Saturday, March 31, 2012

Preparing for the A to Z challenge

Tomorrow I'll start a daily post as part of the A to Z challenge.  The challenge is to create a post for 26 pre-set days in April, each one relating to a letter from A to Z.  There are more than 1500 people participating from all over the world.  Just think: you can visit 1500 blogs every day to read people's thoughts on words beginning with the same letter.  We'll, it's unlikely that anyone would do that.  But a little blog hopping around is always fun.

April is the turning point from winter to spring in Victoria and I'm planning to get back into gardening so I think I'll be focusing my posts on the garden and the west coast world around me where I live. Since I'll also be taking Kat's photographic course called "A Sense of Place" this month it seems fitting.

This photo is one of the sweet hellebore's blooming in my front yard.  Because I live on the very west coast of Canada I'm planning to post in the mornings so I won't be the last on the list of 1500.  I may even post the night before if I have a busy morning.   

Stay tuned for my A post tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's a coffee without foam?

I have to admit that I really love lattes.  Whenever I'm in a coffee shop that's what I order.  And at home I've been creating them using my 15 year old hand-me-down Starbucks esspresso machine.  But last week the machine gave out so I'd been heating milk on the stove and whisking to create a little foam for my home made version.

It's been a problem though, because I get bored waiting for the milk to warm on the stove and head upstairs to my computer.  Do I need to tell you what happens?  Right.  Boiled over milk.  And the other day when I got immersed in something a house full of smoke.  The milk pot was black, nearly molten.

So yesterday we tracked down the ultimate milk frother.  It's very high tech but so easy to use.  Now I use my old plastic Melita filter and make strong coffee, then I put the milk in the frother and press the button.   The frother sits on a little stand that warms it up and sets the gizmo inside to whirring around. minute or two later the red light goes off and the milk is hot and foamed.  How cool is that?  YUM!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Garden Tuesday Peirus

This is the blooming Peirus in a pot on my front porch.  This plant really does delight me with its flowers in the spring and its green leaves all year long.  I'm posting this to Garden Tuesday at Sidewalk Shoes.

The gardening season really hasn't started here yet. We had some sun on the weekend which allowed me to get out and start cleaning up the garden.  I got about 1/10th of it weeded and cleared.  There's still a lot to go.  But now that grey skies have returned I'm back inside.  I must admit I'm a fair-weather gardener.

My life's been so busy since we got back from our trip.  I can't believe it's almost a week since I've posted here.  I'll try to do better.  (I'll have to because I'm doing the ABC challenge starting April 1st!)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring did arrive

After this morning's whining about frozen flowers the sun came out and it actually got a little warm this afternoon--as long as you stayed in the sun.  I took the dogs out for a walk and we happened on a lovely little garden full of the most beautiful crocus flowers.  Here's an update on spring flowers.

It doesn't look like spring

Since we arrived back from our trip south we've had nothing but snarly weather.  Think freezing rain, wind, sleet and hail, interspersed with clouds and an occasional tantalizing view of sunshine.  It's spring in Victoria--but unusually cold.  This morning after a hard frost last night all my sweet spring flowers have succumbed.  I think the crocus is a gonner, but maybe the daffodils will recoup.

        And probably the tulip leaves will be fine.

This is a harsh blow for Victorians.  Usually we're blabbing on about flowers while the rest of the country is in the deep freeze.  This year it's reversed.  We're having freezing temperatures while Winnipeg has a heat wave.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Word verification

I've just discovered that the new version of Blogger automatically includes that horrible two-word model of word verificationl.  You know, the one that has one word all curvy and distorted and then another one slightly easier.  Both need to be copied exactly but it's so difficult for people to read the words that sometimes it takes two or three tries before it's accepted.

Apparently it wasn't really possible to get rid of the word verification in the new version but Blogger has now added in the choice. I was easily able to eliminate it and you can too.   Here's how.  Go to your design page and click on SETTINGS.  Then click on POSTS AND COMMENTS and look for SHOW WORD VERIFICATION.  The default setting is YES but if you don't want to put people through the exasperating process of guessing, just click on NO.  Voila your visitors will be able to comment without angst.

It's my understanding that Blogger has great spam filters so that you're unlikely to get much even without it.  Anyway, I've eliminated mine and I'll see how it goes.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Balancing life--and shapes

We're back home from our trip and trying to find the balance in our lives now that we're off the road.  While we were traveling everything was organized to get where we wanted to go and make our days work well.  Now that we're home things are feeling at loose ends.  It's not just about unpacking, it's about trying to remember what it was we did in our days before we left on our six week trip.  I know it will come and that things will come back into balance.  But it takes time.

Meanwhile, I'm remembering that I like to participate in Kat Eye View's Exploring with a Camera.  And significantly (or not!) the theme now is Balance.  In particular balancing shapes within a photograph.  You can see Kat's thoughts on this at her blog Kat Eye View of the World.  She was looking at a beautiful Rothko painting and it brought to mind some of the wall photos I took a couple of years ago.

These are photographs of various painted walls in the old part of Mazatlan.  Here the houses are stucco or cement that flow into one another along the street.  What caught my eye was the way the colours of the edges between different dwellings created something like Rothko paintings.  I actually took hundreds of images. The ones that work in my mind are those where the colours and shapes achieve a kind of tension and balance.

Like this one where the flaking paint creates a band of white that changes part way across the field of orange and yellow.   I like the way the deeper colours are balanced by the white and the grey, and those little flecks of deep blue in the cracks.

Here's another one where shapes balance. The diagonal horizontal gives interest, but the real tension comes from graffiti  in a couple of the sections.  I also like the changes in tone in the yellow quadrant.  Something about this photograph really appeals to me.

Here's another one with chalk writing on it.  Without the writing the image would be quite boring I think, even though there is interest in the tonal changes from orange to pink and from blue green to golden.

I'm linking this post to Kat's Exploring with a Camera series so you can see other photographers' thoughts on this theme of balancing shapes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Back into the cold and the gray

This morning we drove up through snowy mountains of the Smith River National Recreation area to rejoin I-5, the interstate highway that takes us back to Canada. We've left behind the blue, blue skies of New Mexico and Arizona, and Southern California. And we are back into cloudy northwest coastal weather. It looks so familiar; as if we've never been away. But when I look at my photos, I'm reminded of the many incredibly different landscapes we've passed through on our trip. Just take a look.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The great central valley

We spent most of yesterday driving through this landscape.  Fields and orchards extending as far as the eye can see in every direction.  The blue stripe in the photo is the crucial water that makes it all happen. Across California are hundreds of miles of big canals and pumping equipment to bring the water from the dams to the places that need it.

It seems there is a dispute about the amount of water allocated to this area.  I don't know much about it but I do know that water is a precious commodity in California.  I expect that the water usage of the thirsty cities of the Los Angeles basin and the Bay area are competing with the needs of agribusiness in the central valley.

We passed thousands and thousands of blossoming trees, mainly almond trees.  Here you can see the white boxes of bees that are brought in specially to pollinate them.  There were hundreds of boxes of bees and you could see them flying everywhere.  A couple even flew into the Mohita's cab through the vent

Today we traversed an entirely different landscape, through the redwood forests and into the rain of the west coast.  We're holed up in Crescent City tonight in a big storm with howling wind and rain.  And we're crossing our fingers that we'll be able to continue heading north tomorrow.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Globe Arizona and onward

Our first (and last) stop as we crossed Arizona was in Globe, another copper mining town with an interesting downtown area.  What is it about these copper towns that make them so appealing?  I guess it's that they were a going concern in the early 1900s and had the money to create fancy buildings. We've been through here before so this time we stayed to explore a bit more.

The main street has some restored buildings like this one which has been a pharmacy since it was built (with a stint as a saloon in between).

On a side street we found the best coffee shop with good espresso, lots of magazines, local art and nice ambience.  You can see that Harry's enjoying his time there.

It's spring in Globe and the trees in front of the Cultural Centre are in bloom.

This is the town's pride and joy, the restored court house and copper mining headquarters, now home to a vital arts community.  There's a theatre on the third floor,  art rooms, and a big beautiful display space, plus there are stores for craftspeople and artists to sell their wares.  When we went through there was an impressive quilt show.

Here are a couple of interior shots, looking across to the theatre entrance, and one of the five safes in the building.

Since Globe, we've been on the road with a stop in Palm Desert to try to find out why Mohita's been overheating and making noise.  We endured a terrible night in a Motel 6 there as we couldn't find an RV park.  The only room available was designated for smokers.  It was GROSS!

We haven't been able to find anyone to look at it right away as it's the weekend, so we're heading onward at a lower speed.  Yesterday we left there early and drove for nine hours bypassing LA and heading up the Interstate 5 through the San Joaquin valley, mecca of agribusiness.  We're sitting in a Starbucks this morning deciding whether to head over the Siskiyou  pass into Oregon.  Apparently there are three storms coming through bringing loads of snow.  So we may head over to the coast and travel up 101 for a while. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Route 66 motel signs

The old Route 66 highway across America (from Chicago to Los Angeles) goes right through the center of Albuquerque.  This highway was first developed some time in the late 1920s, but its fame came in the 1950s with  song and a TV show.  It was the iconic route for travelers until the interstate highway system superseded it in the  mid-eighties.

Here's what's left in the Duke city -- a lot of colorful motel signs from another era.  In some cases the motels are still operating (at a very reasonable rate if you dare to enter).  In other cases all that's left are the signs, the motels having been demolished.   Parts of Route 66 are now tourist attractions but I don't think this stretch of Central Avenue has got there yet.