Tuesday, August 30, 2011

back on track

The last few weeks of the 365 project have felt a little off. It's difficult to describe, but I just wasn't quite as happy with some of my pictures. I think a lot of it also has to do with how the photos relate to each other—color, style, and such. If the shots from a given week or month don't look good together, it makes me feel like I'm getting off track. That makes me sad. But! This was a good week with pictures I mostly like!

First, Saturday's picture: Elsa with a chocolate mustache. Steve and I weren't planning to go to the SF Street Food Festival that day in our neighborhood, since it was completely mobbed last year. We tried to go with Dan and Carmen, saw the hoards of people and chaos, and decided it wasn't worth the effort to make sense of it all. We bailed and got burritos at La Taqueria instead. I certainly didn't want to go through that again, but I felt like the festival was an opportunity we couldn't pass up. After all, I had no other ideas for a picture that day.

This year, the organizers of the festival did a much better job. They spread the whole thing out over several blocks, which made it more manageable. There was still a little chaos, as the lines for vendors stretched through and across Folsom Street, where people were trying to walk. Steve saw the line for Flour + Water, where I wanted to get food, and suggested we just go home. I, however, insisted that we give it a try. We had come that far for lunch, we might as well just get in a line and get some food. Probably only five minutes later, we had our porchetta sandwiches, some fried peppers & corn, and a watermelon & mint limeade. Success!

That was enough food for lunch, and we were able to just walk down the street towards home afterward and look around. One of the things we saw was a stand with chocolate mustaches on sticks. We immediately thought of Carmen and bought her one. Then, when we delivered it to her, it was decided that I had to take a picture of Elsa with it. She started smiling behind the 'stache, which was about the cutest thing ever. Suddenly, I no longer wanted to use a shot from the street food festival as picture of the day.

232/365 baby's first mustache

You know what else I noticed this week? I feel better when I take a food picture at home now and then. After the break from my first 365, I thought I only got jumpy when I didn't pick up the camera every day. Now, it seems that the same is true when I don't keep up my project from last year too. (That would be the 52 Weeks of Food.) I gave myself permission to stop after finishing the year, but I still feel disappointed in myself if I go too long between the food shots. They've become something of a staple in this 365. However, with the busyness of the summer, we've sort of fallen out of the pattern of making something new and photographing it on the weekends. This week, it felt good to get back to that, even if the "something" wasn't exactly new.

My plan for Sunday's picture was to shoot Steve's lamb naan (Indian flatbread). He's been making it for years, but my only pictures of it were from 2006, when I wasn't exactly what you'd call an experienced photographer. (I'm probably still not, but I certainly do better now.) It was time for a reshoot, in any case, but I had another thought that afternoon. I didn't have anywhere to be, and Steve was home, so I should finally try those pistachios that had been sitting on the dining room table for a few weeks.

And so commenced the Great Pistachio Experiment of 2011. Signs pointed to me not being allergic to them, but I had to actually try one to be sure. A tiny shaving first, then a nibble from one half, then the rest of that half, then the other half... No reaction. I'm not allergic to pistachios! This means I can have all sorts of things I've been avoiding for years, including pistachios on top of the Indian rice pudding that Steve makes. Since he was already making Indian food, in the form of naan, for dinner; we added rice pudding to the menu. It turned out to be a better photo subject for the day than the naan anyway, since it incorporated the pistachios, and since it was finished much sooner—before dark, even. Surprisingly, this was also the first time that I've taken a picture of Steve's rice pudding. It's a favorite of Carmen's.

233/365 rice pudding

Luckily, the lamb naan was able to wait for its photo shoot until Monday. I had some of the leftovers for lunch that day, so I just set up a shot on the kitchen table before microwaving the flatbread. What makes it so good is the mango chutney and raita that Steve makes to go with it, so of course, those needed to be in the picture as well. I ended up having this for lunch 4 out of 5 days last week, which was not a bad thing at all.

234/365 lamb naan

Moving on from the food photos, I tagged along with Carmen and Elsa to run errands in Noe Valley on Tuesday. We got some iced chai at Fiore Caffe on the way home, and I snapped a picture of the counter from where we were sitting. Also taken that day was the Elsa elf picture, which I didn't think was quite as exciting when I was editing the photos. Dan and Carmen ended up loving it, though. (They might be a little biased...)

235/365 afternoon at fiore

I waited a bit longer than necessary to go looking for Wednesday's picture, after spending the afternoon planning for our time in Barcelona. I had to go play for a Gypsy rehearsal that evening, though, so I went out for a minute with my camera before I needed to leave. I expected to find some flowers, but I found a neighborhood cat instead. I got a few shots of Leia in, at which point Aroara appeared. Then, Leia decided to go after Aroara... Apparently, she's a bit of an instigator and thinks she owns the place.

(No cats were harmed in the making of this photograph.)

236/365 swoosh

On Thursday, we had tickets to see Henson Alternative's Stuffed and Unstrung, a Muppet improv show. I had gotten an email about it in July, with the option to call and purchase tickets earlier than the lowly non-subscribers. After clicking through to the show page and watching the video, I was sold. It looked like the coolest thing ever, especially for someone who grew up watching The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and pretty much anything else Jim Henson-related. I also found out on Thursday that there was a talkback scheduled for after show, with Brian Henson and rest of the show's cast. The whole evening was great fun; just being in the same space as a wall of 80 puppets was pretty awesome. The awesomest I could do for a picture of the day was a photo of the sign outside of the theater, but I'm okay with that.

237/365 stuffed and unstrung

Keeping with puppet theme, Friday morning seemed like a good time to take a picture of Elsa's kitty finger puppet while I was watching her. It had been an option a few weeks before when we were babysitting, but I had been too busy to take any pictures at all then. This time, Elsa slept for the entire 3 hours that I was watching her, drugged on baby Tylenol to treat the fever from her 2-month shots. I was going to call the picture "puppet up," after the rallying cry for Stuffed and Unstrung, but I went with "easiest babysitting ever" instead, since Elsa was sleeping in the background and all.

238/365 easiest babysitting ever

Later that afternoon, Carmen and I took Elsa to Hayes Valley for some shopping, consumption of ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, and purchasing of macarons. Elsa didn't really appreciate the whole outing, since she was getting hungry by the end—no ice cream or macarons for her—but Carmen and I had fun. In the next post: pictures of the macarons and some other stuff, not yet photographed.

Friday, August 26, 2011

thirty-three and a third

Week 33 coincided with our third wedding anniversary. Not cutting it close at all, I went looking for a suitable present for Steve that Saturday. Like I've done the last two years, I went to Valencia Street to begin my search. You see, we've been doing fun surprise gifts for our anniversaries, loosely based on the traditional gifts. The first year was paper: an origami book from me, a kids' book from Steve. Last year was cotton for our second anniversary. I gave Steve a quirky t-shirt, and he gave me a stuffed elephant to match our pig. This year, I went to Serendipity and found an iPhone cover that looked like an old school calculator, as well as a couple small Moleskine notebooks. I figured those were at least leather-esque enough for number three.

While I was out, I took a picture of the stuffed kitty in the window of Paxton Gate. They always have cool taxidermied animals, but they don't allow pictures inside. I figure their window is fair game from the sidewalk, however.

225/365 that kitty in the window

Sunday was the day that we finally got out and saw the final Harry Potter movie. We had been trying to avoid the crowds when it first came out, and then I only got busier with work for the summer show. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, but it wasn't exactly the kind of activity that provides many opportunities for a picture of the day. What I ended up using was another shot of the wool animals in a shop window near the Metreon. You may remember a similar shot from day 3, but these are cows with birds on them! Completely different, obviously.

226/365 birds on cows

I was out of inspiration for Monday, as is often the case after a weekend. I experimented a little with the UV and polarizing filters that I had gotten for my birthday, taking pictures out the bedroom window. It had been a while since I had bothered with the filters for my other two lenses, but I know they'll be useful during the Europe trip. My test shots were not very exciting, though. I wrapped my anniversary presents for Steve and took a few pictures of the wrapping job, but I didn't love those either. Then, I took some pictures of the bud vase that Carmen and Dan gave me for my birthday. It was in need of buds, but hey, I was in need of inspiration. (See the tie-in?) I liked the colors and organic shapes by themselves anyway. Carmen texted me later, to see if I wanted to take a picture of Elsa in her sling. I was glad for the chance to take a (possibly) better picture, but I ended up using the vase shot as the official picture of the day. I felt like the colors in it complemented the previous day's shot a little better.

227/365 ceramic cityscape

Moving on to Tuesday, our anniversary... We did something a little different this year, because of our upcoming trip to Spain & Italy. Rather than spending a few days in Napa, doing wine tastings and eating at fancy wine country restaurants, we decided that it was a good opportunity to check a fancy restaurant in SF off the to-try list. Coi was at the very top of that list, but it's not open on Tuesdays—the day of our anniversary. So we decided to try out Quince for our actual anniversary and finally go to Coi the next night. It would be kind of like a mini stay-cation, except that Steve would still be going to work as usual.

I met Steve downtown on Tuesday evening, and we walked up to the Jackson Square/North Beach area to Quince. It was a pretty fancy Italian place, with one Michelin star. I really enjoyed the meal, from the tiny bites at the beginning, to the pasta course, to the bonus pasta with cheese and honey, to the desserts (served with candles for our anniversary). We went with the four course prix fixe menu rather than the chef's tasting menu, since we each got to pick what we wanted (and try more) that way. It was rather dark in the restaurant, but I managed to get halfway decent pictures of all the food. I was just pushing the ISO a little further than I would have liked, so I went with the exterior shot for my picture of the day.

228/365 anniversary dinner

As wonderful as I thought our dinner at Quince was—and it was wonderful—Coi was even better. Coi has two Michelin stars, yet the ambiance is slightly less stuffy. No pressed white tablecloths here, just lovely wood tables. I loved Quince for its pasta, but I loved Coi for its creativity. 11 courses of beautiful, light food in unexpected combinations. Really, it deserves its own blog post. As for the picture of the day, I selected Steve's favorite course, which was also a favorite of mine: abalone/duck tongue (warm salad, lettuce, sprouts). It seemed to exemplify the things I liked best about Coi, with its interesting ingredients and pretty presentation.

229/365 abalone/duck tongue

After two nights of taking lots of food pictures—and eating lots of good food, of course—I spent much of Thursday busy with photo editing. The obvious subject for an easy picture of the day was the anniversary present from Steve that I had yet to photograph. Above, I mentioned what I got for him, but here's is what he gave me: a Moleskine notebook and a little turtle puppet with a leather shell. Yup, we both got each other Moleskines—and from the same store too. I'm using mine to write down all our information for the trip, so it might make an appearance in the 365 one of these days.

But back to the turtle. That's what I shot for Thursday's picture. I'm not usually one for naming stuffed animals, but since someone on Flickr asked me about a name for it, I decided I liked "Eloise." (Looks kind of like the word "tortoise," no?)

230/365 turtle puppet

To end a busy week: a shot from the downtown Anthropologie store. I went shopping on Friday, armed with a fistful of discounts. I went to American Eagle for some cheap(er) clothes, Madewell for some more expensive clothes, and Anthropologie for... something. My main mission was new jeans, but since I had bought a pair each of cheap and expensive ones at the previous two places, I didn't look very hard for them at Anthro. (The line for the fitting room looked long there anyway.) Still, I had a birthday discount, so I looked around at the housewares and took a couple pictures. It turned into more of a scouting visit in the end. I felt like I had already spent enough money for one day, and I didn't want to use my Anthropologie discount if I wasn't going to really take advantage of it.

231/365 shopping day

Well, that was a long one. Congratulations for making it to the end!

Monday, August 22, 2011

the week i turned 29 (for the first time)

And then it was August, and the summer show was finishing already. Since I dragged Steve with me to the Saturday night performance, we decided to have an early dinner at Mission Cheese before we had to leave for the theater. It provided me with an opportunity to get a picture of the day, as well as giving Steve the chance to finally try the grilled cheese there. We snagged a couple seats at the counter, and I took a picture of our order letter "E," after noticing that it had a Mission Cheese logo embossed on it.

218/365 e is for estero gold

Sunday was the very last show for Thoroughly Modern Millie, as well as Erica's last day as the director of the program. It was all very momentous, and I took zero pictures at the theater. (Oops.) So I had to find something to shoot when I got home. I had some sparkling wine in the fridge, which I figured would be fittingly celebratory, at least. And to spruce it up a bit—and make the shot more day-specific—I used the flowers I had gotten from the students and some ribbon and confetti that had been on a present from Erica. The show itself turned out well, and the kids did a great job. After 7 summers with Erica, it was a good last show.

219/365 end of an era

With Millie officially closed, I had no plans for things to shoot on Monday. Steve and I were babysitting Elsa that night, which had possibilities, but I still got a little antsy by 6pm and felt like I needed to get something on the old CF card. The light was interesting in the living room at the time, so it was easy enough to put our stuffed elephant and pig on the arm of the chair and take a few pictures. They had been on my list of backup plans since the beginning of the year. While it seemed a shame to use the idea in anything less than a photo emergency, it was probably a good thing I did. During our babysitting, I was too busy eating my dinner (while jiggling the bouncy seat with my foot) and then feeding and holding the baby. She was very good for us, but my camera stayed in its bag.

220/365 at home (with piggy & elephant)

On Tuesday afternoon, I was due for a walk to Noe Valley to run some errands. On my way by the bakery, I noticed a very special Angry Birds cake in the window. I've never actually played Angry Birds—I'm more of a "Cut the Rope" kind of girl myself—but I still recognize the awesomeness of this cake. And yes, that makes two pig-themed pictures in a row.

221/365 pigture of the day

From pigs to figs... Steve baked up a Fig Tart with Frangipane on Wednesday morning before he left for work. (He had prepped it the night before.) This was to use up the extra figs that Steve bought at the farmers market, but it made a nice picture of the day and a nice breakfast too. Although it was very pretty, it needed a bit more salt to balance the sweetness of the figs. A sprinkling of vanilla salt on top fixed that.

222/365 figgy tart

Thursday, day 223, was my birthday! I had planned to take a picture of my cake when Steve arrived home with it, but it was missing the cute flowers that usually go on our birthday cakes from Miette. They must have forgotten to ask Steve if he wanted them when he picked it up. So to give the picture some extra color, I used the tulips that Steve brought home for me.

Usually we go out to dinner with Dan, Carmen, Rob, and Traci for birthdays, but I figured that it would be nice to stay home this year so Elsa could join us. Dan and Carmen provided the setting and the party hats, and Steve cooked our main course. (Cheese from Cowgirl Creamery was an easy appetizer.) I had requested the Five-Spiced Roasted Maine Lobster with Port-Poached Figs and Sautéed Foie Gras from the French Laundry Cookbook, or as I like call it, figgy foie lobster. It was a very good birthday dinner, followed by presents—a few books, a couple filters for my 35mm lens, a cool bud vase from Dan and Carmen—and cake, of course.

223/365 my birthday

Carmen sent home the many birthday balloons with us that night, and I thought I would maybe take a picture of them when it was light out the next day. Then, when I got up on Friday morning, I went into the dining room and found them all sitting on the floor, strings still tied to the chair. I had forgotten how quickly helium fails in regular balloons. As a result, my balloon picture ended up looking a little more hungover than I had intended. Somehow I didn't mind, though.

224/365 party's over

Saturday, August 13, 2011

show week

I guess it's time to get this published... Here's the 365 post from tech/show week of Millie, beginning with two weeks ago today.

I decided that Steve needed to make a crumble that weekend to finally take advantage of all the summer stone fruit while it's still in season. In order to acquire the necessary fruit for the crumble and accompanying nectarine ice cream, we walked down to Bi-Rite Market. It seemed the next best thing to going to an actual farmers market, since they often have fruit from the same farms. And since we were going to Bi-Rite Market, we had to go to Bi-Rite Creamery for a snack. It was a nice day, though, so of course the line stretched down to the corner. We bailed and got balsamic strawberry & vanilla twist soft serve from the soft serve window. Not quite as satisfying as the regular ice cream, but the line was much shorter. When we were finished with our cones, I went back and took a picture of the sign that had caught my eye earlier, next to the main queue.

211/365 for boys & squirrels

Sunday was crumble-making day, I've taken pictures of our crumbles a few times before. This time I felt like taking pictures of the fruit itself, before it was all cut up. So here are the peaches, plums, and blackberries that went into the dessert, along with a few oats for good measure.

212/365 let's get ready to crumble

It was back to work on Monday, playing for an afternoon spacing rehearsal in the theater, getting dinner nearby, and then returning for a rehearsal with the band for the show. Between dinner and the second rehearsal, I killed some time by reading Pride and Prejudice on my iPhone, in the car with the windows rolled down. Pride and Prejudice was my first download for iBooks, since it's old enough to be free (public domain). I hadn't read it since junior year of high school, so it seemed a good time to revisit it. It also helps that I know the plot well enough from various movie versions that I don't have to worry about forgetting what's going on between the rare occasions that I sit down to read it.

213/365 austen for iphone

More tech rehearsals at the theater on Tuesday meant less time to find something at home to photograph. I didn't even go out to get my dinner that night, since there was pizza at the theater. When we started our tech/dress run of the show after dinner, I realized that I still hadn't taken any pictures that day, and I wouldn't be leaving the theater until after dark. Pictures of my music or the keyboard in the pit were completely boring, so I took a few shots of the action on stage between songs. Still no stage makeup on the actors, but costumes and wigs were an improvement. This shot of Nick as Trevor and Taylor as Millie was one of the few pictures that turned out okay.

214/365 the view from the pit

I didn't get very creative on Wednesday either, I'm afraid. It was another afternoon and evening stuck in the pit, so I took some more pictures of the show during the afternoon dress rehearsal. I had packed my 50mm lens, which worked a bit better than the 35mm, and the kids were wearing makeup this time. While I still didn't get a ton of keepers, I got a better version of a shot that I took the previous day: Millie and Jimmy, at the window ledge, before "I Turned the Corner."

215/365 millie & jimmy

For Thursday's picture, I decided to stick with the show theme. After all, it was opening night, so why stop then? I did get some insurance, taking a picture of some Japanese maple flowers in my neighborhood while I was home that afternoon. But I managed to grab a picture of various hats and wigs on a table in the green room after the show, which was more appropriate for the occasion.

216/365 hats n' stuff

Finally, Friday was a lovely day off, as the younger kids had their opening night for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. How did I spend my day off? I hung out with Carmen and Elsa. We went for ice cream at Humphry Slocombe, chilled downstairs, then did pizza for dinner with the guys. It had been almost two weeks since I had seen the baby, so the project was due for another Elsa shot, right? Especially one of Elsa in an outfit that makes her look like a baby jedi.

217/365 young padawan

In the next post: the closing of Millie and my birthday. But first, the July mosaic.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

week thirty

Last week was week 30 of the 365 project. Unfortunately, I was feeling pretty uninspired most days, so it's not exactly my favorite collection of pictures.

Saturday's shot was one that I liked, though. It was Bruce and Bonnie's last night in town, and Carmen's parents had arrived a few days before. So Steve made a chile verde dinner for all of us that night, and I made those strawberry trifles again for dessert. Between dinner and dessert, we went out to the alley for a quick photo shoot. This was the first opportunity I had gotten to take pictures of Jimmy and Phoung with their new granddaughter, and it was my last chance to get one of Bruce and Bonnie with Elsa. Luckily, she waited until after we were done to start her evening cry fest.

204/365 the grandparents

In the afternoon on Sunday, I joined Dan, Carmen, and Carmen's parents for a hike up to Bernal Hill. Enzo and Elsa went too, of course, but Elsa was sleeping in her carrier the entire time. Despite taking several pictures, a lot of my options were kind of bland. The hill gets rather dry and brown in the summer and doesn't photograph all that well. One reason I chose the shot of Dan and Carmen as my picture of the day was because it had more greens in it—not just brown grass and blue sky. But also, it shows Elsa in her carrier. (Assuming she was actually in there. I didn't see her much, so those hiccups and squeaks might have been a recording...)

205/365 baby's first bernal

The next day, Steve and I broke out some Pierce Pt cheese as an appetizer before dinner. He had purchased it from Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building on Saturday after I requested some St Pat. They were out of St Pat for the season, but this was similar. The rind was covered with herbs instead of nettles like St Pat. It was pretty enough that I went to the trouble of setting up a shot on the coffee table before we dug in.

206/365 pierce pt

My other option for the picture of the day on Monday had been one I was saving for a day when I had no other ideas. The subject was a blue Vespa that's usually parked on the sidewalk across the street. I just needed to catch it in the morning—when it was in the shade—or on a cloudy day. Since I went with the cheese shot on Monday, I decided to reshoot the Vespa for Tuesday. I was tempted to just change the time stamp on the picture from the previous day, but I'm not a cheater. :)

207/365 blue vespa

On Wednesday, I felt like I was copping out again when I went for the easy picture after getting home from work. I opened a bag of mechanical pencils that Steve had bought for me and put them in a little metal pail that had been a container for ricotta cheese. Very little effort was involved, but at least I was able to land on a more dynamic angle after the first few boring shots.

208/365 colored pencils

Thursday was one of those nights when I had no ideas (again), which meant that Steve and I needed to go looking for something. Deciding it was pizza night, we went to eat at Pi Bar rather than bringing the pizza home. After dinner, a walk to the corner store was needed to get some spreadable goat cheese for a party we were attending the next night. On the way, we passed a green scrolly fence with nasturtium flowers poking out. I figured that would at least go well with the very colorful mechanical pencil picture from the day before.

209/365 nasturtium

After work on Friday, Steve and I mixed up our goat cheese spread for the party at Erica's house. It was the easiest appetizer ever: chopped thyme and chives, a glug of olive oil, and a little black pepper with goat cheese. Stir and serve with crackers. I spent most of my time at the party chatting with work friends (or former work friends), but I did get a couple pictures taken before most of the people arrived. Erica has a nice little hanging garden in her backyard, made from re-purposed Crocs and aqua socks. I had seen it before, but I forgot about it until I saw it again. It was practically begging to be photographed.

210/365 hanging garden

And another (very colorful) week is past. Powering through... Just this one more week and I'll be done with the busyness of the summer show.