Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunrise Walk

Sunrise walk
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I consider myself a decent photographer. I took a class many, many moons ago in high school and learned the basics, from f-stops to black and white film developing.

I loved it.

The whole process of composing a shot, developing the film, making a contact sheet and deciding how to crop and pint the photo was like a wonderful form of alchemy to me. The acrid smell of the chemicals, the mysteries of the film bag it was all great fun for me.

But after the class that was it. I had no dark room so I had to be content with what I could do through the view finder.

After I got married my husband got a digital camera fairly early on, it was a fairly nice Kodak, but I resisted it. The shutter speed was annoyingly slow. When I hit the button I want the picture taken now, not a fraction or so of a second later. Then I started using it more as I started to appreciate the amount of control I had with the pictures afterward.

With my current camera I have found happiness. It has an acceptable shutter speed and I have a fair amount of control in how it takes pictures. Most of the time I happy with the full automatic mode, but there are times I use the natural light setting. I love how I can instantly check and see if I got shot I was hoping for. Then I get to upload my pictures onto my computer and futz with them to my heart's content.

Usually all I'm doing is cropping and adjusting the brightness. Occasionally I venture into tint and and a few other tricks like sharpness. I still like to compose my pictures in the veiwfinder.

And then every now and then I get one that is perfect straight out of the camera. This is one of them, all I had to do was rotate it 90 degrees and hit save.

The reflections on the water and the sun flare came out just right. I was able to shoot it just so I got the right amount of flare to make everything sparkle. The image is crisp and balanced. This is one of those times I think of myself as a very good photographer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On the Beach

on the beach
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
It's not all sunrises here.

I got this picture yesterday morning. The beach is at its best that time of day. The sand is still fresh and unsullied from the previous high tide and the tide is coming in, providing the optimal conditions for body boarding.

We are having a great time just messing about. It really is nice having a private boardwalk from the deck straight to the beach. The best part is the little deck at the top of the stairs. I think its intended to be a spot to relax and enjoy the view, but we have found it to be a great place to leave all our beach toys. They are tucked out of sight from the beach and are easy to reach when we want them. This house is proving to be a great find.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another Glorious Morning

2nd morning
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I just can't help myself.

I am waking up at the crack of dawn and I just feel compelled to photograph it as it unfolds. The colors are so vivid and with the wide open horizon I can see the full beauty of the sun rising.

This morning I even woke up Larry and asked him to join me for a walk on the beach with the dogs. It was so quietand serene, I thought it would be a nice way to start the day. Larry agreed and we headed on out.

It was still a bit overcast, but the beach was nearly empty and we had no children trailing after us wanted our attention, all we had was each other and a couple of eager dogs pulling on their leashes. It was nice being able to go out on our own, secure in the knowledge that another set of parents were back out the house. Sharing the house with another family does have a great deal of advantages, especially when the two families mesh as well as we do.

Girls on the beach
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar

Later on, after lunch, I headed back down to the beach with the kids, including one that is not my own.

The youngest child of the other family is bit older than Rebecca, but the two of them have really hit it off. They spent the bulk of their time on the beach as thick as thieves. It is such a pleasure being able to sit back and watch without having to mediate minor disputes every 15 minutes.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Greetings From The Beach

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
We're in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and this was the view this morning.

Friday, August 21, 2009


I love Roxy Music and I have Larry to thank for introducing them to me. The album Avalon is utterly gorgeous and this is the title track.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Overheard at Lunch

"Max you have a violent mind" said Jake upon listening to Max go on about bazookas.

"Yes! Yes I do" cheerfully replied Max.

"Max that's not something to be proud of, unless you are a warlord."

I think that's the funniest exchange yet.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Artist of the Week: Inventors

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This one has been a long time in coming, well over a month after the fact, but without further ado I present this week's artist (or rather artists) the inventors of the TADPOLE: Logan, Jake, Chris and Paul.

This fine group of intelligent young men were assigned the task at the Regional Governor's School for Middle School Youth to develop an underwater vehicle that could be controlled remotely. It needed to be able to go up, down, turn, and land on a target. They had less than two weeks to design and build with a limited amount of supplies. There was one other underwater team and the two teams would face off on the last day.

tadpole poster
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
There were also two other vehicle types being created, solar cars and rockets, but the underwater vehicles were by far the most interesting.

Before the demonstration and competitions on the last day of class, each group had to do a brief presentation about their vehicle. Pictured here is the poster that the boys created. On it details what materials they used and what their design limitations were. They also included a nice schematic and and explanation of exactly what TADPOLE stands for: Turbo Aquatic Diving Probe Of Liquid Exploration (and yes they named it first and then came up with what it meant). It was nice to see that they all contributed to both the presentation and the design.

Jake in fact had a lot of fun designing and refining the vehicle. Their vehicle was the far more elegant of the two and turned out to be the much better design. It easily completed all its assigned tasks in the small above ground pool set up outside the building. The other one immediately fouled in its control wires and was not very maneuverable, it spent a fair amount of time just churning water. I think our team did a bang up job and they were gracious winners to boot.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Visitors and Music

I'm very fortunate in the in-law department. My husband's mother and her husband are truly wonderful people.

They are down here visiting for a few days and we are busy, busy, busy. Today we went to the Science Museum of Virginia and petted sharks, specifically a white spotted bamboo shark. Well most of us did, Max has a thing about touching odd things, which is fine by me and possibly the shark. The shark itself was comatose, it's a nocturnal species and thus fast asleep- an ideal candidate for people to briefly stroke as it lay quietly in the tank. I joked with the volunteers at the museum how it must be odd for the shark being touched while its asleep and they ended up riffing on how the shark was going to have dreams of being handled by aliens (alien abductions solved- we are just in a giant touch tank!). Unfortunately I forgot my camera and I can not properly share the visit with y'all.

Then we scampered back home for the last piano lesson for the summer. Which was a bittersweet affair. Nate and Rebecca are going to continue on in the fall, but Max is done. He has been crabbing all year about my signing him up for a second year of lessons. The teacher and I both agreed that he was a lost cause. Maybe in a few years he'll pick it up again, he actually can do a decent job when he is not up in arms about the horrible injustice of piano lessons.

Tomorrow we might catch a movie, who knows what our next exciting adventure with Grandma and Grandpa will be.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Surprises in the Mail

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
It has been two months since Jake's Bar Mitzvah and I thought we were pretty much done with it. Then I got I lovely surprise in the mail just the other day.

My cousin Kay had taken pictures and had sent me a disk of them. She was even so kind as to send all of her originals along with the ones she deemed best.

This picture had not made the cut, it was horribly grainy from the poor lighting conditions.

But, I love it.

I cropped it down and futzed with a few filters and did a bit of tweaking with the levels. It's far from perfect, but I so clearly remember the moment and I'm so glad my cousin captured it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Crape Myrtle Bokeh

crape myrtle
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I learned a new word recently, bokeh.

Ree over at Pioneer Woman has a section dedicated to photography. In it there is a wealth of information for the digital camera enthusiast. Everything from cameras to photoshop. It was over there that I learned all about bokeh.

Bokeh is a very useful thing. I like how the flowers are crisply beautiful in focus, you can almost see the pollen grains on the stamens while the background is a nice soft blur. I got this effect from using the macro setting on my camera. I was primarily interested in just getting the flowers in perfect focus, the bokeh was a nice bonus.

Friday, August 14, 2009

End of Season

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Summer really is drawing to an end around here. Football has started, the schools are announcing their "Welcome Back" nights, and tennis has come to an end.

Today was the big end of tennis party. Lessons ended last week and this week was the optional tennis tournament. Nate, was not the big winner and we are just fine with that. It was requested by several (!) moms and Dan the instructor that I make my famous tennis ball cupcakes.

I was more than happy to comply and set about making them last night. I first cranked out a batch of cupcakes using my 1-2-3 cake batter. When they were done and cooling I turned the page to orange cake. As I gathered my ingredients I realized I had a little problem, I had no oranges.I ended up heading out early to store and made them this morning. They came out very tasty.

As for the party, the kids had a great time. Dan passed out the annual t-shirts he designed. This year on the back was the most commonly expressed sentiment this summer "Don't mind me, I'm just here for the ice pops." There is a tradition that after lessons the kids all get an ice pop. It gets pretty darn hot and its a nice refreshing treat after running around on the courts.

I thought they were pretty dang funny.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Flyaway Hair

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This is my middle son, Nate.

He has reached that point in life where he does not want me to take his picture ever again. He scowls, he mopes, he turns away.

Sometimes he does a little jump as he turns, causing his hair to fly about. And that is just what happened the other day.

I snapped the picture at just the right moment and caught the full glory of his hair being tossed about. I showed him the photo and his eyes grew wide as did his smile. This was an acceptable picture.

Yes my boy has long hair, but he's rockin' it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Artist of The Week: Building Blocks

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This week's artist is the perpetually bouncy Max. He is a very active boy and as a result is hard to photograph in any sort of natural pose. It's not that he doesn't want to be photographed, he'll happily drop whatever he is doing and mug for the camera. But that's the crux of the problem his picture face is always a very forced closed mouth smile. It doesn't suit him and is not what I want when I take a picture. However, when he is not posing he is in an almost constant state of motion. There are times when he is literally bouncing on and off the furniture.

So yes, he isn't facing the camera and you can not see most of his face, but I love this picture. It is Max being just Max and not "picture Max."

building side
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar

Anyhoodle, this is about one of his many, many buildings.

He, like his brothers, loves to create things with their building blocks. Max is always calling me up to his room to photograph his latest creation. He proudly stands there as I shoot pictures from various angles, showing him the last few frames on the camera's display. Satisfied that his creation has been preserved in pixels he happily plays with his structure and is not at all disturbed when it is invarably destroyed, either by himself or his siblings.

As I recall this building lasted for quite some time. It was a sturdy structure that withstood all sorts of military attacks. If fact Nate even sat on top of it a couple of times.

building front
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I like how the building is serviced by an elevator located on the front of the building. It is represented by the slim column on the front. The arch blocks are a nice touch and allow you to peek inside.

The buiding blocks, along with the Legos and Brio train tracks have been by far the most successful toys they have received. They are in constant use and it is amazing to see all the things the kids make with them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Almost Unobtainable

blower wheel
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
A few months ago the air conditioning in the van developed a truly awful rattle.

At first it was intermittent, sometimes you would hear the whockity, whockity noise, sometimes you wouldn't. And when it happened it would just be for a brief staccato burst of sound. There was no real rhyme or reason to it.

Then it changed, it would happened at the higher blower speeds and would linger on for longer and longer periods. It got to the point that I would avoid the higher fan blower speeds, because I really didn't want to hear something akin to my car's a/c death rattle.

I developed a theory that something was getting bound up in the blower fan. I asked the kids to help pinpoint the sound and we settled on an area located up front, just behind the glove box. At this point the noise was pretty much continuous. Feeling bold, I took a peek and saw what could a blower motor.

And that's exactly what it was. After a bit of unplugging wires and unscrewing the motor from it's mounting I looked inside the and found nothing out of the ordinary.


Then a few weeks later the noise stopped. Unfortunately the lovely cool air from the a/c also stopped coming out of the front vents. This is unacceptable this time of year in the south.

So I once again pulled the blower motor out to try to puzzle out the mystery.

And there it was, a big old crack across the top of the blower wheel, radiating out from where it is pierced by the spindle of the motor. The rattle was the sound of it working loose and when the crack was big enough, it no longer worked. This was something I could do. All I had to do was to get a new blower wheel.

Easier said than done. I scoured the net for a replacement, but I could not find it. I could find the motor, but never the wheel. Which is pretty stupid considering the wheel is made of plastic. I even took it in to three different car parts stores and got the same story, no can do. I ended up going to the dealership and had then order it for me. Once it came in. it took all of 5 minutes for me to install it with just a bit of help from the nice guys in parts- they got the old wheel off, saved the retaining clip, and put the new wheel on- chivalry is not dead in the parts department.

Now sweet, sweet cool air fills the front of the van.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Face in What?

Create your own FACEinHOLE
I've just blown a serious chunk of time playing with pictures over at Face in Hole.

It's seriously addicting and a hoot. So far I have been Audrey Hepburn, Princess Leia (in that awful bronze bikini- it was too good to pass up), Xena/Lucy Lawless, Scarlett O'Hara/Vivien Leigh, Lucy Liu in Kill Bill, and June Carter/Reese Witherspoon. I'm having great fun going back and forth with my Sister in Law, who finds it equally addicting.

The hardest part for me is finding brunettes that won't look dorky with bangs. Oh, and no Twilight please, that really doesn't interest me.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Decadence Without Chocolate

banana caramel
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I had a couple of bananas that were way past their prime, but I didn't want to make banana bread. I've been jonesing for Bananas Foster lately, but I didn't have vanilla ice cream.

So instead this morning I made a homemade caramel sauce with bananas and used it on my pancakes.

It was sinfully delicious.

It dripped a oozed all over my short stack of pancakes. It's sweet buttery goodness was nicely sopped up by the pancakes. I even plopped a dollop of whipped cream on top, which was completely unnecessary. It was an extremely decadent breakfast and with nary a bite of chocolate in site.

And here it is:

4 Tbl butter (1/2 a stick)
1/2 cup of confectioners sugar
3/4 heavy cream
2 bananas peeled and sliced

Melt the butter in heavy sauce pan, add sugar. Stir the mixture over med high heat until it reaches a lovely golden brown shade. Slowly add the cream and keep stirring. To reduce spattering when you add the cream first add just a tiny amount at a time. Allow the mixture to boil for one minute, then add in banana slices. Heat thoroughly on low and serve hot.

I actually let the final mix simmer for quite some time while I made my pancakes. The bananas were a bit mushy to start with and had beautifully melded into the caramel.

Only Jake was interested in trying it and he did not care for it, but I thought it was terrific.

Friday, August 07, 2009

One of My Favorites

I was so sad to see last night that John Hughes had passed away. He was a wonderful director and much too young. Of his films, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is my favorite.

Larry and I saw it in, of all places, Montreal. We had driven up there for the day from my mom's house on a whim. We were just knocking about the city and decided to go to the movies. We loved it.

And I swear my brother is Ferris Bueller.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Bit of Rain

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Yesterday we had our sprinkler system resurrected. It has been off all year because honestly I've been too busy. Normally I just flip the system on in late spring, but I knew I had a bunch of bum sprinkler heads and it has been fairly cool and damp.

So I waited.

Then summer hit in all its glory last week and it was time to start up the system. The sprinkler dudes came out yesterday and it turned out I had ten sprinkler heads that were just not up to snuff. The one I liked the most had a blade of grass poking out of the head. This morning the lawn got its scheduled soaking and then some. Mother nature decided she wasn't going to be one upped by a silly sprinkler system. We got a good soaking rain last night and this afternoon.

I stepped outside with my camera to see what I could find after the last storm passed by. I love how fresh everything looks with a a bit of rain and I was not disappointed. I found this little lovely down by our so-called creek (really it's just a glorified drainage ditch).

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Artist of the Week: Origami

Rebecca asked me the other day about where origami originated. She thought China and I said Japan. We were out and about, so when we got home I looked up origami on the web and this striking figure popped up.

I was stunned, my jaw dropped. I have never seen such an intricate example of origami in my life.

I had to find out more about the dragon and its creator. This was definetly a candidate for Artist of the Week.

It was over at Neatorama where I first found the image. The blurb named the artist, Satoshi Kamiya, and how it took 40 hours over several months to create. And yes it really is just one sheet of paper (2 meters square). The most amazing thing, however, was he did this on his own without the aid of a computer.

From there I found his Wiki page and his own web site (which is, understandably, in Japanese and thus unintelligible to me). There were a few videos of him in action, but I found then to be on the whole annoying and the ones of him creating the above were all deleted. So instead I'll point you over to a Flickr fan site.

Satoshi Kamiya is truly a master of origami.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Just a Bit Obsessed

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
We have a squirrel, or rather, a family of squirrels and Dell is just a wee bit obsessed about them. And not in a friendly how-do-you-do sort of way, but rather dang-I-almost-nailed-the-little-beastie way.

The accursed critters dance upon the bird feeder and mock the red boys. I'll let Dell out and watch him hurtle towards the feeder while the squirrel neatly jumps into the tree and scoots onto the roof. Dell will then stand watch for seemly hours until the heat drives him back inside.

I think what really drives Dell is the fact that once big brother John actually nabbed one of the little buggers and ate it. Dell worshiped John for about a week, following him around and licking John's muzzle. It was a very big day when John killed a squirrel.

So I think it's now Dell's main mission in life to equal his brother's achievement.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

This weekend Larry and I went to see the latest installment in the Harry Potter opus. It was good, but as Larry so correctly observed it was rushed. Which is understandable considering the size of the book in question.

Anyhoo, this is not about the Half-Blood Prince, but is about another movie that is coming out in October.

Where the Wild Things Are

This is one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors. I first learned about this production months and months ago and I was thrilled by the stills I saw. Then this weekend I got to see the trailer for the very first time during the previews before The Half-Blood Prince.

I love it. I can't wait for the movie, which opens the day after Max and Rebecca's birthday. Maybe I can take my Max to see another Max.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

By a Nose

nosy tomato
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
For the first time this year I was finally able to make my way over the the 17th Street Farmers Market. It was last Thursday, which is when there is the grower's market, and my favorite grower (Amy of Amy's Garden) would be there.

I love Amy's produce. She has the best tomatoes and it was her that introduced us to the Sun Gold variety of cherry tomatoes and for that alone I'm eternally thankful. She always remembers me and pads out my pint of Sun Golds with just a bit more.

We got some luscious raspberries, the aforementioned Sun Golds, slicing tomatoes and a couple of Asian Melons (Jake really wanted them and how could I say no). As I was selecting our tomatoes I found this nosy little fellow. I just had to bring him home. All I had to do was perch two little pepper corns on him to make him complete. Then he got sliced up and made our salad all the more delicious.