

Nice additions to this dish include broccoli, chicken, roasted red pepper, or any other left overs that need eating. You can also use a pasta like macaroni and cook it in the saute pan as the pasta is reducing. If you do that simply don't drain the tomatoes or add more water when the sause appears to be too dry.

The sauce will only get better with age so I always make enough for lunch.

* As you can see from some of my earlier posts I have a small garden and my herbs are still growing. For fresh herbs I used thyme and sage but store bought fresh herbs such as parsley make a big difference in taste. If you don't have fresh herbs, you can substitute dried ones, double the amount of fresh herbs.

Warmest and Fuzziest

I wanted to post some of my favorite shots from Coney Island before I posted all of my depressing ones from last weekend. Taking pictures as Coney is one of my favorite things to do because people are having such a wonderful time, smiling, and laughing. Some people are very contemplative while others are pretty drunk. It's a nice mix. So here are some warm fuzzies to make your day.