Feb 25, 2012

A Florida B-day

Today is the day Jeroen is adding another year. Celebrations already started early this week with the fabulous fisheye lens (see also the last post). Experimenting with it was a lot of fun, and there's still a lot to learn to make sure that the lens' distortion makes your subject's body mass index more in stead of less favorable. But if the picture is good, the wide angle of the shot helps create a whole story. Also, it's the first lens I ever worked with that actually does not limit the image to less than what your eyes see, and that is pretty sweet. Click on the pictures to get a higher resolution image; these large thumbnails in the blog posts are an odd thing when posting from an iPad.

Today was also the day when the early evening sky showed Pisces accompanied by a tiny waxing moon, Venus, Uranus, Mercury and a hint of Jupiter. All these constellations gathering around over the Gulf of Mexico to celebrate my birthday down in Florida. My Venus was also around, and there is nothing more I could wish for.

GABROEN, Jan and Tine spent today in Naples, Florida's "members only, club card required" town. It is entertaining to watch and stroll around for an afternoon, and somewhat of a relief to be able to leave behind. Even in this haven of the wealthy under-taxed, it is nice to see entrepreneurial spirits start an all organic ice-cream business serving crazy flavors like cardamon or mango-chili. Too bad for them that the taste was nothing out of the ordinary. Their claim to adhere to German hygiene laws is not gonna save them, but bless them for trying............

Yes, my Venus was around. Being her happy self, contaminating the world with her radiating smile and her hair all bouncing curls again because of the warm humidity in the air. She really inherited her thermostat from her dad. And Nina Simone was singing on the car radio "Here comes the sun", in a manner, well............. only Nina can. A beautiful day indeed.

GABROEN on behalf of Jeroen

Feb 21, 2012


My birthday is coming up later this week, and since GABROEN moved to the US we have tried to start a tradition of celebrating this with my parents in Florida. It actually worked out for four out of the six years so far. This year, they swung by Chicago with New Year's (see Parents in the attic, uuuh arctic) and went from a brisk 10 degrees F walk along Fort Sheridan Beach to numerous balmy 80 degrees F hikes along Fort Myers Beach.
GABROEN arrived here on Sunday, and as an exciting prelude to my birthday I already received an awesome present at Monday breakfast. A fascinating, creative, fantastic fisheye lens - one of the things from my wish list coming out of our Tucson weekend of photographic magic last month. I got it in advance of my birthday, so I could start using it straight away and use Florida as a backdrop for fisheye wonderland experimentation. In case you want to know, it's a 7.5mm lens with about 150 degrees angle of field. And even if these facts do not interest you in the least, check out the things coming out of experimenting with this beauty, yesterday while hiking in Fort Myers Beach, and today on Sanibel Island. I'm so pleased with it, and grateful that I got it already in advance. Double-click on the pictures to see a larger image. Fisheye rules!

Keep your eyes out for more fisheye. There will definitely be more, much more coming from this thing.
GABROEN on behalf of Jeroen

Feb 19, 2012

Stick around

Starting last October, Ruba "more attitude than hair" Gonzalez started a new habit. At least twice a day when we walked her, she picked up little sticks and brought them back into the house. At first very obvious, with the sticks sticking out of her mouth like very fancy thin cigarettes or thick cigar stumps. But when after the third stick we no longer allowed her to bring in more, she became much more stealthy with this, storing sticks in her cheeks or under her tongue. Although the stick was invisible, we could still recognize if she was collecting by a change in her behavior; rather than the usual sniffing around and side stepping from tree to tree, she became very focused on getting back home without once looking at you or ever opening her mouth. Once she understood that we were on to her again and her behavior gave her away, she started further perfecting her stealthy hobby. And with 3-4 walks a day, of which 2 in the dark, she had plenty of opportunity to become the expert collector. She brought in over 40 sticks that we know of, and chewed/swallowed about 7 that we know of. What finally stopped her was the cold; a hairless dog that needs to do its business below 30 degrees F clearly has other things on her mind and butt than adding another stick to her collection. We thought all the effort, all the searching and sniffing, all the perfecting of the stealth skills, deserved attention. So we framed her collection, and are pretty pleased with the result. A dog's attempt to stick around.

We dropped her off yesterday at her foster home for a week-long sleepover. Although her heart was racing when we left, I did see her pick up another stick from their garden and bring it up to the door. Bless her precious little collector's heart...............
GABROEN on behalf of Ruba

Feb 11, 2012

Winter also has its perks

So far, Chicago's 2012 winter has been pretty mild, or a "cake walk" as I heard on the local NPR station. Average snowfall should be around 40 inches, and the last four winters topped that with more than 50. But until now we have not had much more than 15 inches and January was much warmer than usual. Nothing subtropical, so nothing to get excited about; most of January was just above freezing during the day and mostly overcast and humid. But winter does come with some perks. After our snow-shoeing trip three weeks ago (see the earlier post Well, well, we even enjoyed the snow), amazing salt crystals appeared when we let our snowshoes dry.
click to enlarge these sparkly diamonds

These crystals are tiny and difficult to photograph if you don't have a good macro lens. But please click on the photos and explore this tiny salty universe. A macro lens is one of the things that I have on my wish list since lying flat on Kate's Tucson driveway last month, with Kyle Cassidy's macro lens and flash lights to take close ups of some harvester ants.

After two more inches of snow yesterday, we woke up to a brisk but crisp blue, sunny morning. That's another perk of Chicago's winter, at least our limited experience with the 2011 and 2012 winter: snowy days are followed by these refreshingly crisp days with sunlight so bright that you feel the vitamin D rush through your cheeks. So this morning we walked the 20 minutes to our local Italian bakery for espresso and homemade canoli, and people looked at us from their SUVs with heated seats as if we came from another planet. In fact, most people from the Chicago North Shore suburbs consider Amsterdam another planet. But we got our vitamin D, caffeine, sugar rush and met a new antique dealer - an Abbott spouse who was born in Alabama and who's still mad at her husband for bringing her to the North Shore................. 25 years ago. Go figure.

Feb 8, 2012

Dia de los Muertos

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in many cultures with a latino ethnic background. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1–2, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts.
The Day of the Dead is also celebrated in areas of the United States, such as California, Texas, and Arizona. Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl. 

Marigolds are a significant symbol for the Day of the Dead festivities and are known as the "flower of the dead". Their scent is believed to "attract the souls and draw them back". They are also a symbol for passion and creativity. 


Mexican Cempasúchitl (Marigold), the traditional flower to honor the dead

I finished my beaded marigold flower today, and have something in mind that will link its symbolic meaning for the Day of the Dead and for creativity with a big project I'm brooding and working on for some time now. It will become clear later, once I get further into the project and post about it. I have the feeling that this project will be my first statement as Gabriella the Artist.
My beaded version of Cempasúchitl

GABROEN on behalf of Gabri

Feb 3, 2012

It takes time...

to grow flowers.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Feb 1, 2012

Are you gonna go my way?

Some people spent yesterday supporting other people with very uninspiring names like Mitt or Newt, but GABROEN had better ideas: we cheered on Lenny and Raphael. As in Lenny Kravitz and Raphael Saadiq that is. Lenny returned home to the US for his new world tour "Black and White America" with Saadiq as his very special guest a.k.a. funky opening act. And yesterday night they played the historic Chicago Theater.
Fabulous Chicago Theater

The theater dates back to the roaring 1920s, a particularly roaring era in Chicago with the likes of Al Capone. It's in walking distance from the downtown train station, so we rode our local express, enjoyed a dinner of Angelo's green chili tamales on the train, and arrived way before the theater actually opened its doors. This did give us time to explore the immediate neighborhood, but if the most exciting thing around is the actual studio where they are broadcasting the local ABC evening news, sports and weather, you know you are in trouble. If you think there's still a hint of glamour when you're watching your local news on TV, think again; to see the studio and news anchors both on and off camera is as exciting as going to the local ugly mall to watch a bunch of teenagers lanterfanting (that's a Dutch term that doesn't translate well, but  I'm sure you are getting the visual). Going inside the theater was much more exciting; acoustics may not be optimal, but the building's interior is pretty smashing.
Main foyer chandelier and ornate walls
Central staircase

Being a long time fan of Lenny, Gabriella got out her rock chick look of beige and red, which happened to exactly match the color scheme of the Chicago theater interior. While observing the other concert goers, she can't wait for the show to start.

Pondering rock chick
Raphael Saadiq and his band put down a groovy, funky opening act, with backing vocals that danced like you have not seen before, a horn section that was world class and a pianist with amazing voice and moves for a 300+ lb physique. A physique that literally would have fitted five times the female backing vocalist in snug black leather pants.  Lenny's show was very energetic as well, and we were surprised to see how popular he is. He got the whole theater standing and dancing with the third song, and that party lasted for the rest of the night. Sometimes a bit too much energy - rock songs that were thumbing like a jack hammer and strobe light effects that would drive an epileptic into a definite fit. But a great performer, probably one of the truest rock stars in the industry and a voice that can still give you chills. Let love rule....................