30 September 2010

Same Mushrooms, Different Light

Better in this light: the textures of this mushroom. Check out the texture of the top, especially compared to the smooth, smooth stem.

 Worse in this light: the hard-livin' mushroom looks a little like someone baked a barbie doll.

(I realize 2 posts about the exact same mushrooms could be consider lame, or even lazy. I don't care. When you get your own blog, you can post whatever you want.)

29 September 2010

Annual Mushroom Festival

To revisit the joy of mushroom festivals of years past, please see here, here, and/or here. This post comes with special thanks to my friend Ilene, who generously sold me her Fujifilm S3000 for a reasonable price when I whined about not having a camera to play with. I don't even have to lick the batteries! (of course, sometimes I do anyway just for kicks...)

Craggly, been-around-the-world mushroom. I think the edges are lacey and lovely, and they remind me of a jellyfish. A tired, slightly overcooked jellyfish.

 I love the color of the creamy translucent stem. I call this one "mushroom in the universe." I especially like the little one on the left, which apparently burst from the earth so recently that mud is still clinging to it.
A giant mudslide pile of mushrooms. I think these are combining their forces to take over the mushroom world.
 And these just seem scared to me: huddled together with lots of space around them, they make up a mini-mushroom forest.

The color is very different on these next two: they came from the 35mm Olympus OM, and were taken out at the lake, so either the color's off on the digital, or in the 35mm processing, or the lake is a totally different shade of green. Your votes are welcome in the comments section.
 Teensy tiny baby mushrooms, for miniature smurfs, so small that they'll never get their own tv show, because we just don't have small enough tv camera people to film them.
That one mushroom in the center of the picture has a skewed view of himself and his importance in the world. But then again, most of us do...

27 September 2010


One of the things I like about photography is challenging myself to look at things from different perspectives. I was trying to get a good photo of one of the ten gazillion hummingbirds around my in-laws front yard feeders, but there was just too much distraction.

So I laid down on the ground, between the feeders. At first I worried that me being there would scare them away, but apparently the contents of the feeders is food of the hummingbird gods.
The color's not perfect, but it's a much cleaner shot, don't you think? Totally worth getting pine needles in my hair.

26 September 2010

Conversing with my five year old

Me: V, isn't that tree pretty?
V: That's not pretty, Mama. That's autumn.

25 September 2010

Working hard, and hardly working.

Last night I went to see Billy Collins. I know, I know, you're all like, "THE Billy Collins?!?" and I can tell you yes, THE Billy Collins. He was funny and human and inspiring, and I left the reading with new poems bouncing around my brain, glad to have been near such a prominent national voice of poetry. It was pretty dreamy all around.

Then I went to the after party. It was fun, for a while. They had my favorite beer in the fridge, red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, and hummus, plus lots of writery writers.  I hung out with my colleagues, people I love who make me laugh every day. I talked with my beloved mentors, and muttered about dried mango with Billy Freaking Collins. Then I sat at a table of fellow educators from  a different campus in town, one where I have worked in the past. One of the them, a dear friend to one of my colleagues, quickly began to tell me how wrong it was to have to teach 5 sections of English in one semester (the standard load at my and most Community Colleges), how we owe our students so much more, how we shouldn't even be expected to teach 7 sections a year (as opposed to our 10; 7 is standard load in 4-year colleges), how we should all take a full year sabbatical (which would be nice but is not practical for most of us). I blinked at him. I thought of how he is a star of this college's faculty, how he's very visible, likely loved by students. And I thought he was an absolute asshole.  It made me feel sick, claustrophobic, and I was suddenly so, so anxious to get away from academia.

Perhaps it was the wine, or the inferred superiority of 4 year college faculty over the lowly community college faculty, but regardless, I don't care for anyone to tell me how much my job sucks. I mean, if I tell you how much my job sucks, that's one thing; it's kind of like nobody gets to say mean things about my sister except me.

The truth is, my current job is hard. I teach 5 sections a semester, which gives me 125-150 students to educate in up to 3 different courses. And as in any job, there is bureacracy and crap and un-fun stuff to deal with, though I find it to be less here than the other two colleges where I've worked. But also, I work alongside women and men who are passionate about teaching, who hold high standards for academic integrity and academic freedom, and who, as I've mentioned, make me laugh every day. If that means I have to teach twice as many students as he does, I'll take it.

What's sad about this, for me, is that I believe I actually have the better deal: yes, the work is hard. But the rewards are richer here, from where I stand, in every way, and I would never want to trade places with him. He can have his sabbatical (though lord knows we can all use one), and his bureacracy, and his perceived superiority. Good for him. I've got papers to grade, student names to learn, and colleagues to support and appreciate.

I don't have time to begrudge this job: I'm too busy enjoying it.

23 September 2010

does this ever happen to you?

do you ever get lonesome on the internet? Like you stay up later than everyone else watching your crime shows on the DVR, but also surfing the web looking for something interesting? and you end up checking facebook every 2 minutes hoping one of your friends posts something funny or sad or smart so you can comment on it? and then you realize how sad that is, and that you could write a real letter, with paper and those fountain pens you bought at the thrift store two months ago, in the time you've wasted staring at the internets, and actually send something to someone you love, and maybe use those shiny stickers you've been saving. But instead you just fast forward through your crime show, delete it from the DVR, and start the next one. and check facebook. and then write a blog post. and think about making popcorn, or going to bed, or getting out those fountain pens. Does that ever happen to you?

17 September 2010

Birthday post. For Reals.

There are so many photos, I should break this into separate posts. But I won't. Nobody has dial up anymore, do they? If you do, I bet you've quit reading my blog by now. At any rate, the really marvelous photos were taken with my sister's fancy camera, mostly by my sister.

So we had originally planned this shin-dig for a fabulous gazebo in the park 4 blocks from our house: a sweet, rolling view of the river, and an historic bear cage nearby, and, hello, playground equipment! But it rained for 3 days solid before the party, so the puddles were too much for us, and we moved it to our town's mall. Which, I know, sounds lame, but our mall is so under utilized that it was perfect. We had a fancy mall fountain, and sky lights, and cobblestone walkways, and almost no one even looked twice at us. Plus, there was a Maurice's, a GNC, and a gun shop all around us. What else does a girl need for her fifth birthday?
Above is most of the food table: cake, cupcakes, olives, jelly, pb & jelly, and pickle sandwiches, crackers and cheeseball, grapes and strawberries and kiwi, and cheetos cheese puffs. What's not to like? The cupcakes say "EAT ME." Alice in Wonderland references snuck in lots of places.

Here're some food close ups, to make you wish you'd been there even more.
I love party gift bags as a theory, but in practice I always forget to give them out. Kid parties are great that way: kids can smell a gift bag from 50 paces. We filled ours with plastic tea set parts (I bought five 12-piece sets & split them to fill 10 bags), notepads, and a pirate eyepatch. Originally we were going to have a Mad Tea Party, but then V decided it should just be a Stuff V Likes in General party. So it was.

I sewed the gift bags from some orange gingham yardage in my stash. First, I cut big rectangles, and then V and I stamped this fabulous Alice in Wonderland stamp that Jen Aasen had sent me many years ago. I chain straight-stitched up the sides, sewed a casing for the drawstings, and ran a double length of thread (it's cotton string, really) through, and called them done. Very simple, but they feel nice and look substantial.  
We had about a dozen pink flamingos that people got to bring home, too, as favors. They're technically dog toys, and all of our friends with dogs got at least one; some of our friends without dogs are happy to let their kids play with dog toys. That's how we roll.
The Cheshire Cat card, above, is one of about 90 that we hid around the space. Well, not so much "hid" as "taped." It was a game: whoever fouind the most won a prize.
Here's the kid's table, about halfway through. Everyone got up and wandered, which was fine: I used a vintage sheet for the table cloth and laid the gift bags down the center. In the background you can see Maurice's, and the wee merry-go-round.

Here's the lovely Sara.
I made party hats, from these instructions, tweaking a bit for my purposes. I made them 12" high, for example, because that wasted less paper (and gave them more of a dunce-cap look, which I enjoy).  The lace was the easiest by far, because I didn't have to scrunch as I sewed.
Sweet Oscar.

Oscar's sister, Matilda, workin' it for the camera.
Beautiful Beth, Shaun's little sister.
Beautiful Jess, my little sister.
Nancy and Crystal, surrounded by sippy cups that don't belong to either of them, at the coloring/eating table.
Shaun gives V a ride on the Merry-go-round
Michael, who we invited to a) up the adorableness and b) show our multicultural skills. (He's on his mama, Sara's, lap).
McKenna, who's smile is absolutely angelic, or wicked, depending on how you look at things.
Phil, who is so dreamy and in a band to boot.
Emerson Claire in her party hat.

Carla and Shaun making goo-goo eyes at Tilda.
We played a pretty cool egg-carrying game that didn't use real eggs (note the Cheshire Cat in the background).
Lotsa hats! (Will, McK, Eli)...

I like this picture of my friend Jenn, partially because it really captures the Mallness we were looking for.
Pinata. Did I mention there was a pinata? Several people mentioned that they especially enjoyed Shaun holding the pinata in the middle of our space, calling "Children! Children!" to get the thing opeed up. There's just something funny about a big man who looks a little like Charles Manson beckoning youngsters that warms the heart.

All in all, it was a marvelous party, with marvelous guests, excessive gifts (were my childhood birthdays this lucrative?? Jeez), and enough handmade stuff that my martha stewart itch got scratched real good. And that's what a good party should do, isn't it?

15 September 2010

Uff-da days

I took three pictures of V's birthday party. Three. Grandma Myra and Aunt Jess had better come through with better coverage, because I don't even want to post those three, what with how pathetic they are. Instead, I bring you this. It's from Uff-da Days, and the morning after this photo I had a helluva hangover. The picture needs no explanation, really.

06 September 2010


Tomorrow, V Elizabeth will be five. She loves to swim, tell knock knock jokes, and dance. She loves her family, and making up songs, and Alice in Wonderland, and pickle sandwiches. She wants to be with her Mama a lot, and likes to lick the beaters, and sometimes hides under the couch cushions until we sit on her. She loves to read, and watch television, and just got her own XBox profile today; she loves to run as fast as she can, always holds my hand in the parking lot, and doesn't complain too much when she's served vegetables. She is quick-tempered and kind and smart and ours, and we are very lucky indeed.

Happy birthday, Baby V. I hope five is even better than four.

03 September 2010

Back to School, year III

This should be old news, really. I mean, she did it last year, and the year before. This year, though, with all our family excitement, she started a couple days late (which helped increase her enthusiasm, somehow). And she was in a hurry, so we couldn't take a photo on the front steps like the last 2 years (which is the whole point! of yearly photos! in the same place! dammit!).
So here she is in front of her school, in her "Music is my Life" t-shirt that her daddy and I bought her in Vegas. She loves this t-shirt, she told me, "because it's true, and it's shiny!"

Here's a mediocre photo of the new backpack: V picked the fabric, and the interior is quite a contrast, but I don't have a picture of that right this minute. The outside is upholstry weight I bought at Mill End in St. Cloud in 2005, (and made her some pants from) and some random scrap of turquoise that I needed to do the bottom and the straps (and the V) since I ran out of the pink. The inside's quilting cotton. The zipper is something I removed from a leather jacket I cut up to make shoes, so it's nice and heavy duty and turquoise.

Someday I should do a post on how to make a backpack, but if you google "backpack tutorials" you'll probably get more for your money. I just make it up as I go, and sometimes it goes smoothly, and sometimes it breaks my brain.

At any rate, the first two days of school have gone very smoothly: I don't know what she'll learn this year, since she already knows how to read, but I'm sure excited to find out.

I hope this year ends up being true, and very shiny.


I really do love taking pictures. I love capturing a moment on film (or digitally), and I love how a photo can bring back a memory (or even help me maintain a memory).
But I am ridiculously cheap. I mean, it's pretty silly. Spending a large amount of money on myself, especially, is not easy, unless it's for travelling, or education (I had little trouble going $20K into debt for college and grad school, for example). But clothes? I bought one $7 shirt last year, and kept it in the bag for two weeks because I felt guilty, and thought I should return it. In the end I didn't, because it's flattering and great for work, but it wasn't easy for me, because on Mondays at Saver's I can get seven shirts for that amount of money.
Mercy, though, I like taking pictures. As Shaun says, "You fancy yourself a shutterbug." I just love learning the tricks of an individual camera, and figuring out how to make it record exactly what I want.
These two attributes of mine, my cheapness and my shutterbuggery, are somewhat opposed, though. Our first digital camera, bought just after V was born, was small and sweet, and fun. But it wore out. Our next one was a spare my in-laws had, when there was a Christmas overlap gift of a digital camera. I'm still using that one, but it's getting more and more difficult to turn on: I lick the batteries, I press buttons, I whisper sweet nothings in its camera-ear; nothing seems to do it. (Can I get camera viagra anywhere?)

At the same time we got the in-laws cameras, Myra got a hand-me down Nikon from some dear friends who were upgrading.  I acquisitioned it, since I am the family member most skilled in improvsing repairs: It needed the battery closure to be held shut with duct tape, and I'm more than happy to duct tape anything, especially if it means I get a decent camera out of the deal.

Now, though, that battery door has come off completely, and it's just a huge production to try to make even one photograph happen in either camera. I've been using Jess and Brad's Olympus OM 35mm,and I really love it, truly. At the same time, now I've got film and development to worry about, and I have to pay extra to get the photo CD in case there's anything worth sharing online....

So I'm starting, regretfully, to be in the market for a new camera. My sister has an amazing, breathtaking, ridiculously fancy camera that would make photos of Shaun's toenails look like art. I'm not sure we can afford such a camera, but perhaps then we should save up until we can. I love the idea of a digital SLR.

Dear readers, have you any suggestions? Is digital photography so last year? Should I invest in $1000 camera if it means forgoing potential dental work for a year? What's a reasonable amount and what are minimums you look for in a digital camera? Or, contrarily, if you've got a digital camera to give away, or to sell real cheap, I'll be more than happy to take one off your hands. I promise to give it a good home.