Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Photo of the Week: the Quick Like A Bunny Edition

This is a short and sweet entry, as I am suddenly realizing that my upcoming trip to see friends in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is coming up in ten days and I have done exactly zero planning, and today I found out I am flying to Kansas City next Wednesday. Hope Delta doesn't lose my luggage this time.

Halifax looks fun, though, and will hopefully get me out of the godawful Georgia heat for a week. I'm ending up my trip in Montreal and flying back from there, so I'll get a nice cross section of Eastern Canadian-isms. (My flight to Halifax includes a hotly anticipated two-hour layover in Detroit, which is a cross-section I could do without.)

Photo! This is from Puerto Rico, the view north out of the El Yunque Rainforest (only rainforest that is part of the USA! Go see it!) down through the mist to the coast, which you can just see in the distance. If you are going to IslaVieques - and you should be, right now, and if I weren't going to Halifax I'd go with you - the entrance to the rain forest is on the right hand side of Highway 3, right before Luquillo. That's right, the only American rain forest has a drive-thru! Because that's how we roll. Literally in this case.

Go there. You'll thank me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Photo of the Week: the Chill Out, Already Edition

Whee! Hard to believe that a mere 5 months ago I was going out to my yard and marveling at everything being covered by snow and ice, like all the trees were being dipped in that jar that you made rock candy with when you were a kid. And that in 2 months it will be fall, and I will be able to go outside without an oxygen tank and/or a personal dehumidifier, and breathe the cool air of autumn. I love the south, but by god I am so glad that I live in the part that has seasons, as opposed to Florida, where I grew up. There they have two seasons: summer, and not summer. Summer is when you stick to the tarmac in the parking lot. Not Summer is... summer. But less sticky.

A friend of mine sent me a photo of snow in Yosemite he took a few years back and said he was meditating on it to cool the brain. Here's my version (his is much more artistic and, also, in focus). With everyone going nutty in the heat, I figure we can all use it.

Meditate, be calm, chill. Repeat.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Big Move

So my boyfriend showed up last night with the news that his ongoing struggles with his bank to get pre-approved for a home loan have finally borne fruit, and he can start making offers on houses. This worries me.

A little backround: about a year ago, he became obsessed with the idea that he was going to buy one of the multitude of foreclosed houses in our city, so that we could live together, have more space, lower our bills, all that good stuff. (I was originally thinking that there would be a wedding ring somewhere in that equation as well, but I've since disabused myself of that notion.) He began working with a banker, we looked at a bunch of houses (from the outside), and he began thrashing thru the paperwork. Since it was his project, I've kind of stayed out of it. And that's where things have stood, for about a year.

Suddenly this mortgage-approval-thingy has been, well, approved, and suddenly the "moving into a new house" idea has become One Step More Real.

I am not at all sure I like this.

I like my house, though it's clearly too small for both of us. I like the location. I like the neighbors, except for the psychos who made me get rid of my chickens, and they have the sense to keep to themselves. I like that I'm five minutes from the farmer's market. I like the huge yard, even though I hardly use it, and I like the deep, arching trees that go back to the woods. I like my landlord, who lives in upstate New York and could care less if I keep bees and paint the house purple, as long as I don't burn it down.

This moving thing, I don't know. I don't think it will save money (I've moved lots of times, and I can painfully remember cleaning out my bank account to move into this house). I don't like the idea of adjusting my indoor-outdoor cat to a new (albeit safer) neighborhood. I don't like being outside the perimeter, like some suburban square. And I will lose my Mexican joint, which is an outpost of the local Los Bravos chain that I eat lunch at at least twice a week. Everyone needs a place like this - the one you go all the time, and they don't even bring you the menu any more, they just bring you your usual, and you can go in alone and not get the hairy eyeball for taking up a booth by yourself (in fact you have "your" booth) and you can go in looking nice or go all ratty in track pants, claiming you just came from the gym, when everyone knows you actually are coming off a three-day sudafed bender in Las Vegas and you need your fajitas NOW. I don't like the idea of disassembling my entire life, putting it in boxes, taking it to another place, and trying to reassemble it, only to find that there are bits that you are missing. And they were never things that fit in boxes to begin with.

Probably I am just saying that I don't like disruptions of my routine, and I should look forward to this exciting new household chapter, full of challenges and changes and positive things. A quieter street! An office that's not in the living room! Space for more shoes!

I don't like this... at all.

Rose photo above, from somewhere in Spain. I love the warmth of this photo and the slightly melancholy lean of the roses - are they waiting for a princess? - and I would tell you where I took it but I have gone off coca-cola again, to try to be healthy, and my brain is rewarding me by turning into a sponge, and I'm sucking down green tea in a desperate attempt to stay caffeinated and not sink into the throes of withdrawl. So you're out of luck. It's probably in Granada, though.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Photo of the week - Sausalito Summer Night Edition

Monday! Trying to get this post up before the summer heat utterly, competely drains me of motivation and leaves me on the couch gasping for air, with only the energy to munch TerraChips.

This is a room off of one of the main halls in the Alahambra, in Grenada, Spain. Apparently, where we would put a broom closet or a panel of electrical fuses, the Moors felt the need to put a handmade fountain in a tiny, ethereal space, with zilj tile and a view of the Andalusian countryside. Which we would do, too, if we didn't need a space to keep those brooms and fuses. This one is a little worse for wear, but I am putting it up because I am searching for a new studio space and the ones I have seen have been, shall we not say, diamonds in the rough. Man, are they rough. So I am using this photo to convince myself that with a little paint and curtaining and TLC, one of them can become the "room of one's own" that we're all supposed to have. Wish me luck!

And when you clean out your broom closet to make a niche like this one, bring me the broom. Boy, am I gonna need it.

Oh, and Sausalito Summer Nights is a totally cheesy 80's pop song that came out one summer when I was in, like , 7th grade. I love it, and you can listen to it here: Diesel 


Monday, June 21, 2010

Photo of the week - now with more daylight!

I had a different photo planned for today, a lovely Parisian sunset that was going to perfectly capture the longest day of the year. But when I went to get it out of my digital filing cabinet I found this one, and decided to run it instead.

These are the Bateau Mouches (I am totally murdering this spelling), the big, flat-bottomed boats that you can pick up at various places on the Seine and take a water-borne tour in. They pass the Louvre, the Musee de Orsay, and usually make a U-turn at the Eiffel Tower. Completely, utterly touristy, so of course I can't get enough of it. The night version of the tour is infinitely better than the day version, since the city is all lit up around you, glowing and romantic. The romantic part is wasted on me, since I always go to Paris alone, but the lighting - c'est magnifique.

This photo is taken just as we slip under one of the many bridges of Paris. You can see on this ride there aren't many people up top - it was March, I think, and totally freezing - but I once took the very latest ride of the night (yes, I've gone more than once) and was grateful that I was virtually the only person on board, since I was feeling a bit of alone-in-Paris melancholy - when at the last instant a herd of schoolkids got on board, at least 25 kids. They all poured noisily onto the upper deck and my first thought was, "AAAAARGH".

But you know what? they totally made the trip. They were French kids - so much for the theory that no French people ride the boats - and they were so innocently excited, scampering and laughing and going "whooooooo" every time we passed under a bridge, to test the acoustics - that it was like being on a field trip with the Harry Potter kids, a sensation amplified by the pre-teen Hermione look-alike sitting in front of me, whispering urgently in another kid's ear. I spent the whole ride giggling at (with) them, enjoying their antics, and when the boat nosed up to the dock I was actually sorry to see them go.

But I wasn't even concious of being alone anymore. And for that, tiny french children, I say merci.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Photo of the week: the where have you been? edition

Hi, gang.

It's been a minute.

It's been a hell of a spring on the homestead. I started a new business which is eating me alive. I have people that actually rely on me to make their businesses work. Can I describe how terrifying that is, as a concept? My bees died in the last cold snap, about six weeks ago, and the bee box now sits silent and empty. My incipient trip to Brazil was canceled, smothered in the cradle by lack of funds (see starting a new business, above). And in a rank miscarriage of justice, the county code inspector came and gave us a citation for having chickens, and we had to give them away. No more fresh eggs, but more importantly no self-important chickies amusing me as they strut and fluster through the garden, scratching and pouncing.

It's enough to make a girl tired.

But! things are looking up. The wintry spring we've been having has finally turned into a gentle early summer, with lots of rain for the garden, which I got in by fits and starts in April. My tomatoes are growing like weeds. My boyfriend got me a library card, so I can stop draining my bank account at Amazon. And best of all, I found a beekeeper who will sell me new bees (it's late in the season, hence the difficulty) so I will have a functioning beehive once again. Oh, and Delta gave me my frequent flyer miles back. For a small fee.

I was sitting with one of my clients for the new business the other day, and showing him the list of tasks I had assigned myself to do weekly for him. "I won't get to everything every week" I said, "but if we use this as a guideline, then we continue to lurch forward. It's all about progress."

And this morning I thought, while I was searching for a theme to this post, if that's not a metaphor for life, I don't know what is. Whether you are reinventing yourself, or writing a novel, or planting a garden, or raising a child, or, I don't know, carving the Mona Lisa out of yak butter, it's all about progress. Keep on keepin' on, as they say. And somehow, in fits and starts, you make progress. Stumble some, run some, but stretch towards the light.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Photo of the week

This picture is a little soft and fuzzy, due to ill-advised hand-holding, but then it's Monday and we probably ALL feel a little soft and fuzzy. I worked most of the weekend at my desk so I could use a little soft fuzziness right now.

Focus issues aside, I love the way the ceiling fixtures open up and draw you into the hallway. This is from a night tour of the Louvre (they are open until ten on Thursdays) and so all of the daylight that normally floods these halls is missing, leaving only the shadowy, gas-fixture light to illuminate the galleries. I like to think this is what it looked like in the past, with ladies in satin dresses drifting down the halls toward string music in the Apollo Room.

Flattering light is key, even if it's only in your imagination...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book Review - "The Happiness Project"

There's some irony to me writing this review today, since I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and am being an impossible grouch. Then again, just thinking about this book makes me happier (at least a little) and if it can do it today, imagine what it would do on a day I'm not grumpy.

Seriously, here's my advice to you - go out and get this book. Buy it, borrow it, check it out of the library, whatever you need to do - get it and read it. It's one of the best, most practical books I have read in a long time. Gretchen Rubin writes of realizing one day that she had a great, fortunate life, and felt the need to appreciate it more, enjoy herself and her family more, and just be more aware of how lucky she (and all of us, really) was. She set out to make a series of simple, non-earth-shaking changes, and in the process improves her life and that of everyone around her - no drama, no damage, no running off to Indonesia and living with a medicine man. It's the polar opposite of books like "Eat, Pray, Love" that imply the only way to improve your life is to burn it down and start over - not just thinking outside the box but trampling on it and throwing it's mangled remains in the trash. (In the interest of full disclosure, I hate those sort of books, and I spent most of "Eat, Pray, Love" wanting to slap Elizabeth Gilbert in the mouth.)

Rubin breaks down her "Happiness Goals" into twelve sections, one for each month, taking inspiration from Benjamin Franklin's "List of Virtues", where he worked on one virtue a week for twelve weeks - and then goes from there. Vitality, Relationships, Work - I identified with all of them (well, except for the parenting one - no kids, just the cat) and found several useful pointers in each chapter.

Even today, when I am at my curmudgeonly best, I can dredge up her advice and nudge myself into a better, if not Pollyanna-ish, state. Yes, I woke up at 6.30 am on Sunday because I have so much work to do (and am breaking one of my personal rules, to not work on Sunday). Yes, the winery event I wanted to go to was rained out. Yes, my boyfriend changed his oil in the carport and now there's  ^*&%^% oil everywhere that I am going to have to mop up. Yes, the store was out of red snapper.

But really, is it so bad? Take a deep breath and remember Gretchen's advice: Fight right (yes, the oil's a mess, but he also fixed my brakes last week. And don't drag his mother into it). Be flexible (no red snapper, but grouper - just as good) Give yourself credit - I just went out in the drizzle and cleaned the chicken coop, and just accomplishing that made me feel better. Crossing "write book review" off my list will improve my morale even more.  And have some fun - maybe I can't go to the winery, but I can watch Pirates of the Caribbean again, and I can do it in my underwear. Can't do that at a winery. At least not until the second flight.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Notebook

This is not a story about the totally-cheesy-with-a-side-of-extra-cheese book by Nicholas Sparks, because although I am sure he is a very nice man and my mother loves all of his writing, his books make my head want to explode. This is a different story.

You know when you do something, and as you are doing it you think, "mmm... this is a bad idea" and you do it anyway and it turns out licking the light socket was a bad idea, and you say (to yourself) "dumbass! I told you not to do that!"? This is that kind of story. Only without the hair styled by voltage. (I have, in fact, stuck a metal object into a light socket and your hair DOES stand up. But that's for another day.)

Pictured above is my notebook. Or rather, one of my notebooks, because I go through them like crazy - I use them as a combination dayplanner/notetaker/recipetester/
mileagerecord/gumwrapper/whatever-er, and if you ask anyone who knows me I am almost never without it. I take it to lunch, I take it on dates, I take it on vacation (even though I keep a detailed vacation journal), I sleep with it next to the bed in case I get a blinding insight in the middle of the night. I don't even like not knowing where it is. It's a college-ruled security blanket, and I always have 2-3 blank ones in the house, just in case I unexpectedly run out of pages. I pick them up whenever I see one with a design I like, even if I have like 5 already. I'm a little obsessed.

And as you can see, I have a classic OCD approach to using them - things to do on the right, spontaneous notes on the left, subjects numbered in order of importance, stars by things, highlighter you get the picture I AM REALLY INTO MY NOTEBOOK.

So of course, when I had an opportunity to put one down somewhere that I would be guaranteed to lose it, I did. Because that is sensible.

I was in Belgium. Intentionally this time. I've been to Belgium once before, unintentionally, but even though that is one of my best travel stories ever, filed prominently under "disasters" I can never tell it here, to protect the innocent. So this is my second trip to Belgium and I was getting off of the Eurostar with my boss, and the clients, and about eleventy thousand pounds of photographic equipment. The Brussels Eurostar station has no luggage carts, in an apparent attempt to thin the human herd of baggage weaklings, and we had a lot of stuff. A lot and a half. And one notebook.

One of us (I think it was the ever-amazing Brooke, but I really don't remember) found a station worker to take pity on us and they brought a rolling luggage container - essentially an eight-foot-high cage on wheels - and we loaded all eleventy thousand pounds of gear into the cage, and since I still had to carry couple of bags I tossed my notebook up on top of the cage. Why I didn't just stick it in the bag I was carrying I'll never know. And as I did so, I thought to myself, "Don't leave that up there, dummy."

Which, of course, I did.

And of course I realized it just late enough to ensure it was to late to go back and get it. Aaargh! All my notes. Schedules. Lists of blog posts that I wanted to work on (like that was gonna happen anyway, notebook or not). All enjoying an extended vacation in the Brussels train station. It's still there for all I know.

And of course it was in the most gruellingly scheduled portion of the trip, where we were racing from location to location and I literally did not have five minutes to run into a drugstore and find a replacement. I had made, with rare foresight, extra copies of our schedule, and when I could no longer jam notes into the margins and had filled up the back, I started writing on napkins, newspapers, gum wrappers, whatever I could find that would accept ink - including at one point the palm of my hand. My boss noticed my notebook need and tried to help.

"Do we need to stop somewhere and get you a notebook?"

"No, I'm fine."

"I know you like to have something to take notes in."

"No, it's okay."

"Because we can get you one. I'll give you some euros if you need it."

"No, really, I'm fine. Are you done with that napkin?"

 So there I am, suffering from the notebook jones, hanging fire for five whole days.  The last couple of days were in Amsterdam - my boss, in a display of generosity I can only categorize as awesome, let me stay behind after the shoot and flew home with all that gear alone - and in my wanderings I found a tourist store that sold notebooks. They had one with a cow on it that said, Amsterdam, and I grabbed it and ran to the counter squealing like a kid at Christmas and I took out my wallet and I was out of euros. I looked, stricken, at the girl behind the register, at the notebook, and then I stalked back to my hotel, notebookless, in the cold Dutch rain.

I flew home the next day, still empty handed, a little piece of my soul still sitting on a luggage cart somewhere in Europe...

I wonder if it misses me?

The Friday Wrap-Up - March Madness Edition

Is it Friday already? Gah. This week's story is still in the draft stages, so you'll have to wait til tomorrow for that, but in the meantime here's some odds n' ends for the past week:

- Is that picture above not the worst photo ever? Admit it, you think that's a paparazzi outtake, and Lindsay Lohan is behind that bush somewhere. But no. That, my friends, is a PHOTO OF HOPE. Because it's a photo of the first bloom on the Bradford pear trees, which I saw last night on my way home from seeing Shane at the Plaza Theatre. And when the pear trees bloom, spring is officially on the way - groundhog or not. So suck it, Winter!

- and in an additional note, that kid in Shane? Most annoying child actor ever.

- Just finished reading "Your New Sailboat - Choosing it, Using it" by the excellent and prone-to-rhyming editors of Chapman Piloting, and I can tell you what I've learned: I'm never buying a sailboat. I would be better off calling up Richard Branson and negotiating for a used spaceship.

- My friend Vere and I celebrated St. Patrick's Day in the traditional fashion, eating dinner in a Cuban restaurant. What? Mojitos are green.

- My boyfriend announced he wants us to take fencing lessons. He was an all-state fencer in high school. Why do I feel this will end badly?

- And looking ahead to summer vacation (in case I don't get stabbed) I just cashed in all of my frequent flyer miles and am going on an "adventure" in July. I always think of them as "adventures", rather than "vacations", because a "vacation" implies you will come home not racked with parasites or bitten by a poisonous snake. And why court disappointment? Nobody was more shocked than me when Delta actually agreed to accept their own frequent flyer miles, but apparently it's an early Easter miracle. I'll pony up more details as we get closer, but if you want to play pin-the-tail-on-the-globe, here's your first hint: I'm going to a country with a very large jungle in it, that's named after an online bookstore.

Or is it the other way around?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Photo of the week

Since it's a beautiful, sunny day in Atlanta (though chilly) I thought I would share this sunny beach photo from my recent trip to Puerto Rico. We saw this surfer on his way out to the point while we were bobbing contentedly in the water for our post-breakfast swim, and I particularly noticed him because - honestly - he had really pretty hair. Better than mine by far.

A few hours later I saw him on the way back and got this image of him framed by the waves. I bet he had fun. Even if his hair is now messy.

Go out there and get messy, people!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

And the Winner is....

I could beat this Oscar meme to death all WEEK. And I didn't even watch the show! Which I only regret because I missed the Crazy-Purple-Kanye-Lady. Lord, please let me be that wacky when I grow up.

Crazy-Purple-Kanye-Lady aside, you will remember that a few weeks ago I posted the First Ever Constant Holiday Give-away! I'm really into caps this morning. I got caught up in work, and in planning (and then taking) my Puerto Rico trip, so I haven't had a chance to announce my winners yet. So today's the day!

And yes, I did say WINNERS. In an atypical spasm of generosity, I decided to give both my copies of "How To Travel Anywhere" away (admittedly after I had read one of them. But they are used books so no one will ever know.), and randomly selected two of my reader comments, who obligingly sent in an account of their favorite vacations.

Drum roll, please....

K. Smith and P. Foster! Come on down and accept your prize! Or rather, wait feverishly by your mailbox. K sent in an account of a family trip with her mom and grandma to Chattanooga Tennessee, and P sent in this haiku-like description:

"Scotland, 2002.
What's a little freezing rain when
you're in a real castle?"

My thoughts exactly. I will be contacting these fine folks for your addresses and sending prizes out post-haste. BTW K is also the author of the excellent Amira blog, which I have linked to at the bottom of this page. You should check her out.

Champagne all around! We will have another contest soon, as this was fun and I have WAY to many books in my house.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

And the award for Friday Wrap up goes to... Tuesday

Yeah, I know. Late again. I'd like to say that I'm doing constructive things, but mostly I'm eating and getting sand out of my luggage, so don't waste that sympathy. Save it for poor James Cameron. Heh.

To the (late) Friday wrap up!

- we returned from our trip to Puerto Rico in one piece, and with a minimum of awkardly located sunburns, a key metric in how much you enjoy your vacation, I think

- I met an amazing photographer, who I am hoping to do lots of work with in the future, named Pat McDonnell, You should check him out here: www.medicinebleu.com

- my friend Amy and I went to Hae Doon Wae Korean bbq last week, and it was scrumptious. I have this game I play where I go to a different foreign food joint each week, partially to expand my palate and partially to annoy my boyfriend. The less recognizable the food the happier I am (though I passed on the barbequed tripe). Pictured above, the wreckage of our table.

- I also went to the Bookstore in Atlanta and had Duck Breast with mushroom risotto, which was so good I may have to let Jason, my buddy who recommended both the restaurant and the dish, date my sister. Her husband may mind, though. Jason, you can date my mom.

- Katheryn Bigelow! You go girl. Anyone who gives us Bodi deserves an Oscar.

- Please, PLEASE go to http://dianevadino.tumblr.com/ , website of the excellent writer Diane Vadino, who is Bunnyshop, one of my favorite travel and fashion blogs. She has audio excerpts from her last book, Smart Girls Like Me, up now, and is putting up excerpts of what looks to be a hilarious book about her Mongolian adventure, which I am still jealous off. Check it out.

- I just found out how to add multiple photos to my blog. Watch out, world.

And we're back!

Back from an excellent week in Puerto Rico - actually I've been back for a week, but laziness and procrastination is how I roll. So there. Above, view from my apartment in Jobos, on the northwest coast of the main island, complete with point break and surfers - in honor of Katheryn Bigelow's finest film, Point Break. You go, girl. Enjoy that Oscar.

Lots to come this week so stay tuned! And now we are done with the silly TV references.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Friday Wrap-Up

This is a new section on the blog, designed mainly to give my lazy ass a way to post something without straining myself to much intellectually. Which is not hard to do, as you can imagine.

And since I am writing this on Sunday, you can already see where we are going with the issue of tardiness. Well, at least I'm not raising expectations too high too soon.

So! A round-up of the weeks weirdness:

- I know I am late to this train, but Johnny Weir? Totally Awesome. And, I might add, ROBBED at the Olympics.

- Bought myself a cool crystal-and-fake pearl necklace that I turned into a bracelet, to wear to the beach this week. Since it was only 5 bucks at Ross, I figure I won't care if I get sand all over it. It's very Coco Chanel-ish - will post a photo soon.

- tried two new recipes this week, Chicken Caccitore and Morrocan Chicken Tagine, both from the excellent "Ready When You Are" cookbook by Martha Rose Shulman. My only complaint: if you advertise something as a "one dish meal", it shouldn't really take 6 pots to make it in, should it? (the Moroccan Chicken). Just sayin'.

- speaking of chickens, we relocated one of our chickens, Greta (aka Miss Personality, pictured above) to the farm of her birth, because she had gotten so noisy. Robert the Chicken man, on taking her out of her transport box, took one look at her and announced, "Um... yeah. That's a rooster." Which explains a) the noise and b) why she never laid eggs. She/he has been replaced by our new chicken, Lucy, who Robert assures me has no sexual identity issues. Amelia, our other chicken, seems fine with it.

- Fave quote of the week, stolen from tem internets: "When my life flashes before me when I die, it's gonna make a GREAT movie. Grab your popcorn, 'cause sh*z took some CRAZY turn's in the '80s...." I couldn't agree more completely.

- Went to Machu Picchu Peruvian Restaurant with Alex and my friend Jason for Foreign Food Friday (albeit on Wednesday, because that was the night we all had off) and during a conversation about extraterrestrials - don't ask - Jason dropped THIS bit of wisdom: "how pathetic would that be, if when we finally make contact the aliens are dressed like the bee gees in 1976, because that's when they picked up our transmissions?"

Because if there is anything worse than unexpected alien visitors, it's unexpected alien visitors wearing polyester pantsuits with flares,platform shoes, and large gold chains nestled in their chest hair. The earth may well stand still in shock.

On the Road. Or Boat.

Alex's vacation is this week, so we are off for our annual week of sun n' fun in Puerto Rico. We usually do a five-day trip, with 3 days on the west coast on Jobos, and two days on Vieques Island, which is where this pic was taken two years ago. See everyone in a week!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


It's lovely but cold in Atlanta today, the kind of treacherous weather that makes you start thinking of laying out the garden and maybe putting in a few early herbs, only to have them zapped by the next cold front. Oh, Mother Nature, you will not fool me so easily, even though I have the screen door open - I drove home three days ago from Raleigh in the snow. I will not be tricked.

(And yes, I know you don't actually have to have the screen door open since it is already made of screen. Thank you Adam for pointing that out.)

However, it does feel spring-like (spring-y? whatever) and despite the groundhog's dire prediction I am going to post a lovely flower photo taken in Cordoba, Spain, where all good geraniums go to die. They are everywhere, and they are not subtle. They splash out in great bursts of neon pink and blood red, puncuating the white stone walls down every alley. They are the floral equivilent of a silly hat that makes everyone smile.

Let the wind blow, the sun is still shining....

Sunday, January 24, 2010

At Heart, in Paris

Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. I am just finishing up for the night here and am going to finish "We All Went To Paris", a history of Americans in Paris, before I go to sleep. So here's a photo I took in the Louvre, looking down from the second floor into the Coeur Napoleon, one of the sculpture galleries at either end of the building. It has a soaring glass ceiling (it was open to the elements at one time) that throws beautiful shadows across the creamy Loire river marble that makes up the courtyard. Since it's away from the Mona Lisa - La Jaconde, as the French call her - it is almost always empty, so it is a perfect place to sit and rest your feet, and contemplate the dreamy, diffuse light.

"Couer" means "Court" in French - as in courtyard - but I always mistranslate it as coeur, which means heart - appropriate for such a romantic city. More French stories to come....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I know what I saw...

There is a phenomenon, hotly debated among boaters, fishermen, beach bums, etc. - called the Green Flash. If you spend any time watching sunsets over the ocean, you have heard of it. In it's simplest terms, it is a tiny flash of green light that you see when the sun sets. Or, I should say, HOPE to see - the Green Flash is rare, and people hotly debate if it's even real. You can go your whole life watching the sun go down and never see one. Other people claim that if you know what to look for, you can see them all the time.

The scientific explanation is that when you watch the sunset, the last rays of the sun, angling through the atmosphere (I would say "up", but that' s not really scientific) reflect off of moisture in the air, and refract, turning the light green for a moment. Why green? Because the wavelength of the light is in the blue-green range, but the atmosphere filters out the blue and leaves the green.

There is (as always with a sea-borne phenomena) a list of superstitions and portents attached to the Flash. People say it is the soul of sailors, or that it signals that the Flying Dutchman is near (they had fun with this at the end of the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie), or that it fortells a change in the weather. There's even an old Robert Burns story where he claims "those who have seen the green flash will never again err in matters of the heart".

I prefer the more common superstition, that seeing the green flash brings good luck and prosperity. Probably I am projecting here, because I always need a little bit more of both. But in any case, I never saw the flash, so whatever it brought, I wasn't having any of it anyway.


The sunset photo above was taken on my trip to Greece last fall, on Paros Island in the Cyclades. I spent most of my trip island hopping (terrible, I know) and this was the last night of the island portion of the trip. I was down by the port, taking photos of this sunset - by far the best sunset of the trip, and I was out shooting them every night - watching people feed the inevitable sly cats, watching the ferries come in, taking some more photos.

Just as the last sliver of sun sank into the sea, I took the camera down from my eye, but was still looking out towards the horizon. And there - just in that instant, so quickly that I saw it both through the camera and with my own eyes - it was. Flash. I saw it, and in the instant my brain registered it, it was gone.

Now, I am not the most reliable of people when it comes to visuals. I am forever "seeing" things out of the corner of my eye, I wear coke-bottle glasses or contact lenses that should come with a seeing eye dog, and my hair is always out of control (never more so than at the beach) and getting in my eyes and obscuring my vision (which I will claim is why I am always walking into things). To call me a reputable eye-witness is laughable. But.

I have played that instant over again and again in my head, and it always plays back the same. I saw it. Plain, ordinary me, who is about as average as.... I don't know but I am pretty damn average. Me. Hardly the sort of person who sees extraordinary astronomical events, but there you go. I took that camera down from my eyes, looked at the horizon, and there it was. l remember looking around to see if anyone else had seen it, but no one seemed to notice but me. Had I imagined it? Was it just the reflection off the camera lens?

I don't think so. I saw it. I know I did. My last night in the islands, in a place I loved and knew in my heart I would never see again, the sun flashed a green petticoat, a tiny glance back over it's shoulder. Just for me.

I know what I saw.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The First Ever Constant Holiday Giveaway!

I recently ordered a book from the lovely people at Smoky Mountain Books, called "How To Travel Practically Anywhere - The Ultimate Planning Guide" by Susan Stellan, published in 2006. I am a big fan of the theory that planning the trip is half the fun - I am really not happy unless I am surrounded by lists and maps and post-its and pictures, puzzling out a new destination - and somehow, being me and able to mess up the simplest thing, including an internet order, I managed to order two copies. The nice people at SMB's, who cannot recognize senility when they see it, obligingly sent me two copies.

Now, as much as I looooooove planning, I cannot use two books. Even a person as lazy as I am cannot see leaving one copy in the den and one in the kitchen to save the effort of carrying it from room to room. (Though I considered it.) SO! I have decided to put it to good use: it will be the prize in the first ever Constant Holiday Giveaway!

All you have to do to enter is put a note in my comments or send me an email telling me your favorite vacation EVER. How easy is that? A caveman could do it. And I will pick a winner, totally at random, because everything else in my life is random, so why not this?

So comment away, or send an email to constantholiday@gmail.com, and get to winning!


Just in case you haven't seen the posters, public service announcements, and radio commercials (I guess you hear those rather than see them) about the dangers of texting while driving, here's what they are saying: DON'T.

But also, if you are an uncoordinated clown like I am, refrain from walking while texting. Because while it may not lead to automotive chaos and destruction, it may lead to you walking through the airport, on your way home from somewhere, feverishly tapping your thumbs in a humorous story to someone you could tell that story to in fifteen minutes, and then walking onto the little airport tram without hearing "The DOORS are CLOSING and WILL NOT reopen".

At which point the doors WILL close, nearly snipping off your nose, and you will look up startled and see a tramful of people snickering at you, as you stand on the wrong side of the doors (fortunately still in possession of your nose), reduced to waiting for the next tram.

And feeling silly.

(Which you will then text about.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Mini-Story

Just to start the new year (two thousand and ten IN THA HOUSE! whooo) on a fun note, here's a quick mini-story from this summer - not enough for a big post, just an appetizer. A fun-size, if you will.

I went to Savannah this summer for a shoot and got there early enough that I could go down to Tybee Island and watch the sunset, something I have done approximately 15 zillion times, being a resident of Atlanta, but somehow never get tired of. It's not the greatest beach I've ever been to - I grew up in Florida, so the bar is pretty high - but what it lacks in pristine white-sandedness it gains in having the lovely Tybee community around it, where I keep swearing I will rent a beach house for a week one summer, and, also, in being the nearest ocean to land-locked Atlanta.

So after watching the classic Tybee sunset, all wispy clouds and tangerine skies, watching the pod of dolphins that frolic near the lighthouse cavort in the sleepy evening light and some little kid hit her brother with a sand shovel, I headed back to Savannah proper, and on the way off-island (all this beach talk is going to make me listen to Jimmy Buffet for the rest of the day, and it's nineteen degrees outside) I saw the sign in the (horrible) picture above.

You can't really see it, but it says, "Fresh Local Shrimp - FRYED". Not Fried. FRYED. Which for some reason amused me so thoroughly that I had to whip the car around and go back to see if I could get some of these locally prepared misspellings for myself.

(And for those of you who think I am mocking, allow me to say that it took me five tries to spell "thoroughly" above, and I am by no means confident that it's even correct now.)

Sadly, the Gerald's catering truck was closed, and deserted except for the enormous fiberglass pig that was standing beside it, forever snuffling the grass for some plasticine tidbit. But that just gives me a reason, a quest, if you will, to go back. Like I need one.

Assuming I can find it. True to form, on an island - an ISLAND - with only one road on or off, I got lost on the way back to Savannah (trip number fifteen zillion and one) and it took me two hours to get back to Savannah and my hotel. Next time, perhaps, a dictionary - and a map.