30 October 2007

Photo of the Day - The Road Less Traveled

As I mentioned in my previous 'Photo of the Day' post, I recently went on a hike to Catoctin Mountain National Park with my Dad while he was in town. I told him before we went, that we were on a "photog mission." That is, I really wanted to take some fresh shots so that I could post them here. One of my favorite shots is what I call, the 'Trail Shot.' I find that I take these kinds of shots whereever I go. It doesn't always have to be a hiking trail, but it could be a road, a narrow passage, or even a cute alley tucked away behind some tall buildings. This shot, I really like because you can follow the length of the un-blazed trail as far as the eye can see. I love the way the light and shadow are scattered, but still manage to pick up the lush greens, bright yellows, oranges, and rich browns along the trail.

I don't know why I'm so drawn to shots like this, but nevertheless, I am. Whenever I shoot one of these, a single line of Robert Frost scrolls through my brain, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference."

Here is the rest of the poem for you to enjoy:
The Road Not Taken
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
by Robert Frost
Sony Cybershot 7.2 MP, digital format

29 October 2007

Photo of the Day - Parliament

As I've mentioned previously, my activities in Budapest consisted mainly of wandering around in the freezing cold taking pictures while my hands and fingers, ungloved so as to work the camera, got frostbite. No, seriously it really was not that cold, but it was cold enough to necessitate a long sleeve shirt, a very heavy sweater, thick scarf, long wool coat, hat, and gloves.

One of my favorite buildings in Budapest is their Parliament. It is one of the most lavish creations I've seen in a while and I took about a million (small exaggeration) pictures of it. The best views of the building were actually from the Buda side of the Danube. If you stood on an overlook in the Castle district you could see the entire building in all it's domed and spired glory.

And, thanks to the folks at Snapfish, I managed to create a print of the above photo that reminds me of the type of postcard you can buy that's an old picture. It's the sepia tone and the fuzzy white border that does it but still, neat.

Budapest is one of those cities that looks "right" in black and white or sepia. It's age seems to be more comfortable with those romantic tones than it does in color.

Pentax 35 mm film

23 October 2007

Photo of the Day - A Walk in the Woods

Chimney Rock, Catoctin Mountain National Park
Last weekend, my Dad came for a visit. I thought it might be a great opportunity to show him some of the things that I really like to do. One of those things is visiting National Parks. Deciding that I wanted to hit up a park that I hadn't visited yet, I made plans to go to a stretch of the Appalachian Trail: Catoctin Mountain National Park. The park is located about 15 miles away from Gettysburg on the Maryland side of the Mason-Dixon line. Visiting this park turned out to be my best idea for the whole weekend because not only did we take a 3 hour hike up the mountain to see (and shoot) some beautiful scenery together, but we also visited two apple orchards where they unbelieveably had no donuts, and also Gettysburg National Battlefield Park where it turns out, my Dad has wanted to visit since he was a kid.

I'm going to be sharing a number of these shots in the next few weeks, because I have many that turned out very well. In the meantime, here are a couple more just to whet your pallette for something autumnal:

Moss and Leaves, Catoctin Mountain

Pumpkin Pyramid, Catoctin Mountain Apple Orchard; Thurston, MD

Sony Cybershot 7.2MP, Digital Format

22 October 2007

Photo of the day - Buddha Heads

On my way home from India I took a too-brief stop in Thailand. On some friends' recommendations I made a point to visit Aythaya which is a short train ride outside of Bangkok. They promised that since I could not make the trip to Ancor Wat in Cambodia, the ruins at Aythaya would would be a similar experience. And right they were! There will be more on said ruins later but today's photo is a this grouping of Buddha statue heads.

There are signs all over the ruins instructing you to not substitute your head for Buddha's (like the face cut-outs at fairs and amusement parks). There were statues aplenty missing their heads but this was one of the few groupings of heads that I found. I loved the look of them sitting there with such serene faces as though they knew that they were missing their bodies but were ok with it.

Pentax 35mm film camera

18 October 2007

Monkeys monkeys everywhere

Several years ago I went to India. I was living in Taiwan and decided to go since the plane ticket would only be half the cost from there as it would from anywhere in this hemisphere. I’ve wanted to visit India for as long as I can remember. I am completely fascinated with everything about the country: its languages, cultures, music, clothes, flora and fauna, religions…everything! I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to go.

I had only a film camera at the time and it’s taken my ofttimes slow brain until now to realize that I could have all those negatives put on a disc (this was also before I discovered Snapfish) but now that I have the pictures digitally I will be posting random tidbits about India.

I mentioned above that one of the fascinations India holds for me is its flora and fauna. I love tigers; they are my favorite of favorites in the animal kingdom. Not far behind them are elephants (although I’ll admit to admiring the majesty of the African elephant more than their somewhat lesser cousin the Asian elephant…). And whereas I’ve ridden elephants (of the African persuasion) and have actually handled tigers (both Siberian cubs and a four year old Siberian male)…camels and monkeys I have only ever seen in zoos. Well I certainly got my fill of monkeys in India!! They’re all over the place and are rather a nuisance.

In Pushkar the monkey population was…for lack of another word…mean. I remember one day I was wandering around the vats and decided to cross a bridge basically just to see what was on the other side (mind you, it was a holy bridge so no shoes allowed and it was about 150 degrees and the bridge was burning hot). I got to the other side, gratefully put my shoes back on, and was promptly stopped in my tracks by a massive cow blocking the narrow path.

As I turned to head back I noticed a monkey sitting in a niche in the wall about a foot and a half away from me. It was the closest I had yet been to a monkey. I was so excited and slowly, so as to not startle it, raised my camera to take a picture. He on the hand, had other ideas. I made to move towards me, opened his mouth to bare its huge, thick fangs, and screamed at me. I was so terrified I ran back across that bridge, with my shoes on, not caring which god I offended.

The monkeys I encountered in Jaipur had completely different attitudes. My fabulous rickshaw driver (over whom to this day I still feel guilt because I don’t know if I really gave him enough money) took me to Monkey Temple. I’m sure there dozens upon dozens of monkey temples all over India either because they are dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman, or, like this one, they are simply infested with monkeys. At the bottom of the mountain (my fabulous driver did not tell me that the temple was in a mountain valley and I had to walk to get there) we bought monkey food with which we could feed all of them. I was actually a little afraid of them, they have strong grips and they could have been rabid…but I survived.

All in all, Monkey Temple was very interesting. The temples themselves are roughly two thousand years old and long since abandoned to the monkeys and the once holy vats are now used as a swimming hole…but by men only of course.

Pentax 35mm on full manual

17 October 2007

Meridian Hill

One of DC’s hidden treasures has got to be Meridian Hill Park (aka Malcolm X Park). Located in NW between 16th and 15th and running from Euclid to V st… a visit to Meridian Hill Park is akin to a quick trip to Italy.

The park is largely surrounded with a wall and you do not realize its extent or its beauty until you step inside. Once in, you can wander amongst the tall hedges and trees, sit by the glorious waterfall/fountain, visit with Roman-style statues, and enjoy a sense of peace and well-being that I myself believe very difficult to find here.

Meridian Hill is also home to one of the two statues of female historical figures in DC. Of all the statues here, and there are many, there are only two of women. Jean d’Arc, a gift from the women of France to the women of DC, sitting on her charging battle steed, sits on the level above the waterfall and looks down over the park.

The park is a lovely place to spend a few quite hours, bask in the sun, hide in
the shade, and generally manage to forget that you live in as tumultuous and tense city as this.

Photo of the Day - T-Rex

A few months ago, I went with my niece and nephew to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. The museum always has lots of different exhibitions in the museum, and not only is it fun for kids, but it's an opportunity for adults to be kids too! This particular day, they had 'handlers' out with different bugs for the public to touch and feel. My niece was giddy about the stick bug that danced across her palm, and my nephew was totally freaked out by the green caterpiller that crawled around his fingers.

To me, the coolest part of the whole day was the pre-historic section of the museum. My sister and I marveled over the petrified trillobites, and talked about finding them in our backyard in Michigan as kids. And then...we saw him. The King of all the Dinosaurs-- the Tyrannosaurus Rex! The look on the kids' faces as their glances went up, and up, and up examining his sharp teeth and short little arms was amazing! The shot above is what we saw.

Sony Cybershot 7.2MP, digital format

15 October 2007

Synagogue in Budapest

I took this photo a few years ago when I was in Budapest. I actually took it in color but thanks to the helpful folks at Snapfish, was able to make it black and white. I spent a lot of my time in Budapest avoiding paprika and goulash and wandering around taking pictures but this was one of my favorites. My camera skills are pretty limited but this is one of the best pictures I think I've ever taken. In fact, I have prints of it both in my home and in my office.

Camera: Pentax 35mm film camera set in manual

11 October 2007

Coke Blak

Ok, so yes, Coke Blak is old news. But I wrote a mini review of it when it first came out that was featured on another blog but must simply be shared.

So Coke Blak. Now, I love coke, and I love coffee, but putting the two together is just wrong. However, always on the search for the next caffeinated beverage that will keep me awake (I used to swear by Water Joe, caffeinated water, in college). I was game to try it when Lauren brought it home last night. We actually got the word on this new beverage months ago (I believe it debuted in Europe quite ahead of its release date here) and we've been looking for it ever since. At one time, our ghetto Safeway had a big huge display set up for it...but no product. However, Lauren found it last night at the Hidden Safeway and we were ready to go!

I felt very brave as I took my first sip. Its smell was somewhat noxious and I'd just seen Lauren's entire body shudder after her first drink. Not entirely sure what to expect and somewhat put off by the drink's smell of burned sugar, I cautiously tilted back the bottle and let the black brew slowly spill from the mouth and over my tongue.

And this is all I could say about it:


And yet, for some reason, I continued to drink! And drink and drink. It became a compulsion and I simply couldn't stop!! I can't say it really gave me any special powers, no boost of energy, and I certainly didn't feel the desire to stay up any later than normal.

So coke blak gets two thumbs...to the side from me. It definitely does not taste nearly good enough for even one thumb up, but the curious desire to keep drinking means it shouldn't get a thumb down either.

*Just an fyi that I am far more attractive than that.

10 October 2007

Harman Center Opening Gala

Andrea and I both work part-time for the Shakespeare Theatre which is now the Shakespeare Theatre at the Harman Center for the Arts. The reason for the name change is because Dr. Sydney Harman was so generous in the Shakespeare Theatre's endeavor to build a new facility, that they decided to name it after him.

That was about 5 years ago.

A few weeks ago, said facility finally opened. After many, many weeks of wandering through a dusty construction site, getting sick from the dust while giving tours to our ushers, the facility is finally open! STC hosted a black tie gala at the National Building Museum to commemorate the occasion!!!

For those that could afford them, the best seats were up front. Considering that Andrea and I moonlight at the theatre, we weren't exactly willing to cough up $1500 a plate for dinner and a show. Instead, we put our names on the list (free), and we showed up at the prescribed time in our 'Gala Best.'

Because we got in free, we were sat WAAAAAY in the back of the Museum. But no worries, being as far back as we were, we were still afforded a fully open bar, and (yay!) DESSERT! At our table was a constantly refilled TOWER of sweet things!!! The best things on the tower were tiramisu and petit fours, and a healthy serving of marshmallows on a stick! Considering Marshmallows are one of my most favorite foods (the world's most perfect!), I delighted in my great fortune.

After dessert, the alcohol of the evening started to kick in, and the live band started to play oldies. Everyone loves oldies! Andrea especially loves them, and every time a good song would begin she would shriek, "I love this song!" at the top of her lungs!

However, I think that everyone's head around us nodded in agreement because the music was pretty great, and was cause enough for everyone there to dance until the wee hours of the night. We took our sore feet home sometime around 1:30am; the alcohol still flowed freely, so the party was still going strong until long after we left the party.

Andrea and I love to get dressed up and attend events like this. Here in DC, if you try hard enough, you could attend a black tie gala every other night. We're already talking about what to wear to the next one. I guess we need to find that next one. Cheers!


Virginia has well over 100 wineries. I know, I know, you’re thinking “What? Virginia has wineries?!” Yes indeedy they do. Just because their wines aren’t sold internationally (or nationally for that matter) like those out of California doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And if you’re that shocked about wineries in Virginia wait until I start extolling the virtues of Michigan wine! But the point being, yes, wine in Virginia.

Our favorite winery is located in the village of Lucketts, VA. Tarara, which got its name from the mountain Ararat on which Noah’s Arc landed, is a beautiful 475 acres of grapes established in 1985 and produces fifteen amazing wines. Several weeks ago we visited to both stock up on wine (because you cannot buy it off the winery) and take part in the fun of their annual fall festival. Every Autumn they have a festival including wine tasting, hay rides, you pick fruit, music, lost of food, and vendors with crafts and arts. First thing when we got there was to start the tasting process but then we all dived into the food! Everything from Greek to sausages, hot dogs, burgers, and crab cakes was there.

After our bellies were filled we wandered around the vendors, did some shopping, found a vendor with a fantastic sparkling cider (I think all told we bought a dozen bottles of that alone!), and enjoyed the adorable young step dancers. We also participated in our favorite part of the festival (well, favorite other than the wine that is) which is the grape stomping competition! Lauren and I won it hands down the last time we were there. Sadly we didn’t win this time and I’d like to blame it on the new rules they had going on this year…in fact, yes, I will blame it on the new rules. We were robbed!! Still, was fun, and messy, and squishy. My regret, other than the not winning, is the last time we did this it was cold out and I swear we were stomping frozen grapes, but this time when it was blazing hot and we would have appreciated frozen grapes we didn’t get them.

Still and all, it was a good day and I walked away with a huge bag of the world’s best kettle corn and I think nine or so bottles of wine (and three bottles of cider). While Lauren and I have fairly different tastes in wine, she prefers red and I prefer anything not overly dry, we both highly recommend them. If you can’t make it to Lucketts you can buy online-they ship to a number of states. We, I believe, would recommend their: Meritage, Wild River Red, Charval, Viognier, and Cameo. They also have a very drinkable Chardonnay and Merlot. In fact, we do not recommend drinking Merlot unless it comes from Tarara-the folks from the movie Sideways weren’t kidding when they had Paul Giamatti’s character exclaiming: “No, if anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!”

08 October 2007

Potomac Crab Cruise

On a very gloomy day in June Lauren and I went on an all-you-can-eat crab cruise on the Potomac. My first and most ardent desire was that the crab not be from the Potomac itself. It may have been cool when Peter Parker got bit by a radio-active spider and turned all Spider Man, but Andrea eating a radio-active crab would probably not do anything cool.

The cruise itself was a little “meh” due mostly to the overcastness of the day. However, It’s always a treat to be on the water and to see all the DC monuments from a new perspective, and food is always welcome! We had: crab, corn on the cob, hush puppies, French fries, and cookies. Now, I love crab, I love crab, however, I do have one or two, or five, issues eating crab when it’s crab-shaped. Legs don’t bother me because they’re not attached to anything, but when I have to deal with an entire crab I get a wee bit squeamish. Okay, rather a lot squeamish.

We had a little table covered in paper on which the cruise people dumped piles of crabs. I gingerly picked up my first crab and twisted off its claws and legs and set them aside for later; then came the hard part. With its face facing away from me (I just can’t have them looking at me-in fact I turned away all their faces when dude dropped them on the table) I went through the crack open the crab procedure. First you lift up and tear off the “apron” on its stomach, then either lift off the top shell or break it in half. I’m ok with those steps-it’s what comes next that freaks me out. Then before you can dive in and eat all the lovely crab meat that’s soaked up the Old Bay seasoning, you have to scrape out the gunk. Ew. Yellow mustard-looking innards and the lungs which are grey and spongy have to come out and, in the case of the yellow gunk, be cleaned off the meat before you can eat it. Ew ew ew ew! I squealed a little every time my fingers brushed against any of the squishy or spongy substances whereas Lauren managed to perfectly and matter-of-factly multi task and tear apart and eat the crab whilst rolling her eyes at me.

In the end, I did not get to eat as much crab meat as I would have liked being as how my timidity slowed me down, however, I still got to eat crab and my lips and tongue burned with the Old Bay. Crab is a lovely thing but I really do prefer that it come only in legs.

05 October 2007

Andrea's Photo of the Day

I took this photo last March-ish when I was in Serbia. Kalemegdan, a large fortress that was first the stronghold of the Turks when they ruled the area, then of the Austrian when they ousted the Turks, is now a large park in the Serbian capital Belgrade. I was fortunate enough to spend several months working in Belgrade and wandered around Kalemegdan quite often. The park includes walkways, restaurants, two churches (both Serbian Orthodox), a small amusement park with rides for children, and the Belgrade zoo. A lot of the original wall surrounding the fortress (pictured) still stands and interestingly enough, the government is actively rebuilding the fortress walls and possibly eventually the entire fortress itself.

I did not have much to do on my down time and weeknds so I wandered around and took a lot of pictures, most of them actually in Kalemegdan. I was attempting creative shots all over the city and I think I actually managed something nice in this one.
Digital format, Kodak EasyShare Z710 7.1MP