Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sometimes a photographer just gets lucky

Click to enlarge and you'll see what I mean
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Visit Wordless Wednesday to see who else got lucky this week.
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Monday, June 29, 2009

Ball Pit

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There is lots of red (and yellow and green and orange) to be found at the ball pit. At 5.5, Maya still loves to play in these, alternating between jumping in geronimo-style and pelting balls wildly in every direction. I love to watch her obvious delight in doing it, too, especially as it detracts me from wondering just why my sock was all wet after my last excursion into one about a year ago. Thankfully my kids are old enough that I no longer have to go in to rescue them (or drag them out when it's time to go!). After that last experience though, they should count themselves lucky that I let them go in at all, although they probably do wonder why their fairly laidback mom goes all psycho-germ-crazy whenever they get out.
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Eventually they'll be too old to want to play in ball pits, I don't want to rush that growing up any more than I have to, but in the meantime for the sake of my sanity I have chosen to firmly believe that the mystery liquid was simply water from someone's spilled sippy cup.
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That's my story and I'm sticking to it. If there's another version, I don't want to know about it!
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At least they still make good photo opps.
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Concentric circles


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A natural monochrome from me this week - this is the top of a storage box currently residing under my daughter's (not at all black and white or geometric) bed. I like the way the circles almost seem to float off the black background. Sometimes they look like rows of bullseyes to me, other times like a cartoon-style alien invasion, or just a geometric progression. Either way, they make me smile.
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I hope they make you smile too.
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Summer Stock Sunday #5 - Park Nachshonit

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I can't believe we're in our fifth week already, summer is really racing along.
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This past week Maya had her class trip to
Park Nachshonit, a local motor/water park (link is Hebrew only, but it's pretty self-explanatory if you're curious). It's a fantastic place, chock full of water slides, go carts, bumper boats, full of the stuff of kids' dreams. It would be even better if they enforced any kind of maximum capacity regulations - crowded didn't even come close to describing the congestion. The main pool was like kid soup, with occasional drops of water between the bodies! As you can see the overcrowding didn't slow the kids down at all, though it did grate on the adults' nerves just a bit...

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You can barely make out Maya flying out of the slide on this next one, but I'm including it so you can see how completely insane the crowding really was (I won't even tell you how many shots of other people's kids I ended up with trying for this one). During June the park is open only to organized school groups, it won't open to the general public until next week. The day we were there there was a HUGE group, buses and buses worth, of children and parents from some nearby Muslim school - the women were mainly quite traditional, wearing headscarves and long dresses. That didn't stop some of them from getting right in the water with their kids though, dresses and all.
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We took a "break" from the madness of the pool for a bit to wait on long hot lines for a two minute spin in various boats and cars. Luckily it was soon too much for Maya (it had been too much for me after the first five minutes) and we quickly retreated back to the cool water of the pool.
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Quite unusually for Israel I even saw one young mother with her face veiled while we were there. The sight of this woman, completely covered in a black abaya with just her eyes showing, carrying a brightly colored plastic swim ring, struck me as so incongruous that I had to sneak a quick picture. It was well into the 90's the day we were at the park and even in a sleeveless cotton sundress I thought I was going to melt. I'm a bit claustrophobic too, so I cannot bear to imagine what it must be like to be be covered in so much dark, heavy fabric.
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As for me, I spent most of the day in the water with my daughter, and was just happy to have a cool place to pass the time, kid soup and all. (We won't mention the somewhat less than elegant entrance I made into the water, when I stepped off the edge not realizing I was standing by the deeper water. I went straight down, ass over teakettle, sunglasses and all. Just call me Grace.)
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School's out for my two this Tuesday and then summer starts in earnest - we can't wait!
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What's been on your summer agenda this week? Inquiring minds want to know...
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Moonrise

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I took this shot off of my rooftop patio a few weeks ago. It was amazing, the moon had just cleared the horizon when I went out. When I came back in about half an hour later it was already high in the sky and not nearly as orange looking.
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Visit Skywatch Friday for hundreds of other skies from around the world, and then see you back here at midnight Saturday (Israel time, that's 22:00 on the continent and 5:00pm EDT) for Summer Stock Sunday. The weather's really heating up and summer is in full swing, so keep those cameras out to capture all those special summer memories!
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Diversions

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I'm having an immensely stressful day, and the promise of another one tomorrow. When things get really bad I tend to withdraw from human contact and look for something to occupy my brain while the rest of me goes on autopilot.
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Tonight it was post-processing.
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I screwed up the settings on a few photos from Maya's class trip yesterday (more on that to follow this weekend as this week's
Summer Stock post) and decided to play around a bit and see if I could salvage anything. It will still never be an award-winning shot, but it's at least now you can actually see her face.
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From this:
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To this:
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And now I think it's time for a good long soak in the hot tub. Send a few good thoughts our way, would you? We got blindsided today and need a solution to a major problem. I won't rest until I've got the answer I demand, and that we are owed, but it's got the potential to get very stressful in the interim. Sorry to be cryptic, I just don't have the energy to get into it all again right now. I'll fill everyone in soon.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Maya's new room!

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All images this week are straight out of the camera and "unclickable" - I'm too tired to do anything more and a glass of wine is beckoning.
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From this (cute when new but now completely destroyed, as was everything else in the room):
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To this:
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(Maya's crap all piled up in the spare room)
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(repainting room without worrying about the disgustingly stained old carpet which was about to be ripped up anyway)
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And then to this (pictures, etc. to be hung later):
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And then her parents took a nap.
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Visit Wordless Wednesday for more (nearly) wordless images.
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Monday, June 22, 2009

He flies through the air with the greatest of ease

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He makes it look so easy, doesn't he?
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Look here for your weekly dose of ruby red, and here for more shots of paragliders and the amazing location they were flying over.
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I may be a bit late getting around to everyone this week. We're in peak "end of year insanity" mode. Itai's class had an end of the year pool party tonight, Maya's class trip (one parent per kid) is all day tomorrow, Wednesday I've got still more dental work (fun fun) and hopefully a few hours free to actually, I don't know, work for a living. Thursday Itai needs to be driven to and from a birthday party twenty minutes away and Maya's having a friend over for a playdate, and then Friday morning is Itai's end of year ceremony in school. Oh, and somehow in the middle of all this we decided that this was the perfect week to renovate Maya's room. (Hear that noise? That was my head exploding.) The worst of it is over now that it's been painted, carpeted and the furniture delivered and assembled, but that still leaves restocking all of the toys, books and clothing that are currently in piles all over my house. Oh, and getting rid of the old broken down dresser that's still standing in the living room. (Here that other noise? That was what was left of my head exploding again. Work out my stress you say? Gym you say? What is this gym of which you speak? I vaguely remember that I used to know of a place by that name. Forget the gym, it will probably be Thursday before I can even find the time to jump back on the elliptical machine I have right in my living room. Again with the living room. Doesn't this woman store anything anywhere else? Answer: nope, not really. Joys of city living...)
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Phew. No wonder I need a nap.
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Looking for me?

I'm over at A Mother in Israel's today, guest posting about free and inexpensive day trips and staycation ideas in Israel. Go on over and share your ideas for ways to beat the summer heat.

While you're over there, I'll be over here learning how to use my very cool new toy - I just won a license for Unified Color's HDR PhotoStudio from Petapixel, a terrific new blog about all things digital photography. I am really excited to get started, I've been itching to try my hand at HDR (high dynamic range imaging) for a long time, and thanks to Michael Zhang over at Petapixel now I can!

Squeeeee!!! (or something else much more intelligent and a lot less squeeky sounding)
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer Stock Sunday #4 - It's not all fun and games

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Maya coming, Itai going
Click to enlarge all photos
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... at the swimming pool that is.
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Both of my kids are taking swimming lessons this year - three times a week for four weeks, more if they need it.

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Itai probably won't need extra sessions, he already knows how to swim and is just working on technique and dabbling in the backstroke.
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Maya, who never had lessons before this year, is taking things a bit more slowly (now there's an understatement). While she loves (loves!) the water and jumps in like a regular little fish, putting everything she's learning together in a way that will keep her head above water is proving to be a bit more challenging. Ahem.

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Unlike in the US, where children are first taught the crawl, beginning swimmers here in Israel are taught the breaststroke first (since it's a "survival" stroke, rather than a "sport" stroke, according to their teacher), which drives me utterly crazy since it seems to me like a much harder stroke to teach a young child (and is also why many swimming teachers here won't take children younger than six). It certainly is harder for Maya, who at age 5 1/2 has been propelling herself around a pool with a swim ring just fine for years now thankyouverymuch - she's now got the idea of the frog kick down pat but she's working so hard on trying to really open up the kick and then close her feet quickly (forgive the awkward construction, I'm trying hard to avoid saying "open her legs wide and then slam them together" since that sounds unseemly for a five year old, but I'm failing miserably at finding an equally descriptive alternative) that she doesn't have any power behind her stroke. This means that she's constantly being pushed against the side of the pool without any room to do those wide kicks and the problem perpetuates itself. We're working on it. She's down to one little floatie now, but when the teacher tried to remove that one she basically sunk like a stone, her kicks insufficient to keep her head above water.
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Maya was also having trouble focusing in the (quite small) group lessons and the teacher wasn't sure she should stay, but she was so happy to be in the "big kid swimming lessons" that I really didn't want to pull her out, so I got him to agree to have me "shadow" her from the side of the pool to keep her on track. With me right next to her she's at least staying on plan, if not succeeding wildly at powering through the water (that's another one of those understatements). Now personally I don't care if she doesn't learn to swim without floaties by the end of the session and I'm certainly not looking for any Olympic records here, but I do care very much that she continues to enjoy both the lessons and being in the water in general and as long as that's the case it's all good. She'll learn at her own pace, if not this year then next. Anything beyond that is gravy, though given my choice I would prefer for her to realize that having your head sink below the water is not ideal and is in fact a damn good time to start kicking for the surface.
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So if you've been wondering why nearly all of my Summer Stock photos have been water-related, it's because that's pretty much been our theme so far this summer - all water, all the time. Well that and redoing Maya's room, but that's still a work-in-progress so you'll have to wait another week or two for those photos.
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What's on your summertime agenda this week? Sign the linkie and let us know, and as always, thanks for playing along here at Summer Stock. This project wouldn't be nearly as much fun without all of you.
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Me, in bullets

  • Knees are getting better. The only unusual thing I did yesterday was about five minutes of reverse direction in the middle of my elliptical workout, so I'm betting it was that.
  • Mouth and teeth hurt from today's dental work, but I had them tweak the anesthesia so I didn't react as badly as last week
  • Had an early 40th birthday celebration with a bunch of close friends - girl-style picnic (heavy on the veggies, no meat), wine, bread and cheese, fruit, and a FABULOUS chocolate cake, a soak in the hot tub, AND they gave me a gorgeous black purse that I desperately needed and really really wanted - god I love my friends
  • It's 1:30am now, I have GOT to get to sleep
  • I have dozens of comments I want to respond to, but my eyes keep closing
  • Did I mention that the chocolate cake was amazing?
  • Have a great skywatch photo, but I'm too tired to post it so saving it for next week
  • God that cake was good
  • There's more but my eyes won't stay open. It was probably about cake.
  • Maybe I'll dream about cake
  • Oh yeah, we're also right in the middle of redoing Maya's room. She's camping on the floor in Itai's room for the next few nights.
  • It's a mess - her room is stripped and her old furniture is piled up in my living room.
  • It looks like I'm living in a warehouse
  • That cake was really, really good
  • I'm still way too tired to post coherently
  • I'm sure none of you are able to tell
  • Okay, okay, I'm getting the message
  • Goodnight everyone, and don't forget to stop by this weekend for Summer Stock!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jerusalem's Cardo

Click to enlarge

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My knees feel like they're on fire. I really don't think I overdid it today, I did work out in the gym but nothing beyond the usual, and the rest of the day was just the normal chaos that is my life, but right in the middle of the kids' swimming lesson I suddenly gasped in pain. Obviously I did something, since I can't walk, crouch, squat or heaven forbid climb stairs. On a good day I have the knees of a ninety year old and have been through more rounds of doctors visits, x-rays and physical therapy than I care to count, but this feels a bit different. First off it's both knees at the same time, which is unusual in and of itself, and the pain is in a slightly different place. Basically it feels like someone whacked me across the knees with a metal bar, but to the best of my knowledge that has not in fact happened (I'm not even running from the mob) so I have no freaking idea why I'm suddenly out of commission. I've taken a couple of ibuprofen and hopefully all will be well again in the morning.
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All this is a short not so short ridiculously long way of telling you that all you're going to get out of me today is a photo. No long-winded stories or fascinating anecdotes, I'm off to bed where I'm going to put my feet up and hope for the best.
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If you are curious, this naturally sepia (see, taking the easy way out again) photograph is of Jerusalem's Cardo - a 6th century Byzantine street - you can read more about it here and here.
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See you this weekend for Summer Stock Sunday!
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Old City "Bagele" Cart

click to enlarge
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Visit Jerusalem Wordless Wednesday to see what other people aren't saying this week.
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Monday, June 15, 2009

Sittin' on the dock of the bay

Click to enlarge (this one really benefits from it)
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Sort of. More like sitting on the breakwater by the ancient harbor, but that doesn't quite fit the lyric you've already started humming now, does it?
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You have to look carefully to spot the red this week, but it's there. These two guys brought a red-lidded cooler with them to the rocky beach below Apollonia. From up above I couldn't tell if it held beer or bait, but I didn't see any fishing gear so I'm thinking they were just out enjoying the sun and the sea. The water must have been shallower on the righthand side too, it was a much lighter color, almost a pale green to the left side's dark blue.
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This shot would have been great for Summer Stock too, don't you think? Don't know what I'm talking about? Look here to find out, and then be sure to come back Sunday and play along.
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Foo'ing" the grandpa flowers

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To "foo" is Hebrew-kid slang for blow (air! to blow air - get your minds out of the gutters) - children foo their food when it's too hot, foo the candles on their birthday cakes, and foo the "grandpa flowers".
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As always, more monochrome shots can be found at Aileni's. Be sure to check out his highlights from last week's entrants as well - there are some truly wonderful photographs there.
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Summer Stock Sunday #3 - Our New Toy

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Our new toy isn't strictly a summertime toy, more of a year-rounder, but since we got it in the beginning of the summer and are spending many summer days (and nights!) in and around it - and since it involves summer clothing - I figure it works for Summer Stock. I'm a risk-taker that way.
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This particular toy was a long time coming. I've wanted one for as long as I can remember. Ever since my parents waited until I moved halfway across the world to put in one of their own in fact. (Wasn't that sweet of them? Wait until the kids leave then start living it up! Yeah, that's what I thought. What do you mean supporting kids is expensive, and they didn't have any extra disposable income until their two leaches kids moved out? How is that fair I ask you?)

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The very first time we came to look at this flat back when we were househunting I took one look at the completely empty rooftop patio and said "there! That's the spot for the hot tub." It took twelve more years (and a very large and scary crane capable of reaching the ninth floor) to turn that dream into reality but at long last it has, and oh boy are we enjoying it.
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Click to enlarge
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The most fun was the fact that we didn't tell the kids anything until it was actually standing on the roof ready for use. At first we didn't want to deal with the atomic-level disappointment that would result if the structural engineer said it was a no-go, and then we figured that heck, we've kept it a secret this long, why not a few more days. So we did.
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And this is what happened when they found out:
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video

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I think it was a hit, don't you?
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What are you all up to this fine summer week? Got those hot dogs and steaks on the grill? Cold beer in the cooler? Planning a vacation somewhere, or a fabulous staycation? Don't forget to sign the linkie once your Summer Stock post is up so we can all share some summertime fun.
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Mistakes

Eating half a very large package of carrot sticks and a ridiculous amount of (semi)lowfat onion dip in one sitting as your dinner is a mistake. A very bad mistake. Even if you had dental work yesterday and had to eat soft food, and so really really wanted those carrot sticks today. Even if that were true, and I'm not admitting anything, it would still be a very bad mistake.

Must. Not. Do. Again.

Ever.

(Aren't you glad I shared?)
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Now you see it...

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... now you don't.
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Click to enlarge

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I've taken a break from Old City windows this week to bring you a Crusader window (and a naturally sepia one at that), and what a view they had! I like too the juxtaposition of the old and the new - looking out through a window built hundreds of years ago to see a modern speedboat zooming by. That contradiction is actually one of the things I like best about Israel - the way the ancient coexists happily with the ultra-modern. Like I said the other day, you never know quite what you're going to find here, and that's half the fun of it all.
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Don't worry though, all you Old City fans, there are still a lot more Old City photos to come, or have a look through my recent archives for the ones you missed the first time around.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Star light, star bright

Sorry folks, I forgot to change the link (again, I have a real mental block against this apparently). This week's WW can be found here.

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Click to enlarge
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Visit Wordless Wednesday to see what other people aren't saying this week.
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Caution WHAT crossing?!?

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Click any photo to enlarge
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I spotted this little red sign at the top of an Old City (Jerusalem) alleyway, just inside the Jaffa Gate. Odd place for a "tractor crossing" sign I thought to myself, and quickly snapped a photo. It was more than a little incongruous, since the alley in question looked like this:
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(alley shots were taken from the bottom looking up)
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Imagine my surprise a few minutes later when I saw this:
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What you can't see in this shot is that this little tractor was also pulling a small trailer behind it too. Turns out, this is how garbage is collected in the rabbit's warren back alleys of the Old City. Ingenious and quite unexpected. I didn't actually see him go up the steps so perhaps he just backed out again, though I can't imagine it would be all that much easier to try and back that rig up and around in those tiny streets.
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Heh. You learn something new every day. Jerusalem is just full of surprises.
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Stylized Lampshade

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This is a closeup of a painted lampshade I saw in a Jerusalem restaurant a few weeks ago. The actual fixture was painted a somewhat sickly shade of green, fairly unattractive in fact, but the abstract lines struck a chord in me and the original photo held on and managed to avoid landing in the circular file (can we still call it that now that it's all just electrons zipping invisibly around inside a plastic box?). A bit of playing around in photoshop and it's got a new lease on life as a monochrome abstract.

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Still not great art (I'm not sure any amount of photoshopping could elevate that ugly a thing to that status) but intriguing in its own way. I'm not sure I'm quite done with it yet. I think this little scribble still has more to show me. Perhaps, in time, it will.
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Summer Stock Sunday #2 - Swimming, Swimming...

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Click to enlarge
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We had a great day at the pool today. The kids were especially happy for a day to just mess around - no swimming lessons. And yes, since I know many of you must be wondering bathing caps are required at most community pools in Israel for anyone with long hair, which is pretty much every girl in the country. Luckily they don't bother the moms too much if your hair is up and you're not actively swimming (laps or underwater). I really REALLY hate wearing mine (it's uncomfortable and makes me look remarkably like a weeble (remember them? they wobble but don't fall down? big round heads? yup, that's me in a bathing cap.) so I only wear it if I'm swimming laps, which I don't do all that often. I also really need to find the time to pick up new goggles for both kids - Maya adores her little flower ones but they're much too small, making her scrunched up eyes look swollen, as if she's got a raging case of pink eye, and Itai's have started leaking enough to be annoying.
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Oh, and while we're on the subject of slacker mothers who don't buy their children properly fitting goggles, I obviously don't take them for haircuts often enough either - if I don't get Itai a haircut soon they're going to start making HIM wear a bathing cap, a transgression for which I suspect he'd never forgive me. (Luckily you can't see Maya's bangs under that bathing cap, because she too is in the running for at least a bronze medal in the Sheepdog of the Year competition.)
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So what have you all been up to this fine summer week?
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Come play along - add the link to your own Summer Stock post below to join in the fun.
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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Another Old City Window

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Geez, is this woman ever going to run out of Old City shots to post?
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Answer: Not for a while yet - it's just too photogenic, I couldn't help myself, I probably shot 300 photos in an afternoon. (Not to worry, I won't subject you to all most some a few of them.)

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I took this shot with
Window Views in mind, but the old stones seemed a natural fit for Sepia Scenes as well so I tried the shot both ways.
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Personally, I still like the full-color shot the best. I think the grime and the rust keep that element of reality and contribute to the feeling of the image as a tiny corner of the world that time forgot.
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Which one do you prefer?
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Summer Stock Sunday is off and running - see you there!
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jerusalem's Old City - A Study In Contrasts

Click to enlarge.
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Look here for more photos of Jerusalem's fascinating Old City as well as some very surprising Mediterranean scenery, and then visit Wordless Wednesday to see what other people aren't saying this week.
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Monday, June 1, 2009

Church of the Holy Sepulcher - Interior

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Yesterday I showed you a tiny piece of the Church's interior - today it's time to fill in the blanks a bit.
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(Click to enlarge all photos except this first one - I have no idea why this one alone is not clickable)
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These lamps (at least I think they're lamps) hang over the stone you see in the previous photo.
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I love all these small hanging lamps in the Orthodox section of the Church. I don't know if they have a particular religious significance (if you know please tell me, I'm curious) but they're certainly graceful to look at, especially when they're hung in large groups like these.
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No matter what your personal belief system, Jerusalem is sure to delight. Wherever you go there is something wonderful just waiting to be discovered around the next corner. Come see for yourselves one day - and then tell me about your discoveries over a cup of coffee around the island.
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Visit Mary the Teach for more ruby red goodness.
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