A Study in Contrast: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

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This week for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, the theme is contrast.  I thought this photo from the Denver Botanic Gardens would be perfect with its vivid purple and yellow.

My other photo that’s a good fit for contrast is this one that I shot one evening at Garden of the Gods.  The red-orange rocks pop nicely against the green vegetation & blue background.  Views like this make me feel very lucky to be living in Colorado Springs :)14487054568_d78c07c05e_k

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Awesome Lemon Sugar Cookies

It’s important to have a few tried & true crowd-pleasing recipes you can pull out in a pinch and use to whip up something everyone will love.  Up until now, whenever I needed cookies everyone was pretty much guaranteed to love, I’d fall back on these chocolate mint cookies.  They are basically a home made version of Thin Mints, except chewier, and they’re a hit every time.

A few weeks ago, I decided to try out a new recipe that I had on one of my Pinterest boards.  The recipe is for lemon sugar cookies and you can find it here.  The cookies are completely delicious.  Just look at this lovely golden dough.

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After my first batch disappeared in the blink of an eye, I made a second for some company this weekend.  This time, I added about a spoonful of poppy seeds and included lime zest in place of some of the lemon.  Here are the cookies post-squishing right before they head into the oven.  You can see the poppy seed flecks pretty clearly.

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Here’s the first cookie sheet’s worth.  The empty spot indicates the first cookie I had to eat for quality control purposes.  Yep, still delicious.

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I love it when I can find a new go-to recipe and this one has all the best qualities – super easy, super delicious, and a bit unusual.  An all around winner and I hope you’ll try it out.  You won’t regret it.

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Manitou Springs Adventure

I love the adventure theme for this week’s photo challenge.  There’s a lot of freedom to define what adventure means to you.  This week, I’m deciding that adventure means exploration, and my camera is always a good companion for exploring.  I’ve been to Manitou Springs dozens of times, but last fall I saw it in a whole new way through the lens of my camera.

The shops provided me with a lot of great subjects to play with.  The Glassblowers of Manitou always have lovely items and the collections of similar pieces were excellent for some bokeh shots.

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Even some of the less exotic items arrayed outside of the shops begged for a closer look.  For me, this is an example of macro photography’s greatest strength.  You get to take a look at something that’s pretty ordinary and, by really getting close, you can see the ordinary in an entirely new way.

This photo is one that started me on my most recent fascination with layered fabrics.  The juxtaposition of the patterns & colors really drew me in.

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A really shallow depth of field is what this photo work for me.  The item is something designed to twist in the wind on your porch, but even when it’s still, there’s still an interesting combination of shapes & finishes.

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2014 Colorado Springs Balloon Classic

This past Saturday, we woke up before the crack of dawn and drove over to Memorial Park to see the balloon launch at the Colorado Springs Balloon Classic.  It was the first time I’d ever seen a whole field of hot air balloons and it was very, very cool.

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There was a great variety of different balloons of all kinds of colors and even some unusual shapes.  I think my favorite of the unique balloons was this happy elephant, but the jester balloon was quite the attention-grabber too.

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Of course, along with the big picture photos, I had to get a collection with the closer details.  I really enjoyed the chance to get so close to the balloons.  Bright colors were the name of the game and this yellow balloon gave me some nice vivid shots.

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One of the angles I quite liked was looking up at the interior of the balloons.  Up that close, I could really feel the heat of the flames when they got fired up.

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Since the launch took place first thing in the morning, the angle of the sun made for some lighting challenges, as well as a few unique opportunities.  I really liked being able to see the balloons from the inside during the process of blowing them up.

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The launch lasted about an hour and two batches of balloons went up in the air.  I felt like we had just barely arrived and then it was all over in the blink of an eye.  The most disappointing part is that this was the last year for the event to be held in Colorado Springs.  I’ll definitely have to keep an eye out for similar events nearby, because it was definitely worth getting up way too early on a Saturday morning for.

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Fight Call at Springs Ensemble Theatre

This week’s photo challenge theme of “fray” is good timing for me since I just worked with the Springs Ensemble Theatre on their production of Art.  There is a fight scene in the play and the guys put in a good amount of time practicing the fight choreography to make sure the altercation looked real without resulting in any actual injuries.  During one rehearsal, I put my camera into burst mode to get some action shots.

Before each performance, they’d do a run through or two on this part to make sure they really had it nailed – that’s the part called “fight call.”  I’m happy to report that throughout the run, no one was injured for real, but boy did it look intense.  (You just have to mentally erase some of the grinning to imagine the performances.)

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Cinnamon Blueberry Rolls

Every now and then, I get a hankering for some cinnamon raisin bread.  However, the part I like the most is the cinnamon swirls.  The raisins are pretty “meh.”  Of course, when you bake it at home instead of getting it at the store, you can modify to suit your own tastes.  I found this recipe for the World’s Best Cinnamon Raisin Bread and, while I can’t promise it’s actually the best in the world, I can vouch that it works really well.  One handy part of the recipe is that there’s a built in calculator that modifies the ingredients list based on how many batches you’re in the mood for.

To modify the recipe, I usually add extra sugar for the filling and along with the cinnamon, I’ll add some cardamom and/or cloves.  Also, I usually swap the raisins out for dried cranberries, which are a far superior dried fruit, in my opinion.

This last time, though, I was wondering how blueberries would work.  I went with dried instead of fresh or frozen because I needed something that would hold up to the level of manhandling needed to prepare the bread.  Here’s the dough, right before I rolled it out.  The blueberries held up really well.

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One important thing to remember about this bread recipe is that a few slices with the knife can magically transform a loaf of bread into breakfast rolls.

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Once they were baked, I topped the rolls with a simple confectioner’s sugar & milk icing that had a handful of almonds mixed in.  The almonds added a lovely crunch and I’ll definitely be repeating that addition in the future.

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In the end, the blueberries were okay, but cranberries remain my favorite.  After this experiment, I started wondering what it’d be like to use apples as the main attraction in this recipe.  One thing’s for sure, more experimentation is needed.

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Butterfly Pavilion

We recently went to the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado for the first time.  Hands down, the coolest part was the Wings of the Tropics exhibit, which is an indoor rain forest filled with a variety of butterflies.

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As you can see from the photo below, it is incredibly wet in the exhibit.  The heat and the humidity did a number on this Colorado native, but it was worth it to go on a butterfly hunt.  I did, however, have to quickly tuck my camera under my shirt a few times to save it from the misters.

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This is one of my favorite shots of the day because of the contrast between the in-focus butterfly and the bokeh background.  The pinks and greens of the background also did a nice job complimenting the browns of the wings.

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Here’s one of my other favorites, a blue morpho.  Their wings are incredibly cool because, depending on which direction you’re looking at them, you see either a cool eye pattern or a radiant blue.  I feel bad for this particular butterfly, though, due to the damage on its wing.

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The fun part about butterflies is all their lovely patterns and the cool macro possibilities.  The tough part about butterflies is that those critters sure don’t stay still for long.  Fortunately, my camera has a continuous shot feature and my husband is a very patient guy.

It was a cool visit, though it’s the kind of place that’s really geared more toward kiddos than adults.  Everyone can enjoy the indoor jungle, though.  Definitely a neat experience to see so many butterflies flying around all in one spot.

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Blackbird at Twilight

This week’s photo challenge is a cool one, but I was lucky to have something at all for it.  Silhouettes aren’t a type of photo I do often.  I should change that, really.  Silhouettes are pretty dang cool.

The photo I picked is one I took on Isla Mujeres a number of years ago.  The sky was a perfect blue ombre that contrasted nicely against the almost black of the hut & the bird.  That bird was ever-so-cooperative and actually stayed put long enough for me to grab the shot.

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A Bookish Choice – To Sell Out, or Not To Sell Out?

Today’s Daily Prompt made me chuckle:

A literary-minded witch gives you a choice: with a flick of the wand, you can become either an obscure novelist whose work will be admired and studied by a select few for decades, or a popular paperback author whose books give pleasure to millions. Which do you choose?

This conversation has come up many times in my writers group.  Given the option between fame & money vs. little money and the deep respect of the literary community, I pick being the next J.K. Rowling.  I have no hesitation about that choice, either.

Now, here’s the fundamental problem with how this question and all its iterations is framed: It’s the battle between “literary” works and popular fiction with the implication that literary fiction is the superior choice.

Hello?!  Most of the writers & works studied in your English class were, in their day, popular fiction.  Let’s take Shakespeare, the bard, the guy everybody gets exposed to because he’s a genius, right?  Well, he was essentially the Steven Spielberg of his day and the main reason we even care about Shakespeare now is because he was really, really good at one specific thing – getting butts in seats.  And, you know how he did that?  By writing a whole bunch of slasher plays (do you know what happens in Titus Andronicus?), some twisted tragedies, biopics (historical plays), and a slew of romantic comedies.  Oh, and don’t forget the toilet humor, dirty jokes, and slapstick.

Yet, here we are, still reading Shakespeare today and praising him to the heavens for his literary genius.  Aside from a few notable exceptions, just about any major writer you study in school got their start from being popular in one way or another.

This whole literary vs. popular dichotomy is a false one laden with snobbery.  Bestsellers resonate with people and if they continue to resonate with people decades after they come out, then that makes them literary.  That’s all it really is.

Besides, the lines between popular entertainment and scholarship are getting blurrier all the time.  Did you know that “Buffy Studies” is a thing?  That’s right, there’s a whole area of academic scholarship that focuses on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

So, given the choice, I absolutely pick selling out.  If I were able to write something and if that many people loved it, I count that as a major success.  If the literary scholars don’t like it, that’s fine.  They mainly like to focus on authors who are dead, anyway, so there would be plenty of time for them to warm up to me later

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Reach Out and Touch It

As a fan of macro, I love looking at the textures of objects, so this week’s photo challenge is right up my alley.  Looking through my photos, I wanted to go back a bit to a couple of my earlier macros that were just straight texture.

So, here’s one I took of crackling paint.  I don’t usually do much to alter photos (aside from some basic enhancement), so this one, with the manipulated blue, is unusual for me.  I love the way the blue pops against the white, though.Picture 1833mod

This next one is a photo I took during a walk along the Pueblo Nature Trail.  There are beavers in the area and though I never once saw an actual beaver, I definitely saw evidence of their handiwork.Picture 626

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