Monday, February 23, 2009

Picture of the Day - Day 55

Sorry Aunt Sal! I just love this picture of you trying to amuse Sonny. We were all is the basement, three grown women, about 10 pieces of pilates equipment, and a bunch of Joplin CD's trying our hardest to amuse Sonny. He's not hard to amuse but I think anyone would be totally overstimulated with that type of circus going on.

I have about 100 more photos of Sonny but need to figure out how to make lightroom, my new editing software, work with flickr, my current online photo system.

Picture of the Day- Day 54

I'm sure I've posted pictures of Leo before. This is him, waiting for someone to let him out.

Leo started out as a mean, angry, and kind of nasty cat. He hissed and bit or basically ignored us. After a few months, my dad and stepmom smothered him with love but on his own terms. It turns out that he's just kind of a tease. He'll circle around you a few times and stop just out of reach when he's ready to be pet. You, of course, have to go to him but, of course, only when he's ready.

He's still a bit standoffish but has proven to be a lovely and loyal cat, sitting guard next to you and watching over the house like a sphinx. His fur was very rough when we first got him, but it turns out, the more you pet him, the more of the bristly hairs come out and the soft underfur comes through.

Manual Override

Now that I have 4 full weeks of photo class under my belt I would like to proudly share with you what I've learned.

- I can take the camera off automatic and shoot manual exposures
- I can use the histogram
- I can use the highlights thingy
- I can upload and organize my photos in lightroom (yet another photo editing and managing software)
- I can sort of edit them and fix the exposures that I messed up
- I can use most of the buttons on the back of the camera and the wheels (yup it has wheels)
- I know how to get to the different modes on the back
- I can fix the white balance
- I move my body into position instead of zooming in (which distorts the shot)

Things I can't really do
- Upload from lightroom to flickr (total pain in the behind)
- Figure out what a few of the buttons do
- Use most of what is in the menus
- Reliable shoot manually without a whole lot of trial and error
- Automatically figure out which way to turn the wheel to fix the exposure
- Most everything else

When I get the exposure right there is a great improvement in the image quality, it has a lovely depth and that rich quality that I admire so much. The more I take pictures in manual, which is very tedious, the easier it gets for me to figure it out and the more freedom I have in composing the picture. It is the exact opposite of what I thought would happen. I had resisted the class for a while (as had my dad) on the basis that worrying about the technical aspects would ruin my composition.

I haven't shot anything very interesting on manual (like an afternoon at coney) but I'll force myself to shoot in manual with occasional breakdowns into automatic when I need to shoot quickly.

Friday Night Frights

At first it looked like baby food, then baby puke, then, well, it looked like the baby had digested and passed it. It is unusual that I make a meal that it inedible. For one thing, we're willing to eat pretty poorly prepared food. Another is that I try to make simple recipes where I slowly add one ingredient at a time, usually avoiding any pitfalls.

On Friday, with just my pantry and an old recipe, I attempted to make curried pumpkin soup. Its very easy: chicken broth, a can of pureed pumpkin, curry powder, salt, and pepper. But this thing went off the rails quickly. When Ab showed up it was just okay but she remarked that it needed liquid and looked like baby food. After adding more stock and water, I accidentally dumped a ton of curry powder into the mix. What could I do?

We tried everything to save it: first we tried to add some thing to freshen it up, pureed carrots. Then something to mellow it out, chickpeas. Then something to counter the bitter base note: honey, white wine, and apple cider vinegar. Finally, some more spices: ginger and clove. It was almost edible but we just couldn't imagine eating any more than a few spoonfuls.

I also couldn't imagine coming home from work and being presented this "soup". My husband will eat just about anything and would probably get through a couple of big mouthfuls before realizing that this was just gross.

So into the sink and garbage it went and we picked up the phone and ordered Italian from across the street. Ab made some yummy Brussel sprouts and we were all set.

Just so you know, the thing that almost fixed it was the chickpeas!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hanco's Opens (Finally)

Friday night I noticed that Hanco's, the Vietnamese sandwich shop across the street, had a grand opening sign on its doors. There had been drips and drabs of work going on over the past few months and we were beginning to get worried that it would never open.

We stopped by last night and got two original vietnamese sandwiches and a bubble tea. The sandwiches were half the size and double the price of the other place we go but good and true to the tastes and textures of Ba Xuyen. The bubble tea was more of a coffee drink with those black balls on the bottom. I wasn't sure what to expect but the liquid was tasty and the balls were slimy and squishy.

The restaurant itself was packed and at the staff was probably at the end of a long and exciting day. I'm pretty sure I'll keep driving out to Sunset park to get the good ones but this will do in a pinch!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Photo of the Day- Day 51

We keep this mask on the wall in our guest bathroom. It used to be on the wall at eye level above the toilet and men always used to remark about the scary mask in our bathroom. Women would ask "what mask"? It now lives right across from the toilet, about eye level if you're sitting down. Now women ask about the scary mask and men say "what mask"? I guess we're just being fair?

The walls are a lovely shade of blue by the way, I couldn't get the color right in the picture.

I also shot this on automatic and actually used what I learned in class about the histogram and highlights. I have no idea if my dad knew about this stuff but I'm pretty proud of myself for learning 2 new buttons this week!

Photo of the Day- Day 50

I met up for dinner with some friends from high school at our favorite soup dumpling place in Chinatown. I got there a bit early and wandered around taking pictures. We're working on a light assignment for class (which boils down to "take pictures of interesting lighting") and I thought I would test my skills at night. Well, it was freezing and I needed to keep my gloves on, making it nearly impossible to move all the buttons, wheels, and pulleys necessary to get the exposure right and I just switched to automatic.

I always feel a bit uncomfortable taking pictures in immigrant neighborhoods because I have the assumption that there may be a different attitude towards picture taking. In Chinatown, the tourists have 5 or 6 cameras strapped to their bodies so I quickly felt more comfortable and pretended to be a tourist.

My take on the "light" assignment for last night was simply to take pictures of well lit stores in contrast to the dark streets. When I slowed down and looked though, I saw that the windows were much more interesting than just being light. There was an interesting interplay between public and private as people sat at their window tables looking out as I looked in. Because many of the shops are restaurants or markets there is a working vs relaxing tension as well. One person's toil is another's gain.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Photos of the Day - 47-49

I am trying to inspire myself to recaulk the bathtub so here is the gross corner of the bathtub. I caulked it when we first moved in and it immediately grew mold so I'm pretty sure I didn't buy the right stuff.

It was a beautiful day on Monday and I had a quick walk over to the Co Op for my afternoon shift. I also spent all morning organizing my receipts for taxes so a little sunshine was very nice. It feels like spring is just around the corner though it is still chilly. Yesterday was miserable with freezing rain and that dampness that makes you feel every inch of your joints. It looks like more snow/winter mix is coming our way and I could use a few days locked inside.

I'll try to post a few more photo class shots but here was my favorite from the class. We were finally brought into the studio to play with lights and shoot still lifes. I found my classmates to be more interesting than the objects and got some interesting shots. We put all of the different elements of exposure together and the histogram. It was very hard but I think I am moving towards figuring it out. The good shots that I got are very vivid with good depth of field so I think I made progress but I had to stand next to my teacher and take a series of 20 or so shots, with him looking at each one, to get a sense of what I should have been doing.

So I think I straightened out my numbering but probably not.

It's still pretty hectic around here and I've been getting home late enough to not want to turn on the computer.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Photo of the Day- Day 47

My mom reminded me that its time to start thinking about getting the garden going again. Buying seeds and planting stuff got me almost as excited as hearing the phrase "pitchers and catchers report to spring training". We have at least 2 more months of cold here but it is one of my favorite times of year because of the delicious anticipation of warm weather, summer evenings on the roof, and late nights with friends sitting in people's little back yards. I just get so excited about summer and the anticipation is delicious.

Photo of the Day- Valentine's Day

We don't usually do anything special for Valentine's Day. This year I sent out a bunch of cards to family but my husband and I don't really do much. We don't actually do much in the way of presents but usually for birthdays and holidays try to find some time just to hang out and eat a meal together. This year we went down to Steinhoff's on 7th and 14th and enjoyed a rustic brunch and beer. The place is a mix of coffee shop, bar, and brunch place and was packed. The food was great, not too many kids, and they left us alone to sip our beer. I don't want to seem anti kids but some of the places around here can get packed with screaming kids that are set loose to run around as if it is the other diner's responsibility to keep the kids safe. Now I understand a screaming kid but I don't understand when a parent lets a kid stand up in a booth, reach over and grab my hair with jam filled hands. I'm all for playing hide and seek but when a kid is trying to climb up my chair and share my omelet I draw the line. Maybe when we have kids I'll understand, maybe I won't and maybe I'll be the type of parent that invests in those plastic fasteners that are so handy around the house. Who knows but I still don't like other people's sticky hands in my hair.

So, yummy brunch at Steinhoff's and then a trip to the hardware store where we purchased anti-pigeon supplies. A pigeon has taken up residence under our bedroom air conditioner and wakes us up at the crack of dawn with its cooing. My husband wanted to get some chicken wire to stuff under the unit and I wanted to make a potato cannon to show the pigeon who's boss. I ended up getting some gardening supplies and we ended up bringing home the chicken wire and expertly stuffing it under the unit.

To round out our day we went into the city to meet a friend who is town for a conference. I usually hate going to times square but my husband remembered BxL, a Belgian bistro at 43rd and 6th. We had a wonderful time with out mussels, leffe blonde, steak frites, and international studies professors.

"Not a bad Valentine's Day" I thought to myself as I rested my head on my husband's shoulder and the subway rumbled home.

Photo of the Day- Day 44

Okay so my numbers might still be off but I'm trying here.

Does it get any better than sitting down to a huge, wonderful plate of food and a cool glass of wine after a crazy long hard day at work? Friday was our big big big work meeting up at in Albany. I hadn't freaked out about it until my boss said that the meeting was the culmination of my year's worth of work. Thanks, I wasn't nervous until you put it that way. We were all set, prepped, ready to go.

So I drive up early in the morning, meet my colleagues, and have the best meeting I could have hoped for. We head back in the car, drop off half of my passengers and then my boss and I get stuck in the worst traffic I have ever see. The whole town of Tarrytown was a parking lot, we had places to go, and we were tired and hungry. It was a stressful end to a stressful week and all I wanted to do was have a few moments of smugness and some good homemade sausage and wine.

After we got out of the traffic mess I dropped my boss off and headed to NJ where I was treated like royalty (which is how they treat everyone), given a heaping pile of food, and amused by Vic's huge family.

I don't want to go into details but the whole point of Vic's family seems to be to make everyone comfortable, happy, and well watered and they take their job very seriously. What a wonderful way to end such a stressful week.

The picture is of Vic's cousin, actually I have no idea what the relationship is between Vic and Jacob so we'll just say cousin, showing off his 3D glasses. The kids were getting a bit antsy so I showed Jacob and his sister the D200 and we played with it for a while. They were so respectful and curious it made me remember why I like working with kids instead of adults. So that's Jake and his glasses. Here is a picture he took of me, modeling the glasses:

I think I may hire him!

I also love this shot, though I'm not sure who took it. Jacob is popping up in front of a nicely composed shot like a little munchkin. Trouble...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Photo of the Day- Day 43

Have I written about my love of subway photography already? Well if yes, then here I go again. If no, then let me inform you of my evil doings.

I'm working on a homework assignment for class where we are supposed to play with time. This involves taking pictures and playing with the shutter speed and playing with metaphoric time. I brought my camera to work with me to take some pictures of something and ended up shooting almost entirely on the subway going to and from work.

Taking pictures is a bit scary. It is potentially illegal and you're trapped in a moving box with someone. There is also variety and weird lighting, movement, and people in the way. I usually sit with my camera on my lap, take a picture, check the screen, adjust and take again. The lighting is the hardest part to get right and I think I dialed it in this time.

The subway was almost empty today so I had a clear view of people sitting across from me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Picture of the Day- Day 38-42

Not surprisingly, I've totally lost track of my days of photography but should be able to figure it out shortly. It's been pretty feast or famine around here. On Saturday the husband and I went down to Ft. Hamilton park and took pictures of the water and Verrazano Bridge. On Sunday my mom came in and we toured Coney Island. Since then its been nothing but work and taking random pictures at night.

Our current assignment is to play with shutter speed and to play with time. I took a million pictures of my faucet dripping at different shutter speeds. This was much harder than it looked since I was manual everything, including focus, using the flash, and turning the faucet on and off (since my husband fixed the drippy faucet months ago. I couldn't get close enough to get the whole drip in but this is the best I could do.

Yup, this is my office. I was at work a lot this week and was glad to be useful during the stimulus craziness.

Full moon shot from our bedroom window, it was way too cold to go outside. This was shot out of focus (way way way out of focus) because I was too lazy to find the right lens and I like the composition better. Nice huh?

I hope to be able to post a bit more about our adventures at Coney but I took my mom to Nathan's, walked her up and down the boardwalk, and even took her to see the Polar Bears. What appear to be high school boys were filming a "music video" on the beach and when they realized that the polar bear club was much more interesting they came over to try and out crazy the crazy. They rushed the water to go in and then all danced away as if they had just grabbed a hot iron. We all laughed and the high school boys (did I mention they were dressed in clown costumes?) gave us a little dance.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Sorry I've abandoned the blog over the past few days, I usually enjoy the ritual of picking a picture or a topic and writing. Things have been very hectic at work and I've been fighting off a cold so I've basically cut back to the essential daily functions. I have lots of fun pictures and a few adventures to write about when I get a chance to catch my breath.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


I took about 600 pictures today and ended our bike ride because I "couldn't stand to take any more". But when I got home the sunset and sky were too good to resist taking some more pictures. I curled up in one of our westfacing windows and just happily snapped away until the sun went down. I've posted a bunch because my step-mama loves sunsets and the more the merrier.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Picture of the Day- Day 36

I wrote the funniest, most clever post ever yesterday and obviously forgot to post it. Take my word for it, it was brilliant. Actually, it, like my photo of the day was less than stellar but still pretty good for what I'm working with right now. I've tried to get in the habit of taking my camera with me where ever I go but have been so busy with work that I've fallen a bit short. That means I often take my daily picture first thing in the morning or at night, when there is no sunlight. This has led to a series of fun and interesting experiments with the camera (as I am shooting all manual, as per my photo teacher's instructions).

Last night I was trying to take pictures of the pigeons that live under our air conditioner since they looked so sad and pathetic in the bitter cold. Unfortunately, the exposure time was too long to hold the camera and I couldn't get the right angle. I did managed to take a few interesting shots of 7th avenue at night. I love how vibrant the colors are with the D200, that is something that the blog doesn't capture. The picture, despite the long exposure time, is very sharp and colorful which is a lot to be said for a night shot of an empty street.

Picture of the Day - Day 38

I'm not going to lie, this has been one of the worst weeks of my life. I feel very very sorry for myself right about now and I'm stewing in it, really stewing in it. When I talked to my husband on the phone I suggested that he work late to avoid me and my stew. I had this horrible moment when I realized I was sad and my first thought was to call Ab, but she was on our vacation, alone and probably a bit pissed off at me. Then I wanted to call my father, who is dead. And finally, I wanted to call Adam since he was my chief complaint officer when ever I was feeling bitchy and needed to vent, but he too, if you've been following along is dead. Horrible moment of self pity only made worse by the fact that I was sitting in my office when I was supposed to be on a plane bound for my first real vacation in two years.

Now that you feel sufficiently bad for me I wanted to share with you what really perked me up. I take a wide variety of subways home each night and there are, well a wide variety of soul on those subways with me. The guy below got on around 34th street and sat right across from me. I noticed his hat but didn't look too closely since everyone is wearing big furry russian looking hats now a days. I looked up again at west 4th and realized that his hat might not be a hat, it might be a really bad hairpiece. I snapped a few pictures from across the aisle, but went in for a closer look when a seat opened up across from him. Upon closer inspection, I could tell that it was made from human hair but still wasn't sure of its purpose. Hat? Hairpiece? I was baffled but continued to take pictures with the iphone's crappy crappy camera. I've done my best to document this experience.

At one point he tipped his head forward and the hair/hat fell off into his hands. I shit you not, the whole subway car gasped at this development, maybe we'll get a clue to its purpose? He scratched his very oily, matted hair for a bit, and then plunked the hat/hair back. This in no way, shape or form answered our question but it did let us know that it came off. So maybe you'll know?

My lovely husband, who I convinced to stay at work, thought maybe it was a cat (a la zeus?). So what do you think? Hat? Cat? Hairpiece?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Picture of the Day-Day 35

In an ideal world, I get an hour or so in the natural light every day to take some pictures. This is, of course, much easier when the sun doesn't set at 5 pm, but sometimes it does happen. The past few days have been basically sunless, actually outdoorless, cold wintery days where I have been forcably locked in my office to grind away at some big, complex problems. That means my picture time is when I get home, in artificial light, and when I am often kind of loopy.

As further excuse for my wacky picture above I would like you to know that I was working on a homework assignment in which I basically had to take the same shot 20 times and got fairly bored of my favorite trio. You should also know that I was trying to look threatening, like I was sneaking up on them to bite their heads off, and not, as it appears, singing along with their band.

This one is a bit more ominous.

Picture of the Day - Day 34

It snowed all day but hardly left any thing on the ground. The trees outside my office were covered with a delicate layer of snow and it turned my already lovely view even nicer.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Picture of the Day- Day 33

Still playing with the macro, DOF, and having the camera on manual. I shot these hydrangeas next to my bedside lamp and used all manual exposures. I'm still getting the hang of it and it is clear to me that I just need to keep taking pictures in order to get basics down and then I can work about composition.

BBBS- Chili Bowl

The Brooklyn Beer and BBQ Society started because Hamish didn't want to go out, and why would he given his great back yard and 3, yes 3, grills. The group is a fairly rag tag band of always hungry Brooklynites (with a few exceptions). I think we have mostly Aussies and Americans though no one knows where Derek is from since we can't really understand a word he says. For this round, we offered to host. We even have our own facebook page, which makes us very official.

The purpose of the group, aside from getting us to come over to Hamish's house, is to have periodic cooking contests. Money is wagered, hearts are broken, and we generally eat and drink until people throw up or spill wine all over the house. We've had burgers, pizza, and now chili. We have some excellent cooks and one professional chef, so I always feel a bit intimidated by the group. People matched beers, wine, and assorted toppings with their chili.

Last night we had 7 chilis including shirmp, turkey, and beef and ranging in style from gumbo-like to something akin to pulled pork with bacon on top. My entry, a traditional turkey chili, was doomed from the start because the grocery store was out of the chili powder that I like to use. I know its more authentic to make your own but I've been a bit busy. To attempt to shore up a top finish I also baked my spicy chocolate cake.

There was quite a bit of discussion over the rules, labeling, and balloting with a strong lean towards anonymous voting. My husband whipped up some lovely score cards, Ashley organized the chilis, and away we went. Oh and the superbowl with its various betting schemes was going in the back.

Hamish's pork with more pork was the clear favorite, with Aaron's beef chili a close second. I don't remember who came next but it wasn't me. They were all good and different in style and flavorings, luckily none of them were too spicy.

Actually watching the game

Aaron rocking 3 week old Cleo, our youngest member

There was serious discussion as to the rules and labeling

Some of the guys before the game started

Lovely Ashley tending the slow cooker.

Announcing the winner...

Snuggling with Cleo, she was less taken with Jonathan since he doesn't have boobs

The spread

Some serious voting

Our winner with the pork on pork chili