iPhoneography: Baby got books

8 12 2017

Yep, she sure does! (Love my new supersize mug)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. iPhone 6s / Snapseed app effect & border)

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FAVE: Literary classics poster-ized

20 01 2012

Yesterday I received a lovely comment from blogger Ben Cohen-Leadholm. Ben’s website, My Family Activities, “helps parents claim their mojo through family activities that don’t suck.” Do check out his site if you have children and have, as Ben frames it, “pretty much stopped growing as a person independent of your children.” The site showcases a plethora of interesting family activities as well as great interviews with parents who have “kept their mojo intact” despite having children.

In his comment on this blog, Ben sent me links items that he thought might be of interest to me and I really loved this one—posters with great works of literature dropped into a silhouette shape pertaining to that particular subject. I also like the clever name of the UK company that produces them—Spineless Classics. Click “browse” on their site to see the many other titles available. Below are The House of the Baskervilles and Peter Pan.

I am so bookmarking this site! (I can order every one of them when I win a lottery and build a house where the library takes up half of the square footage. I’m off to buy a ticket because, in the words of Ed McMahon, “remember, you can’t win if you don’t enter!”)

Check out Ben’s review of this wonderful product on his website here. I wish I had the space to include several in my library—but that would entail getting rid of bookcases and books in order to make room for them!

Below is Ben’s comment, along with other links he suggested. Thanks for the comment and the links, Ben. I’m adding your site to my blogroll.

What a terrific site, Cindy! So glad to have found it. You have wonderful taste and a great diversity of interests. My main focus is fun, unique family activities, but I also keep an eye out for compelling design that’s relevant to parents. Here are some things I thought might interest you: great works of literature on single poster sheet, beautiful and crafty wall murals for kids’ rooms, impressive pirate ship kids’ room. Thanks again for sharing your own content! Love it! Cheers, Ben





Alas, poor Borders, I knew you…

16 11 2011

I was at Home Depot last week, parked in the upper level garage, when I noticed this guy in a cherry picker removing the last vestiges of our local Borders. The last evidence that it ever existed. We frequented this Borders for so many years. It was our place to go after dinner on Saturday nights. Sometimes we would be out riding around and we would say at the same time, “Wanna go to Borders?” When our friends Carmen and George still lived in Virginia, we would go to dinner (usually Mexican at El Paso) and straight to Borders afterward—scattering in four different directions, then returning with an armload of books.

Borders enticed me to part with my money many a time, but I have a confession to make. More often than not, I only purchased when I possessed a 40 or 50% coupon or if there was a discount book that I simply had to have off their remainder racks. Okay, I confess. I’m a magazine junkie, too, so it was not uncommon for me to go in and spend $40 on photography, craft and gardening magazines in one visit—until I buckled down and learned to subscribe to them cheaper. I was just one of the many bookstore regulars who would occasionally look at a book, write down the title and price, then go order it for 25-40% less on Amazon. For this, Borders, I apologize. However, I talked to one of your loyal salespeople and she told me it was poor management that got you in the end. That relieved me of at least some of my guilt. (Although truth be told, I contributed to your success for many years—it’s not my fault you chose to squander it recklessly!)

So, as a tribute to you, dearly departed Borders, I offer my Top 10 Memories (in no particular order) throughout the years.

Memory #1: Borders in Tysons Corner, one summer evening. Scores of coffee table books stacked up against the windows. Each marked with that lovely red triangular-shaped sticker—$1. $1? It can’t be. Gorgeous color books on every subject imaginable (some interesting, some not so much). I promptly buy one of each. Yes, you read that right. One of each. It takes four trips for me and Michael to carry my loot out of the store. Most topics were of interest to me; those that were not could surely be gifts for someone else, no? It is my fondest moment shopping at Borders. We would go on to find other instances where beautiful books were marked that low, but this excursion was magnificent in its quality and range of subjects. It certainly doesn’t help that in my profession, I’ve actually designed books on numerous occasions—I’ve been known to buy a book solely for its brilliant presentation. Besides, who doesn’t need an oversized book about the history of the John Deere tractor for just $1? I still have dents in my forearms from holding overstuffed plastic carts while in line. Truly good management would have provided those little mini-grocery carts for biblioholics like me. I’m just sayin’.

Memory #2: Michael catches up on his zzzzzz’s in a public forum—ah, fond memories of finalizing my (seemingly random) selection for the evening, then heading to find Michael. Where would I find him tonight? Battling cyborgs in the science fiction aisle? Woodworking? Contemplating learning more about the harmonica, lap harp or guitar? Considering hydroponics or welding as a sideline? Pondering on whether we already owned this particular one-pot cookbook? Honing his wilderness survival skills in the nature section? Having an overpriced coffee and skimming through books he didn’t plan on purchasing in the coffee shop? Wherever he was, he would invariably be nested in a comfy chair, head bowed, an open computer book in his lap. Asleep.

Memory #3: When we first learned just a few of our area Borders were closing, we took advantage of the closing sales. As usual, the discounts came painfully slow, seemingly like this: Now going out of business—everything in the store—10% off (Really Borders? 10%? How bad do you really want to close?), then week after week finally progressing to 60 then 70% off. Thank you for finally breaking the 70% barrier and filling in those gaps on my shelves (as if there were any gaps).

One would think there wouldn’t be much to choose from at that point. Au contraire! We are fascinated by virtually any subject (just call me a bower bird). Of course, there are exceptions—anything mathematical immediately sends me back to painful days in college, wondering how I could finagle a diploma without passing math that final year. I did graduate (bless her little heart) and it did not involve special favors to any professor—although if you had told me at the time that it was the only way I would graduate, I am not ashamed to admit I would have given it serious thought. I am fairly adept at many things; aptitude with numerals isn’t one of them.

Memory #4: My father was the bearer of the bad news: All Borders were closing. Deep down, I subconsciously knew it was coming. Mercy, I was in such denial. No Borders? Where would we buy an overprized hot chocolate with yummy foam, white chocolate shavings and that cute little chocolate stick in the middle (even in the summer)? Where else could I buy yet another obscure cookbook for just $1.99? I still possess A Taste of Eritrea (really, Cindy?) among my culinary tomes. This is particularly funny, given that I cook maybe once a month and only if you can catch me in that kind of domestic mood.

Michael and I hit every single still-open Borders once the discount got to 60% and higher. Our best purchases were three short chrome bar stools covered in black pleather. Now we have some of the Borders coffee shop ambiance in my craft room. And you know those black plastic divider labels with the circular tags that stick out from each section? I scored a complete set for my own library—one for each letter in the alphabet. Just 25 cents each! (You do the math; you know how I am with numbers.)

Memory #5: Borders was one of the first stores (to my recollection) that let you listen to the music of select artists. I fell in love with Eva Cassidy’s voice when she was a staff selection and I eventually bought everything she recorded in her short life. Thanks for introducing me to Tingstad and Rumbel, Cheryl Wheeler, Katie Melua, Lara Fabian and Tina Arena as well.

Memory #6: Free coffee grounds for my garden. Thank you for enriching my little paradise for so many years, Borders.

Memory #7: Lindt white chocolate balls, impulse buys at checkout. 3 for $1. I was visiting my family one Christmas and my dad and I went to a Borders. I bought three and handed him one. He hadn’t ever had one and the look on his face when he bit into one was priceless. All he said, with his voice trembling, was “oooooooooooooohhhhhhh.” I only had one complaint, Borders. When you sell them 3 for $1 and there are two people involved, it’s virtually impossible to evenly split that third one without getting greedy with the oozy (and best) part!

Memory #8: Ah, love me some 40-50% off coupons in my e-mail. And Borders Bucks. And Borders Rewards Plus. And free drink coupons. They may have been part of why you went out of business, Borders, but they did not go unappreciated. These were the times when I could justify buying that lovely coffee table book about fancy chickens or one of Martha Stewart’s many visually arresting “look what I have that you don’t” books. And oh how you discounted those gardening books. You’re the main reason my shelves are overflowing with hundreds of books on that very subject (and no, I will not tell you just how many). Although you are gone from my life, Borders, I will always love you more than Barnes & Noble. They are now the only game in town, and although I am forced to frequent them now, I will do so with a wee bit of disdain. And by the way, I know you probably profited by selling them that membership list with my name on it, but unless they’re going to start sending me 50% off coupons, I am ignoring their repeated attempts to lure me in completely.

Memory #9: Finally, when the periodicals hit 80% off, I could afford one issue each of those $15 craft and foreign Photoshop magazines I always avoided!

Memory #10: And my final memory…my very last visit to a Borders. It was in Woodbridge, Va at the end of summer. I drove by and saw “last day” on the storefront. (How could I not stop?) As I got closer, I saw “everything 2 for $1.” Then the “2” was crossed out and “4” was written over it. Everything was 4 for $1. Really? Surely there wasn’t much left at that bargain, right? Think again. After passing over the romance novels and books written entirely in Spanish, I scored enough books to spend $4.50 total. At those prices, I even considered a book on math (but only for a nanosecond). I’m currently 62 pages into how Chastity become Chaz. (Bower bird, remember?)

AFTERTHOUGHT: I neglected to thank Michael for all those wonderful $50 and $100 Borders gift cards he begifted me throughout the years on various occasions—birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. Those cards are the reason why my library is topped off with oversized, gloriously illustrated books whose sole topics are snowflakes, penguins and succulents (to name an obscure few). Though some might find it an impersonal gift, he is a man after my own heart. Only a biblioholic would truly understand. I just had someone comment that they didn’t know all the stores had closed and that they guessed they could no longer use their gift card. How in the world do you keep one that long? Mine were spent before I could say thank you to the giver!





Baker’s Dozen Link Love

3 11 2010

1. Joe McNally: Common Mistakes by Photographers
One of my favorite photographers, Joe McNally, created a list of common mistakes people make when starting out in photography. Go check out this great post here:
http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/2010/11/02/mistakes-2/

2. Larry Becker’s Cheap Shots
Through Scott Kelby’s blog (love him, too!), I learned about Larry Becker and his new DIY blog, Larry’s Cheap Shots. This blog resulted from his regular segment on the photography web-based tv show, DTownTV. He offers great DIY projects and inexpensive solutions to your photographic needs. Visit his regular blog, also a great site, here: http://lbecker.com/blog/

3. Dan Williams, Bird Photographer
I met Dan Williams, bird photographer extraordinaire, when he was exhibiting during a Craftsmen’s Classic Art & Craft Show at the Dulles Expo in Chantilly, Virginia last year. I had the chance to talk with him at length about his photography career, including his choice of equipment—the full frame 24.9mp Sony A900. After seeing his work, I have concluded that there is no one better at this genre—so I’m leaving avian photography to him! His work is clean, graphic and filled with color. He describes his approach to composition in his blog post, Keeping It Simple Can Produce the Best Results, here. Another insightful post, Breaking the Laws of Nature Photography, can be found here. Check out his website here and his blog here.

4. Bob Krist’s Compact Location Lighting Kit
After seeing freelance photographer Bob Krist on the Nikon Creative Lighting System video, I decided I had to put together a compact lighting kit like his. My only change was a cheaper travel case—although now that I see his Stormcase has wheels, I’ve got that on my wishlist again. I already had many of the items; I just needed to add some of the accessories—such as the smaller collapsible light stands and shorter umbrellas. (The video is well worth the price—lighting guru Joe McNally and Bob Krist show the amazing results you can accomplish using Nikon Speedlight flashes on location. Check out the DVD here). Krist works on assignment with magazines such as National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian and Islands. His website is beautiful—check it out here. I traveled with my newly-assembled kit for the first time when I photographed musician Richard Reed in Providence, RI, earlier this fall. I was on assignment for Cochlear Americas and posted the results of our two photo sessions here. Richard wrote an article for the November/December 2010 issue of the Hearing Loss Magazine, which went to print last month. I’ll be posting a recap on that issue shortly.

5. Erik Gauger’s Notes from the Road
I discovered travel writer and photographer Erik Gauger’s blog a few years ago and have had the pleasure of corresponding with him via e-mail regularly. I will be interviewing him and profiling his career in a future post on this blog, so stay tuned. His website is not only beautiful, it will make you want to hit the road in search of adventure! His blog has garnered accolades: “Unexpected frontier of the travel blogosphere…” —Boston Globe; “Sumptuous Site” —Time Magazine; and “The best-looking blog we’ve seen” —Forbes Magazine. Erik’s blog is definitely a must-see, must-read virtual trip. Find out why at http://www.notesfromtheroad.com/

6. Kolby Kirk’s Travel Journal
I met webmaster/graphic designer/photographer/traveler Kolby Kirk through my blog. Check out his newest blog—The Journal. He has several other websites that can help you plan your own travel adventures. Click here to peruse that list.

7. It’s (K)not Wood
I have a thing for anything faux bois (fake wood), from vases to dishes to table runners, so I love Emilyn Eto and Jonathan Lo’s It’s (K)not Wood, the blog “dedicated to all things faux bois.” Oh, and did I mention I also love anything emblazoned with leaves, trees, twigs, birds, bird eggs, bird nests, or bird feathers, too?

8. The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies
If you’re an “old school” graphic designer, you’ll appreciate the trip down memory lane in Lou Brooks’ The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies. Click on any item from “the ghosts of graphic arts past” to relive its use.

9. The Pantone Hotel
On my list of places to rest my weary head, I just added The Pantone Hotel in Brussels, Belgium. For those of you who don’t know what the heck Pantone is, click here.

10. On my nightstand: A Homemade Life
A few weeks ago, I read A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, by Molly Wizenberg, the creator of the blog, Orangette. I found myself sniffling in the airport during some of the passages she writes about her dying father, an exuberant gastronomic. Food and memories are intertwined in this short, sweet read. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry…so good, it even made me want to cook—one thing I just don’t do much of, I must confess. Learn more about the book and Wizenberg in this Amazon.com review here. In honor of your father, Molly, I promise to utilize (soon, I promise, soon) my shiny new white KitchenAid mixer—a well-received birthday present last month from my friends Gina, Karen and Rob. I have always thought that if only I had one of these, then I would be a real cook. Guess now I don’t have any excuses to stay out of the kitchen, do I?

11. Matt Bites Blog
I just love food photographer Matt Armendariz’ blog, http://mattbites.com/. His blog tagline reads, “a man obsessed with food, drink & everything in between.” A former graphic designer and art director in the food industry, he is one of the charter members of Martha’s Circle, a selection of lifestyle blogs selected by the editors of Martha Stewart Living. Check out his food & drink, travel and photography portfolios while you’re there. Just reading his recent recipe for Chicken & Potato Patties makes me hungry—oooh, and they include cilantro, one of my favorite herbs!

12. Mark Berkery’s Macro Photography
This site was featured on the “Freshly Pressed” page in WordPress last week—Mark Berkery’s Being Mark blog. His macro photography is jaw-dropping and if you click here, you’ll learn how he gets these amazing shots (it’s not just equipment—he knows technique, too), as well discover that there’s an inexpensive piece of equipment to add to your arsenal to capture images like his—a Raynox Macroscopic Lens. I’ve never heard of this company until now, but was thrilled to find their inexpensive products at Adorama. I first ordered the DCR-250 ($50 + shipping), which allows really high magnification and includes a snap-on universal mount suitable for lens that range from 52mm to 67mm size (I’ll try it first on my Nikkor 105mm micro, but it can be used on any of my lens, macro or not. They can be used on other cameras, too—not just Nikons). After reading the various entries on this Pentax forum here, I decided I also wanted the option of pulling back from my subject, so I also ordered the DCR-150 ($42.95 + shipping). I’ll do some experimenting shortly and will report my findings.

13. And finally, this one is just plain fun!
I learned about HEMA’s site here a few years ago (via graphic designer Chuck Green’s Design Briefs, if I’m not mistaken) and I still think it’s still one of the coolest retail sites online. HEMA is a Dutch department store chain. Unless you’re from the Netherlands, you probably won’t be able to read any of the product names, but wait a few seconds to see the reason this site is so much fun anyway. Do turn up the sound or you’ll miss some of the action. My flight attendant friend Gina has a penchant for visiting grocery stores in her international travels, so I’m sure when she sees this link, she’ll be making plans to patronize HEMA the next time she’s in Amsterdam!





Just another Saturday night at Borders…

25 07 2010

At Borders, armed with a 40% off coupon and deciding what to use it on—love those 40% off-ers! I whittled down the stack of “chosen ones” and purchased this book, Botany for the Artist: An Inspirational Guide to Drawing Plants, by Sarah Simblet. Fantastic book, gorgeous botanical drawings and lots of tips. Stay tuned for my first attempt at a botanical drawing (goodness knows, I most certainly have enough floral photo references in my only library, don’t I?). I’m even wearing my botanical sandals in this shot! Photo taken with Michael’s iPhone

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Road trip to Harrisonburg

27 11 2009

Today Michael and I headed out to the Green Valley Book Fair in Harrisonburg, Virginia, about 2-1/2 hours away (you know, because we simply need more books). The late afternoon sky was spectacular—simultaneously gloomy on our right with swaths of cornflower blue on our left. Then the sun broke through a dark patch, illuminating the barren trees. We were compelled to pull over and get this can’t-miss-it shot.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Dahlias, dahling

21 05 2009

This was one of my (many) acquisitions purchased at the big Green Spring Gardens annual plant sale this past Saturday—a very showy Karma Fuchsiana dahlia. The blooms are the most unusual intense shade of dark pink and orange—-the graduated colors of a tropical sunset—not easy to capture in a photo. In the second photo, you’ll see a little visitor—identification unknown.

I read online that Karma dahlias were bred specifically for the cut flower market because they have nice stems, hold up well in bouquets, and yield lots of flowers.

Speaking of the cut flower market, author Amy Stewart wrote the intriguing book, Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers, published in 2007. My friend Regina and I attended a Flower Confidential book lecture by Stewart at the U.S. Botanic Garden two years ago. Flower Confidential takes you inside the flower trade—from hybridizers to growers to auction houses to florists around the world. It’s a fascinating read about the path cut flowers must take from seed/bulb to vase.

Stewart Books

I’ve also read two of Amy’s other books, starting with her first one—From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Year Garden, followed by her second book—The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms. All three books are worth checking out! Learn more about Amy Stewart on her Web site here.

I was so astounded by the number of different dahlias in bloom at Butchart Gardens last fall that I spent an hour just photographing the dahlia border! You’ll find that posting and accompanying photos here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Dahlia Bug