Picture-A-Week 2019 Week 01 – Monday 12/31 to Sunday 1/6 During our Christmas visit to the Houston branch of our family, we had rain. Lots of rain. Not nearly as much as the flooding events that plagued them for the last two years, but the creeks, drainage gullies and catchment ponds were very well hydrated. How hydrated, you ask? On our last day there I took the granddaughters to a local park for a little walk under the clearing skies and maybe to snap a few photos along the park path. I liked the way the drops had gathered on the glossy leaves of the plant in the water but didn’t realize until I got home that the plant was the same as the ones lining the bank but submerged under four feet of extra water. Week 02 – Monday 1/7 to Sunday 1/13 After a wet week in Houston, we returned to more of the same. Born and raised here and not very used to water falling out of the sky, a long night of heavy rain didn’t go unnoticed as a potential photo-op. Actual raindrops beaded on vegetation is a novelty for me and another one of my favorite subjects. I wanted to break out the old Minolta macro but it was a work day and all the time I could spare was an extended “bio-break” taken before the sun took back the raindrops and spoiled the moment. Since our Hibiscus bushes are at the mid-winter lull in daily blooms, the Sago and its bejeweled fronds won out as the subject. Week 03 – Monday 1/14 to Sunday 1/20 The red-eye from Los Angeles to Houston took its toll on Hailee and Savannah. This was taken after breakfast, two hours into our theoretical four-hour layover as we sat in the waiting area of the first of four standby flights we failed to get a seat on. Our pre-cruise travel plan had failed to take into account the four-day (for some) MLK holiday weekend and the flights were full of folks heading somewhere other than home. Luckily, we planned to get to Miami two days early which allowed for a hasty plan B. Plan B included splitting the cost of a eight-seat monster SUV with our son’s family and driving for 21 hours (1,198 miles) to Miami. Family bonding fun! Week 04 – Monday 1/21 to Sunday 1/27 Remember Roy G. Biv? He’s the old mnemonic buddy wandering around in our early memories just waiting for a chance to remind us of the colors of the rainbow. Without Roy, most people wouldn’t know that the seven major colors of a rainbow are Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet. As we sailed into St. Kitts shortly after sunrise, the clouds over the island started pouring rain as the sun broke through elsewhere. The result was the brilliant double rainbow pictured here. I have seen one several times but only under the Hawaii Rainbow Rule that only allows them to appear when you are driving on a freeway or without a camera. Week 05 – Monday 1/28 to Sunday 2/3 Super Bowl Sunday. A little different this year than in the past. It used to be a big party tied in with Birthdays and fierce loyalty to various teams. Over the last decade or so, my interest in football has waned to the point that I haven’t watched more than a few minutes of any game in years. This year, we ended up with just the two of us planted in front of the TV with an assortment of game day snacks for “dinner” and we watched the whole game. (Except for the part I slept through.) We had some Buffalo nuggets and a seven layer dip to go with the Jalapeno Frito Scoops but the MVPs were the Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots. It was as if manna fell from heaven. Week 06 – Monday 2/4 to Sunday 2/10 Every year, Costco trots out these large vases with ten or eleven tulip bulbs that are just waiting to sprout. They grow rapidly and have never failed to bloom beautifully. Travel and other distractions made us miss their appearance this year, but that’s ok. Better than ok. By the time we saw them in the store, there were few left and they had grown to about 8″. We missed the first growth but since they were discounted to $6.00 and we still got to see the blooms develop, we got over it. This isn’t a studio shot. I just moved the vase over so the counter spot shone directly down on them and reduced the exposure to hide the dim room behind them. Simple but effective. Week 07 – Monday 2/11 to Sunday 2/17 Photography has taught me to “see” rather than look. Quite often, truly “seeing” a subject also lights the fuse on my chronic curiosity. In 1957, Don Featherstone’s second assignment for his new job at Union Products resulted in one of the most popular lawn ornaments in the history of, well…lawn ornaments. Modeled using a photo spread from National Geographic, it took him a couple of weeks to prepare the halves of the injection molds and give birth to an iconic piece of American folk art. Despite some ups and downs in popularity, sixty-odd years later they are still brightening dull patches of modern suburbia and like everything else, available on Amazon. Week 08 – Monday 2/18 to Sunday 2/24 On Saturday, we drove north to Springville to visit Kim’s Mom and Dad at her brother’s place. It was a good trip and we drove through some pretty spectacular scenery. Snow had closed the 5 Freeway over the Tejon pass from the Los Angeles area to Bakersfield earlier in the week and the snow was very much still in evidence. After we arrived and greetings were exchanged, some of us went down to Evan’s workshop to check it out. I noticed this view immediately. The Sierra Nevada mountain range runs down nearly the entire eastern side of the state and forms a majestic backbone contrasting the lack of same in Sacramento and the Coastal population centers. Week 09 – Monday 2/25 to Sunday 3/3 Opening day for baseball! Team parade and opening ceremonies on Saturday at 9:00 rain or shine! Wake the visiting granddaughters at sunrise so we can drive through the steady rain that had been falling since midnight to our new favorite pre-sport Saturday café for a delicious breakfast. Order an assortment of eclectic Hawaiian-influenced dishes and sit down to some good ol’ family get-togetherness. Phone rings. The opening day? Never mind. Apparently “rain or shine” was an overly optimistic promise that was overridden by several inches of California liquid sunshine which has a detrimental effect on traditional red clay infields. Week 10 – Monday 3/4 to Sunday 3/10 I remember the first time I sat on a real motorcycle and revved the engine. I remember twisting the throttle and hearing the engine roar and the feeling that you were sitting on a rocket ready to blast off. That feeling eventually led me to purchase a used Kawasaki H1 Mach III as my first owned vehicle. In the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, it was considered a superbike. Capable of a mid-12 second ¼ mile and 0-60 times at around 3 seconds, it was a formidable street bike with as much horsepower as a VW beetle but weighing only a little over 400lbs with a full tank. I was wearing a full-face helmet the first time I really opened it up, so nobody saw me making a face like Daisy did. Week 11 – Monday 3/11 to Sunday 3/17 Spring has sprung and the rain delays are seemingly over for now. 70° and sunny is baseball weather and the fields were alive with chatter and the ping of aluminum bats. This is Matthew’s second year of baseball and has moved from T-Ball to Rookie League. The main difference is instead of a tee, the coach serves up a slow overhand toss to the batter. After three attempts, the batter switches to a tee. While there were no towering hits to the fence, the tee only came out occasionally. Fielding improved as well with less swarming of any moving ball from all positions like last year. What position is Matthew trying for on the roster? Designated hitter. Less running involved. Week 12 – Monday 3/18 to Sunday 3/24 Never give your wife a gift with a cord. Even with “unless asked for” as a reasonable caveat, it is still good advice. Quality appliances presented on a gifting occasion can cause the ambient temperature to lower uncomfortably. The same is not generally true in the reverse. For my birthday this week, Wonderful Wife declared our two aging smokers were too ugly to live and that I needed the behemoth pictured here. She was right. The new pellet smoker makes even my old Bradley seem like medieval times. 10 hours in the sous vide bath and 3 hours of smoke rendered these ribs beyond good. The smoker-only tri-tip was also a gift to discerning carnivores. A definite keeper. The wife, that is. Week 13 – Monday 3/25 to Sunday 3/31 Busy weekend. We emptied out the in-law’s house of 60 years and loaded the POD for its trip to their new home up north. Lots of memories. After a day of moving furniture, I was reminded of my father-in-law coming home with aching muscles and sore feet from his 40+ year job at a paper mill. The strong Jack & Coke that eased the rough edges and aches was referred to as his “Foot Medicine” and we always thought that was a cute metaphor. As I aged, I found out that the muscle relaxing and pain deadening effects of a moderate amount of alcohol is a good way to relax when life spends the day beating on you. Scotch is my Foot Medicine de jour and here it is in my favorite delivery vessel. Week 14 – Monday 4/1 to Sunday 4/7 Hailee’s first prom. The first thing that went through my head was shock that her mother was letting my baby granddaughter go to a prom. The next was acceptance that she is now sixteen, a Junior in high school and has grown up to be as beautiful outside as she is inside. Lastly was the realization that the job of recording that fact well enough to do her justice was not going to be easy. The venue that she and her friends had chosen had a major removal of its decorative foliage and looked more like an urban strip mall than the verdant winery they remembered. As it turned out, my concerns were groundless. The subject would have outshone the Hanging Gardens of Babylon as a backdrop. Week 15 – Monday 4/8 to Sunday 4/14 My granddaughter isn’t the cutest little girl in the world…said no grandparent ever. We are blessed to have grandchildren that are easy on the eyes. Strangers have never looked into the stroller and complimented us on our cute pug puppy only to suddenly blush and fumble an apology. (Everyone’s made that mistake like I have, right?) The picture this week wasn’t just a reason to showcase Jackie’s pretty eyes. It was a test of a recent upgrade to my camera’s eye-tracking autofocus that locates the eye of a subject and maintains focus to ensure a better chance of a good portrait. I had less than a second between “Hey Jackie!” and the faux-shy covering of the face. Looks like the upgrade worked. Week 16 – Monday 4/15 to Sunday 4/21 The age-old question loses some meaning when a dead president hatches from the cheap, mass produced plastic egg it was stuffed into. This year’s annual Easter Egg Hunt showed just how large the family has grown over the years. Despite the growth, the event is still one of the happiest events of the year. The food is always incredible and there is always too much. It has also shown the changes in values. Kids used to shake the eggs to see if there was change in them before they picked them up. They still shake them, but the ones that rattle are left as they search for the ones with the folding money. If it was me, I’d give all the eggs a pass and look for the magic chicken that laid them. Week 17 – Monday 4/22 to Sunday 4/28 Springtime brings color back to the wintry California landscape. Technically, it brings colors other than green, but that’s still Spring to us. Misty mornings are also a common feature and combining the two always makes me grab my camera and go hunting. The last few years have been pretty dry and with the drip irrigation set to avoid the exorbitant surcharge for using too much water during the drought (surely to be replaced by a flooding recovery surcharge this year), our plants have done ok. Just ok. Not spectacular. This year, our Bottle Brush plants awoke from their usual trimmed topiary shapes to erupt with hundreds of blooms. For a great photo-op, just add water! Week 18 – Monday 4/29 to Sunday 5/5 Sunday found us in a downtown Dublin hotel weary from a red-eye flight and the 7-hour time shift. Sleep was needed so we could arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the ship the next day. We were coming back to the city at the end of the trip, so we didn’t push it and try to squeeze in any extra sightseeing, electing to nap the afternoon away instead. Awakening around 10pm, we heard a faint rhythmic thumping. It wasn’t enough to keep one awake but it was a curious sound for a hotel room. A small sign on the nightstand had said something about new windows for “peaceful sleep”. Having dismissed it earlier, I decided to look and see why windows would help you sleep… Week 19 – Monday 5/6 to Sunday 5/12 Godafoss translates to “Waterfall of the Gods”. The name is very old and I’m not sure which gods are referenced, but I can’t imagine that any deity would hesitate to claim the honor. Kim was a little leery of a tour that included a waterfall since previous experiences had included the “death march” tour in Grenada. Vague descriptions led to a hike on an undulating path with about a thousand slippery concrete steps through a steaming jungle to a waterfall that wouldn’t qualify as “Pee-Pee of the Gods” on its best day. “Of the Gods” convinced her to trust my choice and as it turned out, the bus ride and the hike were well worth it. Roaring cataracts in a frozen landscape! Thanks God! Week 20 – Monday 5/13 to Sunday 5/19 Yes, “that” Blarney. The magical “Stone of Eloquence” that will enhance your ability to articulate your thoughts and convince others if you lay on your back, hang you head and shoulders over a 90′ drop and kiss the rather plain stone embedded in the battlement surrounding the top of the main tower of Castle Blarney. One smooch and you are better able to convince anybody of anything? That would ne a nice-to-have. Its attraction faded after I saw the line of people waiting to climb the 120 steps to the top of the tower. The get-on-your-back-slide-and-kiss procedure isn’t quick and I wasn’t in the mood to stand in line and listen to lawyers, politicians and car salesmen for that long. Week 21 – Monday 5/20 to Sunday 5/26 Flowers. Pretty flowers, but really just a picture of flowers. Society Garlic or tulbaghia violacea to be specific. Once again the back yard provided me with a reasonably attractive Picture-A-Week filler for a slow week in photography. This week’s spare time was consumed with processing photos from our cruise, a drive into Los Angeles for our Global Entry interview and some reorganization in the garage prepping for a return to the remodeling assault on the kitchen. Saturday was consumed with designing and assembling a cabinet carcass for said kitchen and some much-needed grocery shopping. Sunday was John Wick 3 and smoked tri-tip dinner with the kids. So… Flowers this week. Week 22 – Monday 5/27 to Sunday 6/2 Five years ago we planted a little blood orange tree. It was about two feet tall and rather fragile. For the first two years it grew slowly and never produced any flowers. The third year, it had quite a growth spurt followed by another the following year. Still no indication that it was anything but a decoration. This spring, it started looking like a real tree and popped out blossom after blossom. When we got back from our trip a couple of weeks ago, it had little pea-sized oranges (”greens”, actually) all over it. Fast-forward a bit and here are some of our best chances for real, honest-to-goodness blood oranges off of our very own tree. About time it earned it’s fertilizer! Week 23 – Monday 6/3 to Sunday 6/9 A few years ago, my son talked me into trying Borderlands 2. “You’ll like it Dad! It’s smart and funny!” Well, he was right. The artwork makes it look like you’re playing in a graphic novel and the dialogue is clever and often hilarious. It also has a lot (really, a lot) of guns and a target-rich environment. Stress relief on steroids. In preparation for the release of Borderlands 3, they released an update pack with new adventures foreshadowing version 3. Less than an hour after the Sunday release, it was installed and I was linked with my son’s console doing run and gun across Pandora making the bad guys very, very sorry that they are the bad guys. Hold my beer while I blow this up… Week 24 – Monday 6/10 to Sunday 6/16 Father’s Day gifts aren’t a big deal in our family since I an notoriously hard to buy for. I have a large assortment of tools with a want list starting at around the $500 mark and let’s just avoid talking about the camera equipment want list. When the kids were little, they found that I liked chocolate cherry cordials and Father’s Day usually included a box since small children have limited shopping options. For many years now, the Amazon gift card has been the unit of gifting and the cherry cordials were left behind. The reasons behind the gift of a small box of See’s Cordials from my oldest daughter melted my heart and brought back a flood of good memories. We have great kids. Week 25 – Monday 6/17 to Sunday 6/23 Triskaidekaphobia is defined as a fear or avoidance of the number 13. Why is triskaidekaphobia a Picture-A-Week subject? Because this week Savannah turned 13 and by that action, we acquired our third concurrent teenage granddaughter. As grandparents, we don’t have quite the back-breaking responsibility of raising them directly but it doesn’t lessen the desire for them to be safe or the anxiety that life will deal them dirt. We are fortunate that all three are level headed, smart, excel in school and pretty much anything they do. But still… It’s hard for me to just sit back and relax with such pretty things facing a potentially ugly world. Fortunately, hoplophobia is not a problem.