Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Holiday cheer...fulfilled...

Not even December yet and already so much holiday cheer. I added to this today by slipping a new Christmas CD in to my car changer. First, the back story.

Like most folks, I respond with Pavlovian glee when I hear the holiday regulars--Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, Burl Ives, Johnny Mathis, etc. And my love of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special growing up has made that CD a staple in my adult holiday festivities. Oh, and of course, all the classic 80's and 90's stars-turned-crooners are near and dear to my heart. (Who doesn't like hearing Bono in Do They Know Its Christmas.)

But my brother and I didn't own any of that music when we were kids. For us, Christmas music will always have its roots in the two records that we played nonstop each December (and fought over nightly, I might add). Our classics? A Merry Mancini Christmas by the Henry Mancini Orchestra and Chorus and That Holiday Feeling! by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.

No snickering please.

I found the Mancini album released on CD several years ago...and that made me very happy. But Steve and Eydie eluded me. Well, the wait is over. This 1964 "classic" is available from Amazon, and it arrived yesterday.

So this morning, I sung my way into work. This may be a sign of a need for therapy of some type, but I enthusiastically recommend Steve and Eydie. There is no way it won't make you smile...the way that a classic Sinatra tune does picks you up. Its HIP, baby.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Driving north...

On Sunday, we shared one of favorite day trips with Jeff's co-worker Brian, who was visiting from New Jersey. The rain to come the next day was proceeded by lots of picturesque clouds. (Clouds are Mother Nature's gift to photographers.)

We drove north from San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and out to the coast along curvey Route 1. Just past Muir Beach, we stopped at a hidden overlook--an old military outlook--where we could stretch our legs and look back towards the city.

An hour later, after many twists and turns, we arrived at our destination: the Pt. Reyes National Seashore lighthouse, which is situated on a craggy point at what seems like the end of earth. We arrived around 4pm, which meant that the sun was well into its warm decent. This lit up the coastal rocks in a beautiful golden color.

The Pt. Reyes lighthouse is situated at the bottom of a long staircase, over 300 stairs down...and unfortunately over 300 back up.

As we drove away from the lighthouse, we stopped several times to catch the changing light of the sunset. We passed a dozen grazing deer, hundreds of cows eating dinner, and some pretty spectacular vistas.

Decorating our home...

One of the benefits of being in San Francisco for Thanksgiving was that we could decorate our Christmas tree early and enjoy it for the entire month of December. So, we began in earnest Friday morning after a hearty breakfast including some fried potato patties courtesy of our Thanksgiving feast. (Honestly, who can really make mashed potatoes for two and NOT have leftovers!)

The before and after pictures below are really quite striking. Jeff is the stylist for our tree...and I think you will have to agree that the tree is truly quite beautiful. Our collection of ornaments is very special to us. We've assembled an enormous collection of special ornaments from our travels together (e.g., Florence, Hawaii, St. Michaels), some pieces Jeff has collected, some handmade ornaments from friends (and one I made as a child), and several pieces from my grandmother and our friend Nancy. We've added framed pictures of Jeff's neice and nephews, and a handfull of White House historical ornaments. This is a special tree.

Jeff made the comment tonight that we should leave our decorations up all year. :) So tempting. Between the tree, the garland, and our fireplace, we simply don't want to leave the living room. Dobie certainly agrees...she LOVES the fireplace. (So do is COLD in San Francisco this week!)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Wine hallucinations...

One of the most bizarre sights you will notice as you wind your way into Wine Country from San Francisco is a old, twisted Oak tree...covered in sky blue balls. The tree is the centerpiece for a collection of installation art gardens called Cornerstone Gardens--kindof like what Cinderella's Castle is to Disneyland without the moat.

I'm sure that most people barely tap the brakes for a second glance at what surrounds this tree, but Jeff and I stopped in. I'm glad we did. What we discovered was a series of about two dozen "gardens," designed and installed by regional landscape and installation artists. Visitors are encouraged to walk among and into the gardens and experience them up close.

For reference, the tree is simply called Blue Tree. It is an old tree from the site that has been "visually erased" from the skyline by the blue Christmas balls against the blue sky.

Possibly our favorite exhibit was a room-like installation comprised of nothing more than hay-bale walls and a make of screen doors. While inside the room, our ears were blasted by hidden speakers playing a crackly continuous loop of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire".

It would be impossible to fully describe the full set of "art" that followed. As with most modern art, we liked some of it and found other parts dull. It definitely made for some fun photos :)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Blue skies...

Friday morning, I took the leisurely route into work, driving along the up-and-coming portions of 3rd St., where the new Muni light rail is being built. At 7am, this part of the city is silent. The morning light plays off the abandoned buildings, which are certain to house Starbucks and Walgreens when the trains start running. As 3rd St. nears downtown, you can take a short detour and drive along China Basin, with a fantastic view of SBC Park (above).

The day progressed fairly quickly--filled with meetings and phone calls and a couple of visits with clients. A fairly normal day.

Jeff and I ended the day at the Hotel Vitale on the Embarcadero. Our friend Mike hosted a small happy hour and dinner (yum!), so that we could view the just-lit Christmas lights on the Embarcadero Center towers. The air was warm; the dusk sky was crystal clear; and the lights all around us shimmered. It was magical.

All of the pictures below are from Friday evening...

Dusk on the Ferry Building (above).

The Embarcadero Center lights--an annual gift to the City (above).

The Ferry Building and the Embarcadero from the Hotel Vitale terrace (above).

Another view of the Embarcadero Center lights (above).

Ice skating in Justin Herman Plaza (above).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

My darling Clementine...

Until today, I had succesfully resisted stores' pressure to jump-start the Christmas season. I had even held off on one of my holiday favorites--the Starbucks gingerbread latte, which arrived in stores a couple of weeks ago. But this morning, I spotted a box of Clementines at the store, and I caved. For me, Spanish Clementines will always be associated with my Grandmother, who had made them one of her holiday traditions. So, the instant I peeled the first one, and the burst of citrus scent hit my nose, I was catapulted into the Christmas spirit. Now...bring on those feel-good Coca Cola ads :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Venice at night...

If you just HAPPEN to be in San Francisco on December 2nd (6pm-9pm) or 3rd (10am-5pm), then you should swing by the Fort Mason Holiday Photo Show that I am participating in for the 5th year in a row. I'll have several new images from my Venice at Night series (two samples below). This show is always festive and exciting, with about 10 of my friends/classmates participating. Every artist has a unique style or personal perspective.

And did I mention that there is free wine on Friday night? :)

November sunshine (and Yoda)...

With family and friends reporting in from many corners of the country with a mixed bag of cool-to-cold temps, rain, and even snow, I'm pleased to report that California is the place to be this week :) San Francisco is sunny with highs in the low 70s and a pleasant breeze.

So, this past weekend, Jeff and I got out and about early on Saturday. We headed down to the Ferry Building to buy some veggies for the week. Sunny days bring out THRONGS of people from all walks of life--locals, visitors, street performers, artists. Frankly, it can be a bit overwhelming just to buy sustainable, organic green beans!

But hey, Prince Charles visited the Ferry Building a week ago. And if its good enough for Royalty...

This is just a picture from my office one morning this week. At this time of year, the light plays some wonderful tricks on the morning mist on the Bay, just as I'm arriving at work. This picture hardly does it justice.

And if you happen to be wandering through the Presidio, take a detour through the new Letterman Digital Arts Center. The primary tenant in this new space is Lucasfilm. So tucked away among the historic-style buildings, rolling landscapes, and babbling stream is Yoda. A fun surprise...not in the tour books yet!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Odd assignments...

The primary reason that I have taken the Photography Portfolio class at Ft. Mason for so many years is the people--the instructor, my classmates, my friends. We challenge each other. We inspire each other.

Every week, we bring in works in progress, and in return, we exchange healthy critiques of each others' work. Our instructor, Richard, is terrific at offering appropriate levels of praise and encouragement, while often picking the quirkiest bits of our work and saying "explore more of that direction...try it out and see where it takes you".

Lately, we've been selecting single themes to take away as "homework". I thought it would be fun to share the results of these first two assignments. First, simply enough: chairs. Here is what I saw during that week.

Next assignment: "take something that evokes surrealism". Here are my interpretations.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Grace (and Tuscany) atop Nob Hill...

I had about an hour to kill on top of Nob Hill this past Thursday night. The hotel where my coworkers were staying was across the street from Grace Cathedral. While I had driven past it on numerous occasions, I had never had the chance to visit.

To start, it was an enchanting evening already. The sky was a dusky dark blue, which set off the well lit gothic details of the building (built 1928-1964). Entering the cathedral, I was immediately struck by two things: 1. the choir singing a capella, and 2. dozens of white, yellow, and red ribbons of sheer fabric flowing from the front of the cathedral to the rear. These sheers were held in place by invisible line, such that they seemed to float and flow through the room. Both the choir and the flowing sheers drew me in and enticed me to sit and observe.

As I was leaving, I took notice of the heavy, bronze-like doors at the outside-center of the cathedral. These doors looked strangely familiar, so I looked them up. Coincidentally, they are replicas of Lorenzo Ghiberti's "The Gates of Paradise"--Jeff and I saw the originals this spring and 2003 on the Baptistery in Florence. My picture from the Grace Cathedral replica is below.

Now, compare these with the photos of the original door in Florence. We took these pictures in 2003--coincidentally, we photographed the same panel. (For the record, even the doors on the Baptistery are not the originals. The true originals are across the street in the Museum of the Opera del Duomo.)