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New lens play

Since I got my camera out and dusted it off a few weeks ago, I’ve been more motivated to take photos and try new things.

I’ve been saving up for about three years now to get a macro lens for my DSLR and I finally amassed enough to get my lens! As soon as it came in the mail, I popped it on my camera and tried it out. Then I googled “how to use a macro lens” and read about a dozen articles. Then I read the teeny tiny instruction book that came with the lens. I probably did all of that in the wrong order, but I managed to get some cool photos!

I decided to start with my fish tank, because there are a lot of neat things in there. A tiny snail, a fish, and a lobster! I caught sight of our snail, Mr. Snarfles, sliding around on the glass, and started shooting.

Click a photo to enter the gallery. Hit Escape to exit!

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Restorative

My sister lives in Oakville, and she let me know that a lot of good things get thrown out on large garbage pickup. So we picked a day, and off we went! It was CRAZY! There were people with trucks grabbing things left and right. It’s a good thing we started early, or we wouldn’t have gotten anything at all.

It amazed me how much perfectly good stuff I saw on the curb. A recliner couch in great condition, tons of lawn chairs for outside, televisions, kids toys, furniture of all kinds, tables, chairs, mattresses still wrapped in plastic, and so much more!

I found two great items, and ended up fixing them up once I got them home. Both were from the Bombay – one was a bench, and the other was a beautiful bevelled mirror. I got them from two different houses, but it’s as if they were a matching set!

Once I got them home, I restored them so I could use them! Here is the story of their reincarnation, in pictures [click to open photos in gallery, hit ESC to exit the gallery]

Back on the tripod

One evening I was sitting on the balcony, enjoying the cool view from our building – and a chord was struck inside me. I grabbed my tripod (which has not been touched since being unpacked from the move) and camera (which has only been touched to retrieve the memory card from – for something else), and set myself up on the balcony for some practice with my photography skills.

The sun was setting, so my instinct was to grab an HDR of the sunset. Why? Because it’s a technique I know how to do – it’s safe.

Boring HDR sunset
Boring, safe HDR sunset

It was ok, but boring. I needed a challenge. With my tripod set up, I thought about playing with my aperture and shutter speed settings. I set out to achieve two goals:

  1. Get a photo of a light with star streaks – small aperture, long shutter speed
  2. Test shutter speeds to get streaking headlights and brake lights of cars on the highway

I started mucking around with my shutter speed and aperture – starting with the aperture being somewhere in the middle and the shutter speed being relatively fast, and changed them one by one to get the desired effect. Once the sun set, it was much easier to get results, because the light wasn’t constantly changing. I managed to get a few neat photos of streaking lights, and then lo and behold! I captured a few lamp posts with star streaks around them (check out how many I got in this pic below!). I was excited!

Long shutter speed cars with sunset
Long shutter speed cars with sunset

As I looked through my captures, I noticed I had also caught something else moving through my long shutter speed photos – a plane! After that, I set out to capture the flights taking off from the airport – long exposure. I ended up with some neat shots, but I still need to work on playing with my ISO settings and my aperture to get the best results. Here are the fruits of my discovery! [Click on a photo to enter the slide show, hit ESC to exit!]

Bacon wrapped onion rings

Whilst browsing the internet for several hours one day, I came across what I thought looked like an AMAZING idea. It was posted on Facebook by someone or other, and when I saw the description, I knew I had to try it! Bacon wrapped onion rings??? YES PLEASE.

I did some Goozling and found the recipe. Then something happened and I got distracted… and I forgot about it for about three weeks. The delightful photo and recipe appeared again in my news feed (thank goodness for the repetitiveness of sharing on Facebook) and reminded me that I was due for a food adventure!

Being the lazy lout I am, I was happy that I did not have to go to the grocery store for ingredients. In my fridge were two fresh packs of bacon (yes, I used both), lots of onions for ring-making, brown sugar,and Sriracha sauce! I had come to the end of the internet for the day, and decided to rise from my reclining computer chair and create some deliciousness.

I started by cutting the onions into rings. I left most of them two rings thick, for extra stability! Next, I brushed the onion rings with Sriracha. This might make some of you afeared, but rest assured that no matter how much Sriracha you baste onto these babies, the hotness gets baked right out of them, and you’re left only with delicious flavour.

Onion rings: Brushing on the Sriracha!
Onion rings: Brushing on the Sriracha!

The next step is to wrap the Sriracha-covered rings with bacon. It gets messy. And then you itch your eye. IT BUUUUUUURNS! But then you think of the bacon, and forge on! Affix the bacon to the onion ring with toothpicks. I found that two worked quite nicely! Do this again and again until all of your rings are wrapped. Warning: This uses a lot of bacon!

It's so beautiful *tear* (tears may have been due to Sriracha in the eye)
It’s so beautiful *tear* (tears may have been due to Sriracha in the eye)

Once all your babies onions are wrapped, dip their bacony exterior in brown sugar—be sure to get both sides, and sprinkle both liberally and willy-nilly. Sriracha, bacon, and brown sugar are GOOD FRIENDS in your tummy!

A bowl of Sriracha/Bacon complimentary brown sugar for dipping!
A bowl of Sriracha/Bacon complimentary brown sugar for dipping!
Things are starting to look amazing. When will they be done?!
Things are starting to look amazing. When will they be done?!

After this, make sure everybody is laid out on a rack. I didn’t have a rack, so I improvised by making a “rack” by creatively folding foil in little spiked rows that mimic a rack. It worked (sort of). Put your bacon buddies in the oven at 375 for 60-90 minutes (WHAT?! Yes… I know, but it’s worth it). I took them out half way to flip them, because my impromptu foil “rack” sort of failed and they were not getting brown on the bottom. And nobody likes squidgy bacon.

Whoooooaaaa.. we're half way there. Time to flip!
Whoooooaaaa.. we’re half way there. Time to flip!

If you’re actually using a rack, make sure there is a cookie sheet underneath, or you’ll RUIN your oven. The finished product:

These babies were delightful!
These babies were delightful!

I set them out on a paper towel to soak up some of the ooze and let the bacon harden up a bit. The onions inside were at melt-in-your-mouth consistency, so you need the bacon to crisp up so they retain their shape.

Once they were crisped up, we dug in! AND THEN BURNED OUT MOUTHS. Seriously, these things are burning lava hot inside. I ate a few mouth-scalding bites, breathing the fiery air of hot food, and I loved it! These things are so flavour-packed! I also spread a bagel with cream cheese, and added a couple of these puppies on top – it made an amazing bagel-wich.

So if you’ve got 90 minutes, some bacon and onions, an oven rack, and electricity – I highly recommend this recipe!
NOM NOM NOM!

The light

the-light01There’s a certain bathroom that I frequent on an infrequent basis; Usually once a week, sometimes twice. It’s a semi-public bathroom that’s used by quite a few people. Sometimes the light is on when you go in. Sometimes the light is off. But I am sometimes caught by the light (or lack thereof) with my pants down.

The owner of said bathroom has put in a special, energy-saving light switch that I like to refer to as A HORRIBLE IDEA. This light switch has a setting for OFF (off all the time), a setting for ON (on all the time), and a setting for AUTO. The AUTO setting enables a motion detector on it that turns the light on if movement is detected. If the switch is set to AUTO and you walk in, the light comes on. It will turn off after 2 minutes. Some might think this is a genius, energy-saving wonder of an idea. I do not.

When I go into the bathroom, if I remember, I will flick the switch to ON. But sometimes I forget. Maybe I’m in a rush. Maybe I just finished my third coffee and realized that I haven’t peed in five hours and my bladder is about to burst. Maybe I’m turtling and there is no time to check what position the switch is in. Sometimes I just rush in and drop trou…

the-light03It is on these occasions, in the middle of enjoying the absolute relief of release, the AUTO setting kicks in and I’m left pooping in the dark. 😐

No big deal, most would say. But they’d be wrong.
With a sad sigh in the dark, I realize I forgot to switch the light to ON. I can’t reach the switch from where I am without getting off the pot and creating a veritable mess. I wave my hands in the dark. Nothing. I wave more frantically. Nothing. I wait until my eyes adjust, and fumble for the toilet paper in the dark.

 

*FLUSH*

sabreThe only problem with these motion detectors is that they DO NOT DETECT MOTION IN THE DARK. So the entire process is counter-intuitive. Therefore, the light will only turn back on if there is light so the motion detector can see you. Since I usually go to the bathroom with the door closed, there is little to no light once the bathroom light AUTOMATICALLY turns off. So unless you’re on the throne with a set of airplane directing wands, or a light sabre – you’re SOL – Pun intended. Once, I actually had my phone with me and I was able to trip the motion detector mid-poop by turning my phone on and waving it around like an idiot. That only lasted for two minutes, and then the light went off again. More frantic phone-waving ensued until the end of my bathroom visit. Oh to be a fly on the wall watching myself.

I have come to the conclusion that these light switches are entirely redundant, and should be banned. Either that, or they should be re-designed with different labelling. HAVE PHONE, WILL WAVE (please turn the light off 1-2 minutes into my poop, so that I have a chance of dropping my phone in the toilet as I fumble in the dark – I like taking chances!), POOPING (I’ll be here for at least ten minutes, so please leave the light on forever), and USELESS (off).

Appropriate motion-detector-money-saving-annoying-when-you're-pooping light switch labels.
Appropriate motion-detector-money-saving-annoying-when-you’re-pooping light switch labels.
Poop icon credit: Mourad Mokrane from The Noun Project

A midnight beach stroll

I’m on vacation in Florida with my Mom, and we are visiting my Uncle at his condo down here. So far the trip has been great. We got rained out today, and I wondered if the storm and the waves would have swished any treasures up onto the beach. It’s hard to find intact shells here. There is a beach Zamboni (a tractor with a huge rake on it) that combs the beach every morning, ruining any chance of finding anything cool. So I thought that if went out at night after the storm and the waves, but before the Zamboni, I might have a better chance for success.

I set out with a tiny, but bright flashlight that Mom gave me, and began walking the beach. I came upon a lot of flotsam. Leaves, dead seaweed, and tons of sea-bubble-froth that is created when waves filled with pollutants crash against the sand over and over. Needless to say, it was not exactly a magical walk. It was a little bit gross. And kind of scary.

I scanned the sand with my flashlight, hoping to see a crab scuttling along, or perhaps a mother turtle making it’s way to lay it’s eggs. Maybe I would see a beached dolphin that I could help back into the water! Clearly, I have been watching too much TV, and had expectations that were ridiculously too high.

At last, after a few hundred meters of gunk, I stumbled upon a shell. It was common, but intact. It looked like it had a hole for a piercing that someone ripped it out. I brushed off the sand and pocketed it.

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Inspired by this find, and like a gambler fueled by a 300-coin win at the penny slots, I trudged on. The waves began crashing harder against the sand, pushing sandy water and flotsam over my feet. I began to walk higher on the sand. With my little flashlight swinging back and forth to reveal potential goodies, I walked, and walked, and walked.

Aha! Another shell! I turned it over on the sand. It looked relatively nice, except all of the pearlescent colouring had been worn off by time and tide. I brushed it off and walked on, hoping for something bigger and better.

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It wasn’t long before if came across the next marker on my tour-de-beach.

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I found this overzealous fish, who swam too far with the waves. He asked a friend for directions and went left instead of right. With the few last flips of his fins, he realized that the ocean was the other way, but it was too late. This is definitely the prettiest dead fish I have ever seen. Fresh carcasses, in my opinion, are the best carcasses. Remember that life lesson.

Somewhat discouraged by the lack of sea-shelly goodness, I decided not to walk too much further. But, like a hungry three-year-old who finds a moist candy in the dirt and pops it victoriously into their mouth, I put my flashlight to work and kept looking for more. My second last find is what encouraged me to walk that little bit further to find the most unexpected “brought-in-by-the-waves-treasure”.

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This little dune buggy was being pushed around on the beach by a young, Norwegian boy who was making a badly shaped sand castle by the surf. Jørgen looked up for a moment when his mother called him, and a crab snatched the dune buggy from his hand and ran away. For weeks, the giant crab, named Lars, could be seen holding the dune buggy in his pincers and driving it along the beach. Several tourists and locals tried getting it away from him with no luck. Eventually, Lars was caught off guard by a pelican, named Elvis. When Lars opened his pincers in surprise, the dune buggy was whisked away in the waves, only to resurface after the storm.

I definitely think that’s exactly how the dune buggy got there. Roll with it.

Charged up by the dune buggy score, and sure that I was going to find something spectacular soon, I adventured on (yes, that’s a word, I have decided!).

The waves crashed. The sea air filled my nostrils. Somewhere, a lone gull cried out, because he was out past dark and had lost his way home. My footsteps gently pushed the sand aside as I walked on. All of a sudden, my flashlight revealed a large lump in the sand ahead. My heart leapt – A GIANT CONCH SHELL?! As I stepped closer, I saw…

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This last beach “treasure” I came across was completely from left field. I’ve heard the saying about rats fleeing a sinking ship, but I didn’t think it actually happened. I guess this guy just didn’t make it. Or girl… Is that a nipple? I took the time to crouch down near him (or her, as the case may be) and take not one, but two photos. You never know what angle might work best.

Needless to say, that was the point at which I gave up. I walked hurriedly in the dark back across the beach, trying to avoid stepping on any broken shells that might stab my feet or anything worse I could step in. And you now know what I saw on my midnight beach stroll, so you can only imagine what else I worried that i might discover by stepping in it.

I stopped once to put my feet into the water and feel the waves on my ankles and the sand between my toes. I took a moment to breathe in the ocean air, to enjoy the peaceful waves and the quiet, empty beach.

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I’d say that all-in-all, the midnight beach stroll was a success.

Nightmare at Gingerbread Corner

A preface to my photo essay:
I love my Mom. She dropped by one day to help me out with something, and when she came to the door she had a gingerbread house kit in her hands. I’m pretty sure she can read my mind. That very week, I had seen the exact same gingerbread house kit and wanted to buy it, but didn’t. Call it Mom ESP. I thanked her and gave her a giant hug, and told her that I would be posting photos of the build. This post is my documentation of that build.

I have super powers

That’s right… I have super powers. Above and beyond my normal state of gracelessness, trips and falls, and stuffing my foot in my mouth repeatedly, I have several special talents that I believe to be super powers. Now maybe they can’t help feed the starving, or initiate world peace, but they’ve got to be good for something! Here’s the list:

  1. I can stop myself from sneezing with the power of my mind
    sneeze
  2. I can cause others to yawn by making fake yawn noises or saying ‘yawn’
    yawn
  3. I can turn off my tickle feelings at will
    tickle
  4. If I eat beef, I become a biological weapon
    beef farts
  5. I can wiggle my nose like a bunny…

What are your superpowers? We all have them…

A revealing trip to chapters

Wandering through the aisles at Chapters is something I like to do regularly. It’s nice to see what’s new on the shelves, and Chapters has a lot to offer beyond just books. Here are a few spectacular finds!

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How does one get their children to stay interested in the word of God? Enter the Flexi-Bible! It’s colorful and bright. It has tabs you can move as you read! And it’s FLEXIBLE! The textured cover adds a whole new dimension to stories like Simon and Delilah, or the famous David and Goliath.

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Probably not good for church, this battery powered pen is good for “massaging” those pressure points that need some love and attention. Send little Sally to school with this battery operated, rubber device-but don’t expect her to actually be paying attention in class. Made of flexible rubber for easy cleanup. Actually, there’s no ink in this pen….

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If you sent little Sally to school with her new vibrator pen, she might need some extra tutoring for her psychology class. Pick up this ‘Crash course in the SCIENCE OF THE MIND.’ It’s filled with psychology basics, facts, stats, tests, and more! Maybe test yourself. And if you get negative results, you have your pressure point massage pen *ahem* VIBRATOR to make things all better…

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Fill those empty Saturday afternoons with a new skill: knot tying!! Learn to tie a sailors hitch that the kids won’t get out of with this handy DVD and book set. The DVD is 180 minutes long!! Wow, I can’t wait to get started! The kit includes a 48-page book filled with illustrations, too! Nowhere on the box does it say that it includes rope. Guess you’ll be making a trip to the hardware store.

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This gem caught my eye immediately. First of all, D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love is a classic. Second of all, it’s only $4.99?? And Third of all, this has got to be the most compelling book title I’ve ever read… And then I read the back: “Women in love is D.H. Lawrence’s masterful sequel to The rainbow.. I’ve heard enough. Women in love? Rainbows? Is this the original 50 shades of Grey set, gay edition??? IM IN!

Next time you’re in Chapters, check out the sale racks, and all the nooks and crannies. Chapters doesn’t just sell books, they sell happiness.

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