Category Archives: holidays

cheesy valentine


Heart of cheese.

Roses are red,
Roquefort is blue
Actually, it’s more of a green
But this photo’s of provolone, anyway.

Happy Year of the Snake!

Today is the day to ring in the Year of the Snake.


These are some Japanese clay bells that I bought in San Francisco’s Japantown 12 years ago. I’m quite fond of them. Who knew that snakes could be so cute?

photographing fireworks (friday foto finder: fireworks)

In the US, the 4th of July (aka Independence Day) is traditionally celebrated with (among other things¹) displays of fireworks. We took the kids to see some fireworks a couple of years ago at a nearby town, and this year we went to a school field at a different nearby town. (Our own town doesn’t host any such displays.) Both times, I enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture the fireworks in photos. I’ve learned a bit more about how to use my camera² in the past 2 years, so I think I had a higher success to failure ratio this time around. (So funny to realize that July of 2010 was before I embarked on my daily photography adventure for project 365.)

As best I can tell, it helps to have a camera that you can set to full manual mode: you’ll want to set the aperture, shutter speed and ISO levels, and also not try to rely on auto focus. (Things typically move too fast with fireworks for my camera to find a focus on its own.) I played around quite a bit with the settings, and took probably well over a hundred photos, to get some shots that I liked. (Two of the great things about digital photography are the cheapness of taking so many exposures, and the near-live feedback about how your photos have worked out, letting you make adjustments accordingly.)

Here are a few of my favorite shots.


A big poof of red, with white and blue accents. (This was taken with my telephoto lens, zoomed to 45 mm: aperture f/4, iso 1400, shutter speed 1/50.)

Next I switched over to my 20 mm fixed-length lens, which can open to a really wide aperture. It looks like I stuck around an aperture of f/1.8, set the iso down to 400, and then a shutter speed of 1/10 (a tenth of a second).


This is one of my favorites, as it reminds me of a dandelion gone to seed.


This was taken at a lower shutter speed (1/2, or a half second), and the added blur gave the effect of shards of ice crystals.


This was another slow one, and it reminds me of ribbon.


This upward-dripping effect may have been due to me playing around with moving the camera as I took the shot. (I do remember intentionally moving the camera for some shots, but don’t remember whether this was one of them. It’s also possible that somebody bumped me. Or maybe I sneezed.)


Many of the colors didn’t come out for me, except when a single color dominated. I liked the way this one, while sparse as the blooms went, showed a wide range of intense colors.


I love all the shapes formed by the puffs of smoke in this one. I see butterflies and flowers and ducks. Also a few blobs of oatmeal.


Here’s an early one from the show, where I was still trying to work out the focus. Clearly, I missed, but I like the result anyhow.


Theo was quite scared by the fireworks 2 years ago, or at least by the loud noises. (He did like the pretty lights.) This year, he only half-heartedly covered his ears. Phoebe was fully entranced. (Here I had to crank the ISO way up to 1600 to see anything. The red glow is likely from some red fireworks–the only light I had in this shot.)

I have a few more shots in the slideshow below in case you are compelled to see more. Click on the photos above to see them bigger.

And in case you are wondering why I’m now posting 6-month old photos, it’s to participate in …um… last week’s³ friday foto finder with the theme of “fireworks.” (The photos would have been exactly 6 months old if I’d managed to post on Friday!)

To see what fireworks people were celebrating, go check out the friday foto finder blog. And if you’d like to participate this Friday, the theme will chocolate.

¹ Also hot dogs, potato salad and flag-waving.
² An Olympus Pen E-P1, which I have been known to refer to as “my epi-pen.”
³ It was a hectic week, and the last few days were a crunch of presentation preparation followed by a bit of conference attending. This time without traveling.

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Tidings of comfort and joy.

For the past several years, Neil of Citizen of the Month has put together a remarkable online concert to celebrate the many and varied holidays of the winter season, and he has graciously hosted once more. Please go check out the amazing musical and photographic stylings on exhibit at The Seventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert. As always, the entries are varied and wondrous.

I didn’t manage to get my act together this round, for a variety of reasons, but I hope to again next year. You can find me and my voice in several of the past concerts, but I’m too lazy to see which. Last year was one.

I have been in a dark place since Friday, but I’m not yet ready to share those thoughts. Too many thoughts. I wrote something on Monday, but it is still too raw to post. In the meantime, I have taken comfort in many things, including music. Most of all, I take comfort in having my little ones with me and holding them close.

May they remember only joy this holiday season.

Happy Turkey Day

Here are some happy turkeys.

Here in New England, it is not uncommon to come across roving flocks of wild turkeys. I came across these guys a couple years ago while heading to a nearby farm to buy some eggs. (Chicken eggs, mind you.) They were in the long winding driveway, and as I drove up, they just kept running ahead, seemingly reluctant to spend the extra energy to get over the towering snowbanks. (That was the winter of Too Much Winter.) All the way at the top of the hill, they figured I was in it for the long chase, and took flight.

a little batty

A couple months back, Phoebe and I discussed what she wanted to be for Halloween this year. I was determined that we’d get things worked out well in advance, and that I wouldn’t turn into a costume-crazed working on things last-minute. (Not that anything like that would ever happen. Nope.)

Anyhow, Phoebe said she wanted to be a bat, a plan both John and I heartily endorsed. She also wanted to make her costume, and I figured we could swing it.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by a fabric store to get some black cloth. The store also had a selection of costumes, including, as it turned out, a bat costume: a black cape with a zig-zag bottom, and a hood with ears. It beckoned. (It was, after all, a finished costume. Also 60% off, as it was getting close to Halloween.) I was so very tempted. (Last year, Phoebe wanted to design her own witch costume. But when I found a finished witch costume in the second hand store, complete with sparkly, fluffy embellishments, Phoebe was more than happy to give up her own design plans.)

I eyed that finished bat costume, hanging there in all its $5.99-sale-price polyester glory.

And I moved on.

After all, making such a thing from fleece would be a snap. Possibly a stitch or two needed here and there, but no major sewing or engineering.

Come last week, we still hadn’t found a chance to work on it. Our schedule is rather packed what with school, work and after-school activities. But there was a Halloween party coming up on Friday, and a Halloween-themed birthday party on Saturday, so on Thursday night, it was well time to tackle the bat.

I got out the fabric, held it up to Phoebe, and described what I imagined: wings draping down from her arms, much like a cape. Phoebe was not happy. This wasn’t what she imagined. After various rounds of her trying to explain what she wanted, and even a trial version of making a mini bat costume for a doll with some stapled rags, I finally got Phoebe to draw for me how she envisioned the wings. Here’s what she drew:

Not draped. She wanted her arm to go through some straps on a wing shape, which would extend up above the arm.

There was much back and forth that followed, with me saying we couldn’t do it with fleece, at least not without something stiff to hold the shape. She wanted to make something much more complicated than I felt was necessary. (I have no idea where she gets this. No idea.)

Happily, I remembered that I had some bits of upholstery foam left from when I made a spider costume back before Phoebe was born. More remarkably, I was able to find them.

The result was that I managed to make something that was in between our two original visions, with the wings extending up over her arms, and then with the fleece draping down behind.


Wings down.


Wings extended.


The ears are just cat ears, but they worked well enough for a bat. The rest of the costume is just various articles of black clothing she had.


Here is Phoebe swinging at her friend’s party on Saturday. (I don’t know how I managed to get photos with just Phoebe, as it seemed like the swingset was swarming with costumed first-graders.) The foam and fleece combination was flexible enough that she could still easily play in her costume.


This photo shows a bit of the foam peaking through. I had it sandwiched between layers of fleece. If I’d had more time, I probably would have fixed this. But it only showed when her arms were in certain positions.

You can’t see the costume especially well here, but Phoebe is so dang cute. This was during the parade at her school gym Halloween morning. Wow, that was only yestereday. It’s been a crazy stretch.

So, there it is. The bat costume that was going to be simple, but ended up more complicated than expected. (Yes, I should have expected that.)

our pumpkins

Happy Halloween!

As I’ve said before, I love Halloween. It is quite possibly my favorite holiday. I wish I’d had time to post more Halloween-themed things, but so be it. But here, at least, are a few photos featuring our pumpkins. (Carving pumpkins early in the evening on Halloween seems to have become a household tradition. )

Theo drawing a the face for his jack-o-lantern.


Phoebe at work.


Two finished pumpkins.


4 finished pumpkins.

In other news, we came through the storm almost entirely unscathed. (Sorry if I left anyone worried or wondering. Parts of New England were indeed hit hard by Sandy, but we live quite far inland, so we got off easy.)

In other other news, I have once more committed to daily blogging for the month of November. So you will be hearing more from me soon.