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..

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Pirouetting, Pirouetting, and Focusing on the Wall.

My world is still spinning much like that energizer bunny gymnast.  We celebrated a 46th anniversary with hubby buying the roses that smell good but do not last long.  That is OK by me.  We had a sunset dinner in the next town.

This was followed by the arrival of friends from Florida for two days, and then followed by my son, wife and in-laws staying for two days and we all attended a rock concert, and then we immediately left them for a three day weekend at a freshwater lake with the daughter, her husband and their three little ones to celebrate belatedly hubby's birthday!

House Guest that fears boating (a little.)

Grandson canoeing

Granddaughter working on gardening badge.
This was immediately followed by bringing two of the grands back with us for a week of board games, canoeing, swimming, cooking, working on Scout badges (such as making a Zen garden), watching movies, etc.

Today I get to take a deep breath for about 6 hours after cleaning bedrooms and bathrooms.  Hubby is returning two of the grands to their parents and picking up the youngest (5) for our week with him before the start of school.  I will return...I will return...I just need a nap.......

Friday, August 19, 2016

Keeping it Green

Hubby and I took a tour this past spring.  This was an important tour, and that is why I am sharing it.  No monuments, insides of cathedrals, or massive flower gardens on this tour.  This was a tour about challenge and change.  Recently, the Washington D.C. government began encouraging property owners to make "green roofs" a part of their building plans.  New commercial construction is required to have a certain percentage of roof space either solar or green.  This growing plants keeps buildings cooler in the summer and reduces heat loss in the winter, it reduces stormwater run-off which is a prime reason for water pollution, and green roofs reduce noxious organic compounds as well as can provide food!  Go here if you want more information on all of this.

Buildings have to insure structural support for such a project and many buildings cannot afford the change over, but a good number can!

Our first stop was the University of District of Columbia that began their project refurbishing an old greenhouse that had been used to teach botany and agriculture.  They also were studying food security...how long could their neighborhood/campus go without access to food in an emergency, for instance?

Their rooftop grew flowers, herbs and succulents and emphasized that pollinators do climb several stories to feed and pollinate!

Then we moved on to a condo building near the Potomac River and right across from the Kennedy Center.  (Rich people do not live here as there are some subsidies...but it is way out of my price range!)

Their change to providing a buffer of succulents also added a nice patio for the owners who lived here.

So many of these projects used succulents because they require virtually no maintenance...just the occasional weeding.

And, of course, the view of the Kennedy Center and river added to these features.

Next we went on to visit the American University program which has worked for years on a program of recycling, greening and environmental living with their students.

The above slows runoff from sidewalks and patios before it goes into the storm drains.

They had their own bee hive on one of the rooftop gardens.

This used to be a flat and hot parking lot above.

They admitted that getting students to partipate could sometimes be a challenge!!

Our final stop was at a Latin restaurant that had its own herb and "decorative greens" roof garden.  The chef gave us a personal tour after our delicious lunch.

This growing plants on roofs has been done for centuries, of course.  But it is nice to see cities renewing this effort.  Every little thing to keep us healthier and cooler.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Perfectionist Life

My husband has a cousin that we visited a few months ago. She is charming, sweet, cute, talented, smart and creative. She is in the second year of her widowhood and still missing the man who was her best friend. We thought a visit might help her.

While the few days we spent as her guest overlooking the Pacific Ocean and sharing good conversation, good wine, and total agreement on politics were divine, I realized her husband was a saint as I could never live with her.

Whenever she has company she puts out a 2ft by 2ft sticky mat at the front door for guests to stamp on before entry.  This is used whether you are wearing shoes, socks or are barefoot from the pool across the driveway...!  Her home is spotless and she has had the same housekeeper for years.

She has the loveliest guest bathroom. (Please ignore the lack of balance by my toiletry bag hanging on the towel bar.)

Take note that you DO NOT use the towels hanging on the towel bars and wrapped in sashes.  There is a basket on the floor with towels you are supposed to use!

Her home is filled with nostalgic art and a few priceless antiques.  Everything is in its place.  If you move the candles on the table a few inches to fit your wine glass, at the end of the day they get moved back to the exact same place for excellent balance and symmetry.  Even the books are angled in a special way.  She doesn't scold or hint, she just straightens quietly when it is time to leave the room.

And may I point out she is a very snappy dresser for a widow in her 80's!  It is no surprise that the new priest took her under his wing for a year until he was reassigned back to his other Parish.  You cannot help but love her as she is full of good humor and charm, but, I repeat, I could never live with her.  Her husband, God rest his soul, was a saint.

Saturday, August 06, 2016


This weekend my son and DIL are coming down to celebrate my husband's birthday.
Mid-week I am having Florida friends staying for a few days.
Next week I get two of the grands for 6 days.
The following weekend I go to a concert with my son and DIL and her parents.
That same weekend those above spend the Friday night.
Then Saturday hubby and I drive to another state for a few days of lake vacay with daughter and SIL and grands.  (They are canoeing and I am babysitting a little tiny fur ball that they call a dog!)
Then the week after the lake trip I get the youngest grand who is almost 6 for a week.

I will return to blogging after all of this if I do not drown in all the sheets I have to change!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen People

Thirteen people I met on the cruise:

I met not one but two young men who were veterans who had come home and were on this cruise.  One with his young, lovely, crazy, running, hiking, skinny wife.  She was a psychotherapist and was counting the day until her retirement planned in less than 10 years and her goal to travel the U.S. in an RV (and I am sure hike every trail and climb every mountain!).  Her husband, in his late 20's or early 30's with a gentle and handsome face and a veteran, wore a hearing aid and we had to be careful that he was able to participate in our conversation.

The second young veteran was newly married but off on the cruise with his dad because his mother had a job crises and could not go!  I quite seriously suggested to the dad that he should have given his space to his son's wife...he ignored that.  The young son also wore a hearing device of some kind.  He had wanted to be involved in music in some way, but the damage he received fighting for his country meant he had to find something new to pursue.  (We ask these men to make such big sacrifices and we do not reward them as we should.)

I met two giggling sisters in their late forties and from the midwest who were thrilled to be able to take the cruise and shared that enthusiasm with everyone.  It was exhausting eating dinner with them even though I was happy for them.

I met a retired doctor on the cruise who was there with his young granddaughter and his wife.  They made a very handsome trio...postcard perfect and I was a little envious at their demeanor.

Off the boat, I met a young woman from Moravia.  She was eager to talk about her arrival in the U.S. where she had her passport stolen in New York within days and found that local police pretty much shrugged and said that kind of thing happened a lot.  She was surprised as she thought that most crime was in her area of the world and not America.

I met an author who was a contestant in the very first Iditarod dog sled race and seemed to be focused on talking about that. He was in his late 60's/early 70's and very handsome and healthy looking.  He was selling a book on that iditarod experience, so that was why he was so focused in sharing.

I met another older man at the same place who claimed he only shot film photos.  He said he would never change to digital, but he was quite old and that made sense to me.

I met a tanned blond with perfect breasts that were nestled in a tube top who recommended a high-end very modern Mexican restaurant in downtown Anchorage as a place for dinner.  She was correct except the contemporary metal chairs and tables were a little off-putting.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Murder in the Suburbs

This cat lives in my daughter's neighborhood.  He has a buddy that is just as lovely as he is with longer fur.  Both are very healthy looking and very friendly.  My granddaughter greets them each morning as they stroll like panthers into her yard.  She play with them briefly before she heads off to school.  They belong to someone down the street and are allowed out a good part of the day to roam free.  They have their chips and ID and know to avoid automobiles and are wary of loud teenagers.

Unfortunately they have a routine in the suburban jungle.  Each day they go out to stalk the feather residents and with many still fledging, the two cats certainly have it easy.   My granddaughter has gotten a new dog and spends more time with him than these two morning visitors.  The dog is a puppy and very small and the cats eye it in a predatory way when she plays with it on the porch.  The cats are jealous so they brought her a present to win her back to their side.

It looks like young robin with the soft gray.  Not sure with my limited ID skills.  But the point is, please keep your cats inside unless you are watching them like a hawk.  This is not the only songbird killed by these two.