Monday, September 27, 2010

An Unfortunate Ending

Mom bought me a Topsy Turvy for my birthday this spring. I admit, I kind of wanted one because we don't have a garden, nor the room for one. And since Topsy Turvy boasted wonders for the apartment-dweller, I dropped a few hints and viola! Instant tomatoes! Alright, maybe not quite that instant. My mother also gave me a packet of tomato seeds, which I planted in those little peat pods that expand when you water 'em. I planted twelve.

I was committed to these plants. I watered them. I checked every day to see if they sprouted. I demanded tomatoes. Sure, they sprouted, and grew, and turned into handsome little seedlings. Still, I demanded tomatoes. When the time was right, I gave all but two away to friends and co-workers and planted mine in my sparkly new Topsy Turvy!

I watered it diligently and fussed over it like a momma. When I brushed against the leaves, the perfumed oil wafted around me and left fragrant trailings on my skin. I was in love with having a tomato plant and was dreaming of the tomatoes I could put in salads, in pasta dishes and on burgers... sigh.

In late July it started sprouting cute little yellow blossoms, and I just knew that tomatoes were right around the corner! Then, the flowers died. No tomatoes. Maybe my plant's just a late bloomer, I thought. Plant puberty. I begged with my tomato plant. Nay, pleaded with it! Please give me tomatoes! I asked my friends & co-workers; most of theirs were doing well, no issues. Mom's tomatoes were doing just okay, up to the point they were eaten by ninja deer, attacking in the dead of night. Even the neighbor down the street had lovely-looking tomato plants with gorgeous greenery cascading from their inverted homes!

Finally! In mid-August, my poor, scrawny pre-pubescent plant sprouted four tiny, green tomatoes! Jumpy-claps!! I was so excited, I had to drag Blake out to see them. All my hard work and mothering was finally paying off! Daily I would check the rest of the plant but unfortunately, only those four were the only tomatoes that I had so far. But what beauties! Those little orbs continued to grow and ripen until two of them looked good enough to eat:

Okay... almost good enough to eat. I gave them a few more days and then I unceremoniously plucked them from their vine. Beautiful and crimson. Have I eaten them yet? No. It just feels wrong! All that work for two mere tomatoes. I want them to last but we all know they won't!

So this is where I stand. Two little red tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter, just waiting to be gobbled up. Currently, one of the remaining fruits is starting to ripen. I have no hope for the rest of the plant, although it continues to produce little yellow flowers. When we leave in a week for New Mexico, I must let it go. Maybe the simple fact is that not all tomatoes like to hang by their roots. Maybe all the blood rushed to their heads.

An Unfortunate Ending, indeed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"If it's not Scottish..."

Extra points if you can finish the rest of the quote. ;)

On September 11th we drove up to Estes Park with our good friends, A & J to attend the Longs Peak Scottish/Irish Highland Festival. 'Twas a lovely day, sunny, breezy and not too warm. I've been going to this for years, sometimes with Mom, sometimes with girlfriends, but mostly with Blake.

Although it's a long walk to the park, you can hear the bagpipes from a hefty distance. When you do finally get in, action fills your senses. The sights: beautiful mountains, drums, tents holding neato merchandise under their white peaks. The smells: Cinnamon pecans, funnel cakes, roasting meat. The sounds: Celtic rock concerts, pipe bands marching, drummers & pipers jamming, just for the fun of making music together.

Pipe Band Competition...

The Irish getting in on some of the action... (Identifiable by the orange kilts. Scottish ones are waaayyy prettier!!)

We ate good food (ever have a scotch egg? Yummm), drank good beer - or at least Blake did, he had his Smithwick's, shopped around in the merchants tents (or at least as much as two bored men would let us), and best of all, caught a couple great acts in the concert tent: The Tartan Terrors and Albannach. Both bands were as different as night and day. The Tartan Terrors, who were new this year, were more traditional in their music, and they told some great jokes: "What do you call 500 Englishmen at the bottom of the ocean?" "A good start!"

Albannach, on the other hand, is very primitive and raw in their sound and appearance. They all play huge drums and they have only one piper who ranks among the world's best! If there was a band that summed up the Scottish Highlands it would be them. (Historically, folks who lived in the Scottish Lowlands were very prim, proper and often were sympathizers to the english, while the folks who lived in the Highlands were much more rustic and rural and stubborn) They dress in very primitive and ancient tartans and plaids, they grow their hair out, and their sound is very simple and organic. Drums and pipes were used centuries ago in battle to keep up soldier morale and intimidate the enemy; I would imagine that if it sounds like Albannach, then it would be pretty effective!

Albannach is crazy popular here, and everyone goes nuts when they take the stage, so I got off the best pic I could without ticking off the other photogs behind me!

A young, tailed concert-goer...

Tiny Dancer. She looks like she knows what she's doing!

We also checked out the DeLorean Show. When's the next time in our lives that we'll see 7 DeLoreans in one place? It was pretty awesome.

While we enjoyed our time there, we were all getting tired. It was getting late and we still had to stop by Jose O'Shea's Mexican Restaurant, as is our custom after the Festival. So we slowly ambled to the car and zoned on the ride back to Denver.

Here's one last photo. Since we went on 9/11 it was a bittersweet day. The festival always has some kind of a tribute to those who lost their lives that fateful Tuesday. Please never forget!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Dry Run

In preparation for our fabulous trip to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta next month, we decided to do a "dry run" to test out lighting for the nighttime balloon glow. Once again, Blake came thru for us! He found that Colorado Springs, which is about 60 miles south of the Denver area, holds an annual balloon festival over Labor Day weekend. So, once again, we packed up the camera and headed out. I swear Pearl cursed us under her breath as we left.

When we arrived and walked into the park, Sony was there with their huge Playstation rig. Of course, we had to go check it out and wouldn't you know it? They had the Move all set up just for you-know-who. I guess I have no excuses now. Blake, just act surprised on Christmas morning; that's all I'm saying.

Before long, the balloon crews started to arrive and unpack. Some crews had trailers, which had mini cranes to unload the gondola and envelope!

Oh. Wait.

What was that? What the heck's an envelope, you say? Hold on.

The pretty, colored part is called the envelope. The basket, or gondola, is where the people go. There's way more to it than that, but for now that's all that you need to know.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Before the balloon is unpacked, the crew has to put a tarp down to protect the nylon from dirt, rocks, sticks and other things that might ruin it. This is a lovely, patriotic example.

Next, the propane tanks are attached to the gondola and are tested.

Then, we wait till dark.

It's a long wait.

You people-watch, then take pictures of your husband, the mountains, clouds, cute little kids running around, and the random Volkswagen Bug car show.

Then, when it's almost too dark to see the person in front of you, the real action begins! the envelopes unfurl, the fans to blow them up are brought out, and the crew starts pulling on ropes! Action is everywhere! Those who sat too close to the tarps are asked to move, and those who take their time are barked at by the pilots and rope-holders.

And, finally, before we know it, we're in business!

The gondolas are hooked up when the balloon gets high enough and the pilot fills the envelope with hot air. Hence, the glow!!

Some of my pics might be blurry... when one takes night pictures with little to no light for exposure one normally has a tripod with them. I did not have a tripod, thus my pictures look a bit fuzzy. Just think of them as action shots instead of the result of poor planning!

It was a magical night. At first I just held on to Blake's arm, mesmerized. I completely forgot I had a camera!

Corporate sponsorship!

Kissing balloons!

The announcers/emcees told us about the balloons, conducted countdowns, from 1 to 10, from 10 to 1, in Spanish, in Japanese, maybe in French too. There are only so many ways to count for 2 hours and keep it interesting!! And it was so warm on the field, with all the burners going off. I think we were both sweating it towards the end. We stayed until the balloons started coming down and crews started packing up.

We had decided to go back down in the morning, so at 6 am we dragged our tired butts out of bed, threw on some clothes, ignored Pearl's bleary-eyed glare and hit the road again; stopping, of course, at Starbucks. We arrived at the park in the Springs at 7 am, only to find out that they had deemed the cool, dawn air to be too breezy to lift off. So we decided that instead of turning around and going home, we'd tour the glorious Garden of the Gods in the early light. We took some mighty pretty photos!

Kissing Camels.

Buffalo Rock. Not sure that's the official name, but I like naming things.

Craggy, red, rocky beauty.

The Balancing Rock.

By then, the coffee was making it's way through our systems, so we decided to call it a morning. We found a breakfast place in Manitou Springs, relaxed, reflected on our morning, then headed back home. And our heads hit our pillows. And most of all, Pearl was happy!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The only way to *really* see the zoo

Yeah, I know. "Oh, boy, the zoo. Everyone's been to the zoo. Blah, blah, blah." Kinda like going to Casa Bonita (for those of you who are not familiar with Denver and the local joke, when you have company from out of town you see the mountains, the zoo and Casa Bonita ). But Blake found a way to see the zoo without the heat, the crowd and the noise. He found info on the Denver Zoo's website about a photography opportunity where you bring along your camera and have pretty much full access to the zoo for really cool pictures. And it's early morning, 7 am, so the lighting is diffused and the light/dark contrasts are much greater. And, when we went, there were only 18 other people! Can you imagine all the animals you hear when there are only a handful of people in the park?! Blake was my camera caddy for the morning, toting around the tripod, the telephoto & wide-angle lenses... he was a trooper! Thanks, Honey, for lugging all that around while I got to have fun! Here are the fruits of my labor (and Blakey's):

Yipes! Stripes!

Mountain Goat... I can only assume this one's a teenager...

The lonely life of a Hobo Peacock.

A Flamboyant Flamingo!

See the chick? Normally, the zookeepers raise chicks, but I guess they experimented with this little guy; he gets to live with his momma! He's about a week old here.

Caught a pelican in a "reflective" moment.


Hyacinth Macaw

Red-Tailed Hawk

We went inside to get some aquarium pics... here's one of my favorites!

If I didn't put in a Bald Eagle, Blake would be very put-out.
(Ignore big stupid stick- I asked the eagle if he would move where I could take a better pic of him but he laughed at me)

And, for the Grand Finale, the rare and reclusive...
Atrum Bene Blakeus.