Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Not art, just a comedian.

Some asked if in the prior post the man in the photo was part of the artscape and I must inform you that he was not but just someone who had a good sense of humor.

In shameless self-promotion you can go to my other blog for a more recent post from my neck of the woods as time is not on my side right now.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Touching Base

Crazy busy life I am having right now.  I am not complaining as I know the quiet and lonely afternoons are just ahead.  Both sides of the coin are important in our lives.

Heading out with 30-somethings (that in itself is cool) to canoe a nearby river.  Spent several hours getting prepared for dinner with them this evening (French mussel soup, spinach tomato salad, steamed crab to pick and eat with cheese roasted potatoes, followed by simple ice cream for dessert.)  Made a buttery croissant casserole for breakfast as well.  I just had to brag.

Prior to this event we went up to the D.C. mall to listen to a book talk by Mary Roach at the Hirshhorn Gallery.  Interesting and I had not read any of her books so was not sure what to expect!

This above is considered "modern/contemporary(?) art" outside the museum.  We found it a bit confounding with our lack of an arty background.  I loved the Rodin sculptures, as I always do, and will post on one of those maybe.

Getting to the museum two days before the opening of the African American Museum was a horror of a nightmare.  The President is speaking outdoors on the steps of the museum today, so streets were closed days ahead of time and I am sure dogs and police went through every office within a five block radius!  Took us an hour to finally park in the public parking garage which cost a small fortune.

Hopefully I will be able to write a real post with something thought-provoking soon...or have time for more of this drivel.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Learning the Hard Way

I have this little garden bed on the other side of the turn-around in my driveway that is used for those annual flowers from seed packets that I come across.  Those seeds that are free from the seed-exchange, or that come in the mail, or that I have collected from the prior year and lie scattered in an old shoe box.  Most of the seeds do not succeed since it is too far from the nearest hose to water with any regularity and it competes for sun and sustenance with two tulip trees that grow right beside the bed.  I have put an ugly little metal fence around it since there are also a few plants that rodents love to eat in the spring and they can be protected here.  Since the flower bed is only 6 feet by 4 feet, it frequently gets crowded with  the hardy and fast spreading cosmos and in years past celosia.

It is a bit of an experimental ever changing flower bed.  This past year I planted larkspur.  I was not anticipating much success because this plant does not like a hot climate.

It took off like a house afire.  The plants did not need staking as they were able to lean against the curved fence as they reached away from the trees and toward the sun.  I had never tried growing larkspur before, but the seed packet was a gift.  They were lovely.  The light colored double petals of a few plants was perfect for photos. And it bloomed for a couple of weeks at least.  Visitors commented on its loveliness.

When we finally had a break in the heat at the beginning of September I headed outside to clean up the summer gardens.  The larkspur, while hidden to some extent by the prolific cosmos, had turned into dark brown stalks of dead plant matter.  I reached over the fence and pulled it all out and carried the 4 foot long plants to the burn pile.  Back in July I had already collected a batch of seeds.

Then  a few days later, I learned a lesson.  I had read years ago that larkspur if eaten by cattle, or another other animal for that matter, will kill.  Farmers do not move cattle into their fields until the wild larkspur has died back.  I had read that somewhere, but I did not know how toxic this plant was/is!

At first it looked like an infected bug bite.

You can see in the photo above how a second area appeared just from me folding my arms while I slept.

You can also see from above the outline of a bandage I had placed over the bug bite the second or third day when it looked infected.

This rash on the inner sides of both of my arms was burning and itchy and spread like crazy.  It started as one bug bite that looked like it had become infected in my upper inner arm and this grew in blisters to the size of a quarter.  Then it crawled down my arm and at night spread to my other arm while I slept.  I thought I had an infection and because of the intensity of its spread, my mind went to those nasty staph infections that are so hard to control (MSRA!)!  Even my doctor wondered what it was and when I convinced her I had not been near any poison ivy she started me on antibiotics and steroid cream.  I washed sheets and pillowcases and towels and hubby kept up a sterile regime away from me.  The rash did not move to the top of my arms where the skin is less tender.

As you have probably guessed by now, the cause was gathering all those long dead larkspur plants in my sleeveless shirt.  It has been about ten days and I am now getting back to normal, although the rash, which is turning darker in color, is still there without all of its prior nasty side effects.  Perhaps TMI, but lesson learned!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The RR Building

Humans are notorious for building monuments to their heroes and leaders.  I live just over an hour's drive from the Nation's Capital which is full of monuments and memorials to hundreds of historic figures.  A few months ago when I was going to get my GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) for travel clearance I had to go to the Ronald Reagan Building.  I had been there a few times before for meetings and never really took the time to "tour" the building as I hustled to catch the metro home.

While there is security at the entrance, it is a public friendly building.  "The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, named after former United States President Ronald Reagan, is the first federal building in Washington, D.C. designed for both governmental and private sector purposes."  Below is a short tour for those of you who cannot make it out!  There is also a nice collection of American national flags displayed within historic context and someday I may post those photos that I took.  Today this post is all about the architecture (Mage ;-)).

This part of the building above leads to food courts and gift shops and offices.  Massively impressive, is it not?  I think the neon tubes are called Route Zenith and designed by Keith Sonnier.  It is 49 feet high by 30 feet wide and the largest neon work in North America.

"Designated as the official World Trade Center Washington, DC (WTCDC), our International Trade Center is part of a global network of 750,000 affiliated businesses from 330 trade centers in over 100 countries. Utilizing these connections, in conjunction with U.S. government trade agencies, embassies, think tanks and business associations, our Office for Trade Promotion (OTP) can help expand your reach and help you make a global impact." (Text taken from the web site.)

The stairway on the other side was blocked by a large screen and they were getting ready for a USAID event.

Not sure what this contemporary architectural torch represents at the top of the escalator, but I have learned the building has an APP (Doesn't everyone?  Don't you?) that gives you a guided tour from your phone and maybe I can research it.  Wish I had known that when I was there.

This photo above was taken from their web site.  I just wanted to illustrate how traditional the outside is in comparison to the inside.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Time, That Moving Thing

Even though Autumn is not yet here, I can almost see her in the angle of the sun and the smell of the air on the wind, and as I have become an elder, Autumn makes me think of that constant drum beat of time.  It makes me think of cycles, beginnings, and mostly endings.  I become nostalgic knowing my days are numbered and there will be things I will not be around to see; some I am glad I will miss but many I will be sad to miss.  I look to other bloggers and friends to see how they adapt to this inevitable facing of big change and gain comfort from them as I take it one day at a time.

“I sit beside the fire and think
Of all that I have seen
Of meadow flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair

I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall ever see

For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green

I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago
And people that will see a world
That I shall never know

But all the while I sit and think
Of times there were before
I listen for returning feet
And voices at the door”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Endings Are Inevitable

The youngest grandchild has kept us on our feet for a week with boat trips, fishing, biking, museum visits, cleaning oysters in the trays and pulling up crab traps.  He is a mellow 5-year-old and so the visit was ultra smooth.  By late afternoon the day before, when we were fighting off napping, he was quietly playing in corner with small cars or racing cars on his Ipad which he brought with him.

We drove to the city yesterday to return the youngest grandchild and after we dropped him off we went out for an adult dinner evening to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant rated 4 stars on Zagat.  We had not eaten Vietnamese food in years and it was delicious, although not super authentic to my taste.  I polished off two glasses of Chardonnay and we just unwound as we looked back on the previous busy two weeks.

At the end of the meal we passed a bicycle shop and I went in to get my grandson a bike bell since his was broken and he reminded me I would get him an new one when we said goodbye.  We also stopped at the pastry shop which was recommended by the young couple with the 3-year-old eating at the next table.  (We always find ways to have conversations with others at restaurants.) We bought some cupcakes as they were too lovely to pass up and as our reward for two straight weeks with kids. (Yes, hubby has already eaten one!)

Then it was on home in the dark to "batten down the hatches" waiting for the edges of storm Hermine to come our way.

This morning there was no longer a scattering of children's shoes at the front door, there were no tiny sounds of video games coming from the sofa, there was no need to pour small glasses of juice and, of course, it was sad.  Even the earth outside reflected the quiet changes that endings bring with a very light rainfall and ten degree cooler weather.  The small gusts of wind were whipping leaves from the tops of trees before allowing them to fully change color.  I could feel that somewhere fall was moving in even though we should have 90 degree weather again by the end of the week!

Above he is enjoying his last sunset at the water.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Since Some of You Asked

Several bloggers asked how I got the "painterly" look to my photos.  I use Photoshop Elements software (which is the lite version of Photoshop) to work with my original photos.  I make changes to the histogram, the lighting/contrast and also apply some sharpening, usually to the whole photo, but sometimes only to areas.  If I decide to try to blur identities or just be more artistic I use filter packages that I purchased from Topaz.  If you buy the whole kit it is expensive and to my mind not worth all that money since I would not use much of all of it.  The two that I purchased were Topaz Adjust 5 and Topaz Simplify 4.  They do enhance photos but as you probably know cannot really sharpen an out of focus photo or improve something that is just too cluttered or too over-exposed or too underexposed.

Below is the original with some histogram work and some sharpening but that is all.  I just grabbed a photo from my long file, and this was not the best in terms of sharpness.  But I have a short window to write this afternoon.

This is an HDR filter in Topaz Adjust 5 above.  I normally tweak these filters as they have many sliders and later adjust lights, shadows, etc.  But this is just to give you a clue of how using the preset looks.

This is the Spicify filter in Topaz Adjust 5.  Again I just applied it without tweaking.

This is a filter in Topaz Simplify 4 called Oil Painting.  They have several versions of Oil Painting.

This last is using a filter called Cartoon.  I hope this answers those questions for those who are not purists in photography..