Sunday, August 24, 2008

A wider point of view

As most of you have noticed, this blog has spent a significant amount of time focused on our visitors and on food. Now that's not a problem for me because we love seeing everyone who comes to visit and I get to eat all of these wonderful meals that Max fixes, but we are in a quiet time for visitors and some of you may not be so interested in how to make the perfect biscuit. I must admit that I am quite involved in these food experiments, but only as a pair of hands which are mostly involved in cleaning up the mess.

But I do have my own interests which really haven't been broached in this blog. Now, one of them is gardening, but that has to be satisfied by a few potted plants that are arranged near our windows in the apartment. Watering them on occasion is about all they need. That doesn't leave a lot to talk about. My other hobby is photography, and I must say that California does offer a wide variety of subjects to digitize. So if you like pictures, but not the technicalities about them, just enjoy the views. If you are more of a photo buff, here is some experimenting I did with my new lens. And for reference, my camera is a Nikon DX 50, SLR digital.

My latest acquisition is a fish eye lens that provides a 180 degree photographic view of the world. There is one problem with this wide view and that is that the lens brings in the full 180 view both from a vertical and a horizontal perspective, and then it places it on a flat rectangular image. This is the old round peg in square hole problem, so to make it fit the edges do get bent so they will fit. Some of the distortions are pretty amusing and my first experiments with this lens have been a lot of fun. So this post is a photo journey with a very wide point of view.

This picture of Max and her Too Cute show some the distortion issues with a fish eye. Note that the car looks even more like an egg and although this picture looks like the car is parked right on a corner, it's really in between these two cars on a straight street.

Here is another example of fish eye distortion. This is a house around the corner from us that is up for sale. If you have an extra $45 million it could be yours. Again, this looks like a shot from the corner, but it's also taken on a straight street.

So what use is a lens like this that makes everything look so crooked? Well, if you focus on the distance you can get some wonderful wide angle scenery shots. This picture was taken a couple blocks from our apartment looking towards the bay with the fish eye and you can see that the trees on the left are bending in a bit. The wind does come from that direction, but they aren't quite bent that much.

Here is the same view taken with my wide angle zoom lens that is an 18-55 mm zoom instead of the 10.5 mm with the fish eye. Note that the steps aren't even visible in this one although I took it from the same location.

This last weekend Max and I took a short road trip down the coast on Highway 1 to Santa Cruz, and then we came back up to San Francisco driving along the crest of the coastal Santa Cruz mountains, stopping along the way at Big Basin State Park, the oldest state park in California and the home to some wonderful Coastal Red Woods.

We decided to take the Too Cute again. It is really comfortable in the seats- Don's back doesn't hurt- though is BUMPY- and of course Don loves how it takes the corners. But at our first stop a Harley pulled up right beside us- and the "guys" had a talk about their machines. Notice that the Harley is just a tad longer than our Too Cute! And it's engine is 60% bigger and it costs about $5,000 more.
This next shot was taken along Highway 1 from some rocks right on the beach, but focused toward the horizon

Here is what it looks like when I focused on the incoming surf. It looks like a shot taken from out space with the curvature of the earth.

And while Don was taking pictures of the ocean- I was taking pictures of Don taking pictures. Now for those interested in the technology- I have a little (will fit in the pocket easily- and does dry out successfully- I sat it in a puddle by the sink yesterday- it stopped for a while but does seem at this point to have recovered)- this little Sony Cybershot- the perfect BLOG CAMERA- I have it with me at all times- and it never weighs as much as my water bottle- which I also have with me at all times. And this camera is EASY- BIG TIME EASY- just what I need.

This one is looking up the coast from cliffs above the beach with the fish eye and the one after is taken from the same place with the wide angle zoom lens.

Then we came to the Pigeon Point Light House which offered some interesting perspective between the horizontal lines of the fence and vertical lines of the lighthouse. The fish eye actually worked pretty well here as long as I centered the image on the lighthouse.

Our photographer at work!

And this crevice in the rocks at the light house was an interesting subject. I took this picture with the fish eye and then substantially cropped it down to this view. I probably could have gotten the same view with my wide angle, but this one came out pretty well.

Big Basin is a redwoods state park in the Santa Cruz mountains. It is on the coastal side of the range, but only accessible from the east. We drove along the crest of the mountains and then dropped down to visit this wonderful state park. The two prominent trees in the park, adeptly named the "Mother" and "Father" of the forest, were two enormous redwoods that were just a short walk from the parking lot. I could do neither of them justice with any lens, but these are with the fish eye. The "Mother" tree is 15 feet in diameter and the "Father" is 16 feet in diameter.

And the fun of the fish eye is looking straight up into the trees from right beneath them.

We first saw the "Mother"...And then to the "Father"...

We meandered through the mountains of Santa Cruz- stopping at lookout spots for the view and the pictures- with my little camera...

This was the sunset we almost missed- missed because we didn't even know it was going to happen. We were driving through the mountains of Santa Cruz, stopping from time to time at a look out spot- never in a hurry- taking pictures with my little bitty camera...

And then we rounded a corner and there it was- UNBELIEVABLE- I'd never seen anything quite like it- a sunset above the clouds- the fog had moved in and we were above as the sunset in the west...

So we quickly parked- and ran to the edge- and just stood in awe- what beauty- what wonder. Maybe we'll get so lucky again.

As we hurriedly parked and walked to the overlook I realized that my fish eye was still on the camera and the other lenses were in the car, so this is the shot I got as the fog was creeping over the hills. Not exactly the greatest picture since a wide angle makes the horizon look so far away.

But through the magic of Photoshop I was able to "enhance" mother nature to give me this view. I know, it's not nice to mess with mother nature, but with some cropping and light adjustment, I gave her a little help. I'm sure it must look like this sometime.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Too Cute Takes the Curves

Well I have to start with the part that is not recorded with any pictures. My day with the TOO CUTE and Don-who thought he was driving in THE GRAND PRIX! I did at one time suggest to him that I thought a curvy sign with 20 MPH speed might be at least a strong suggestion that 40 MPH was just a tad too fast. I'm not sure exactly what about the TOO CUTE was so tempting for my Don. But just suffice it to say that we took those curves REAL FAST! Think it's probably the short wheel base that was the motivation for one of Don's comments- "you sure can take these corners tight in this car". We all know that those speed limits are what they believe is the fastest that some big SUV should do. After all, those people that drive those SUVs just really aren't quite with it or why in the world would they have bought them in the first place? So it's easy to understand why they need a little more time to drive around a little curve in the road.

So we did test the TOO CUTE out on the road as we took the trek over the coast mountains and then up the coast highway to Point Reyes Lighthouse. And we did make it to the Lighthouse- FINALLY. This was our third or fourth trip to Point Reyes- but it was the first time we actually were able to go down to the light house. We arrived too late the prior times- and the last time was with Brandy and Will- and it was so foggy and so windy that I stayed in the car while they pushed ahead (and saw nothing- too foggy). Well today was our day! There was fog- so the horn was blaring to warn the ships, but we did get there. This place is called Point Reyes because it is a peninsula that juts out into the Pacific about 1o miles as a large rocky cliff. The top of the point where the lighthouse is located is about 700 feet above the ocean. The shore line has numerous large rocks around it which the ocean is constantly crashing into. It is a beautiful place, but also a place that has had many ship wrecks. The whole piece of land that makes up Point Reyes is in the shape of a short triangle that parallels the coast of California. For those you who are interested in more details go to: For the rest of you, the most interesting part is that this piece of land forms a long bay (Tomales Bay) and the San Andreas fault runs right along the bay between Point Reyes and California. The fault has been somewhat responsible for the formation of the point and the bay, but as best as I can find, it all happened quite a few million years ago.

But first- on the trip out to the light house, we stopped at roadside stand and bought cherries- not local- but then Washington isn't that far away is it???

But the highlight was getting down to the actual lighthouse.

But first the warning to the less than committed...Like I said, the cliff is 700 feet high, but the lighthouse isn't at the top, it's down the cliff about 300 ft.


And we made it to the lighthouse...

And the original drawings of the plans for the lighthouse and the actual lens that was originally put in place to shine the light of four wicks that burned lard oil! The lens was so powerful that the light could be seen for 24 miles out into the ocean.

And the light they use now (this is still an operational lighthouse- and this still is the windiest-133 mph up to and foggiest spot in the USA!) This light is obviously electric and rotates from an electric motor, a motor that was broken when we visited. The original mechanism was used from 1859 until 1975. The lens, which weights 6,000 pounds was rotated by the clock style mechanism that used weights to drive it, much like a grandfather clock. This 6,000 pound mechanism, assembled in 1859 is so well balanced, that the park ranger indicated that she could easily turn it with a simple push of her hand.

We are going back- and in the winter and spring. I'm going to be up there waiting for the grey whales to swim by right along the coast on their way to and from Baja and the Arctic sea- but you'll just have to wait for that- as will I.

But after the lighthouse it was time for the hunt for the oyster. I had remembered stopping at a small roadside restaurant and eating oysters some years ago- like probably 14+ years ago- but I was determined to find it again- and Don would not abort the search until I did- and I wasn't about to. And we found it-

I have no idea where we found that little oyster place all those years ago, but Max was determined that we would find it, or one similar to it. Tomales Bay isn't very wide, but it is quite long and shallow, so it has been used for commercial oyster growers for years. I figured that while we were driving up Highway 1, there surely would be some hole in the wall oyster place along the way, and I wasn't about to give up until Max had given up. Just after we drove by the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, we came to Tony's. The parking area was packed with cars, and the restaurant sat on the water.

Not the same place- but a roadside spot- with oysters- BAR-B-Q OYSTERS!


Now the last time I ate an oyster, I was in New Orleans, and that oyster tasted remarkably like the Mississippi River mud smells. I haven't eaten an oyster since. Just the thought that these mollusks sit in the water as filter feeders just doesn't stimulate my appetite. I mean filter feeders have no discretion about what they eat. Whatever comes by in the water is fair game for them and I doubt if they ever spit anything out that tastes a little off. Maybe the water in Tamales Bay is fairly clean, at least cleaner than the U.S. sewer we call the Mississippi, but oysters just will not be part of my diet if I can help it.

We looked out at the Bay from our table. I did eat there, but it was fried calamari instead of oysters. We were both full when we left and I'm hopeful that has been satisfied by her oyster craving for a while. Oysters are the only food I ever graved when I was pregnant- and just one time with the second baby- Clint. I sat in a restaurant on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and ate 18 raw oysters- all by myself- one right after the other. Now not to worry- I'm not pregnant- and I stopped at 8 oysters- 5 Bar-B-Q and 3 fried.

As we traveled back through the countryside toward San Francisco, we would see yards filled with "Naked Ladies"!

I remember the first time I saw a "Naked Lady". I was in Tulsa and Grandpa Lucas asked if he could show me a "naked lady". Well I knew Grandpa Lucas well enough to know there was some joke behind the twinkle in his eye. And he walked me around to the back yard and showed me my first "naked lady". Now Don and I have a few- tucked in the back- at Cincy. But I loved the yards filled here- with Grandpa Lucas' NAKED LADIES! How I do love that man!

Monday, August 4, 2008

And It Is About the Food!

Well, first I must say that Reeder is not at all a "typical" two year old. We took her to 8 different restaurant/cafes in 7 days- and she was enthusiastic with each new food experience. I do believe those "love that food" genes are REALLY strong. Brandy always complains a bit that she can't quite keep up- I'm always planning the next meal immediately when we finish eating one- And I think one needs to eat at LEAST 3 meals a day- and of course needs a snack or two tucked in. Well Reeder keeps up- she is ready- And excited with each new food adventure.

We started with chocolate cake- a flourless chocolate cake- a flourless chocolate cake cooked in the kooky pan her Mom gave me for Mother's Day.

And Reeder and her Mother do like CHOCOLATE! But I'm not a real lover of chocolate, so I'll present the other side. I will eat chocolate, especially when it is diluted with something else like nuts or peanut butter. This was called a cake, but it was more like fudge, solid pure chocolate fudge. All of you chocoholics would probably love it. Reeder and her Mom did.

Now Reeder can be pretty basic- and restaurants are usually prepared for children- I do believe we were never at a place that didn't have macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese or meatballs or chicken fingers- they do know the way to a two year old heart! There actually was some of this macaroni that made it to Reeder's heart. She did do a job on it and in short order. As you can see Marianne doesn't often feed her so we had to make up for it here in San Fran.

Using a fork- rather than fingers- slows the process a bit- But there is enthusiasm all along! (Notice most of what she orders are macaroni and cheese!- Definitely just like her Aunt Boo!)

But not to be discouraged- she was ready for the chop sticks! Even more amazing was that she was eating- Grama's favorite at Pacific Catch- grilled eel on a rice bowl.

As for Hayes- well he eats anyplace- anytime he get hungry! Though not much variety!

On the trail in Muir Woods or in the park while Reeder fed the ducks, whenever we stopped to eat, at fairly upscale restaurants, at the Discovery Center at Ft. Baker, and just about everywhere else we went. The boy doesn't have variety, but he does eat often. He is ready to dig into grown-up food as soon as his 6 months probation is up. Every time we ate he looked at and grabbed at our food, until he just gave up and went back to Mom's two course meal.

And of course we had BALLGAME FOOD! Max just loves to see how much mustard I can get on my face and clothes at a ball game.

And did I mention that Ghirardelli Chocolate Sundaes at the Ballgame! And this I might add is above and beyond! I will miss these Sundaes when I return to Cincy- and the Reds! (Since both Giants and Reds have a propensity for losing the game won't be very different whether I am in Cincy or San Fran!). Baseball games are specifically designed for eating hot dogs, peanuts, and drinks. But in San Francisco, these poor fans need their usual fare that is above and beyond the normal, but then again this is San Francisco, and exactly what is normal here is still undetermined- think there is no normal here.

And Don introduced Reeder to the Shirley Temple!

So now we are the proud owners of a bottle of cherries and Grenadine- just waiting for a visitor with a passion for Shirley Temples! I bet I'll even be able to find a supply of little umbrellas somewhere in China Town.

And Reeder is a BIG HELP in the kitchen!

And we made a trip to a new ice cream parlor! She does like ice cream, but just couldn't decide which she liked best of the three different kinds we bought. A solution to that dilemma was to just eat all of them. Once again, poor Hayes just watched and hoped.

Good to the last drop!

PS: Kelly asked if I made marshmallows because homemade are better- or rather because of the experience. Well- I'm not sure how they fall out on the taste test- they are definitely different- denser- sweeter... But I do believe it is the experience- and just the fact they are homemade. I'll do them again. In fact- I'm going to do them when Amber comes for Christmas- I want her to have homemade marshmallows in her hot chocolate this Christmas.