fff nov 27

Posted in five faves friday by nikkipolani on November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving is like the highlight of Friday’s Five Faves. This year, everyone’s been telling they feel as though the holiday’s snuck up on them. But the opportunity to pause, as a nation, and give thanks is a good one. Here are my faves this week:

1. Roomie and I have been tackling one item at a time on the gigantic garden to-do list, but you know how these things grow. I’d fallen for a free-shipping deal and ordered some perennials that now needed to be planted. What started as Let’s-get-these-eight-plants-planted project turned into tidying all the container plants, digging up agapanthus roots around the lemon tree, trimming the lime and lemon trees, and moving a poorly sited rose. Fixing up these eye-sore-areas has been a real boost and reduces greatly the amount of cringing when I look out on the garden.

2. Do you ever ask yourself why it took so long to tidy something up when it feels so much better to have it done? That was the tray on the microwave which had become a catch-all for things that didn’t fit in the drawer – recipes, supplements, travel shower cap (!), receipts. I love easy fixes.

3. I love quirky exchanges with my mom. Last Sunday, I gave her a bag of chocolates, some coupons, and mascara. She gave me a bag with guava, persimmon, a small container of sticky rice, and a jar of mắm tôm chua (a Vietnamese fermented shrimp condiment).

4. We had two German students with us for Thanksgiving. They have an amazing amount of English and were a lot of fun to converse with. After our noon meal and a walk and pie, we put together this fun cat puzzle (one of our students misses her cat back at home) and then played a few games.

5.  And my own family gathering was warm and cozy.  It was good to hear how God had answered prayers and opened doors and sustained all through the year.


Posted in other stuff by nikkipolani on November 26, 2015

Psalm 100
1 Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.

Happy Thanksgiving!

That’s our friend, roomie (with camera), and me waving from the Grand Canyon.

fff nov 20

Posted in five faves friday by nikkipolani on November 20, 2015

I’m so glad to have survived cooking marathon week, even with a surprise breakfast thrown in. So glad Susanne is still hosting Friday’s Five Faves.  Let’s go:

1. Being new to a global organization, it’s often difficult to know who to ask or contact for the myriad of newbie questions. Several of my new colleagues were especially helpful this week.

2. There’d been some kind of traffic accident on the way to work one morning. Everything seemed to have been cleared away, but the damage was done: I’d be five minutes late to a first-thing-in-the-morning conference call. As I scrambled to find the call-in code on my work calendar, I realized the meeting was no longer there. It had been moved at the last minute ;-) There’ve been a few others like that and I’ve been thankful for each one!

3. Roomie had asked for help making side dishes for an early Thanksgiving dinner she was hosting for the women at the shelter where she teaches Bible study. We managed to make two pans of scalloped potatoes, creamed spinach, balsamic asparagus, and salad in about two hours. Whew! (Roomie had ordered several pans of bbq ribs from a local restaurant; she knows my limits…)

4. Our Monday night Bible study dinner was definitely a fave. Starting earlier in the evening, we had a few hours of easy chatting and sharing from every topic under the sun, and a few above it ;-)

5.  Nothing planned for the weekend.  I’m sure it will fill up with errands and other things, but there’s something about facing a few unscheduled days that already feels really good.

Hoping you have a something good to look forward to, too!

grand, part 3

Posted in outings by nikkipolani on November 16, 2015

24-105mm at 40mm, 1/320 sec at f/4.0, ISO 100

Our last full day at the Grand Canyon was terrific.  Blustery winds guided our decision to spend some time at the Kolb Studio and Lookout Studio, each offering some beautiful paintings and photographs of the Canyon or crafts by American Indians.

24-105mm at 24mm, 1/400 sec at f/4.0, ISO 100

The Kolb brothers were photographers in the 1900s who showcased their work here at Kolb Studio. They produced some of the earliest images of the Canyon, pioneering in national park tourism.

24-105mm at 24mm, 1/320 sec at f/4.0, ISO 100

24-105mm at 24mm, 1/40 sec at f/4.0, ISO 1000

There’s a small art gallery at the back where we saw some lovely works in oils, pastels, and acrylics. Below are two of our favorites (left is an oil by Marcia Molnar; right is a pastel by Bruce Gomez):

After a late snack lunch, we headed out on the Desert View Drive to, you guessed it, Desert View which was right at the east entrance to the Canyon.

24-105mm at 55mm, 1/40 sec at f/5.0, ISO 1000

Completed in 1932, the Desert Watchtower was designed by Mary Colter to resemble a blend of southwestern Native American groups.

16-35mm at 16mm, 1/1000 sec at f/5.0, ISO 1000

The 70ft stone tower has four stories accessed by circular steps along the interior perimeter. I had fun testing out the wide angle lens in this enclosed space. The ground floor (below) has a 40ft diameter but seems much broader with the lens.

16-35mm at 16mm, 1/40 sec at f/5.0, ISO 640

Some friends who’ve visited in colder months told us that a fire is kept lit in that center fire ring (without the ladder, of course).  The two people at the window are looking at “reflectoscopes” that are black glass panels reflecting the Canyon scenes while cutting down on strong light to better reveal subtle colors.

16-35mm at 16mm, 1/40 sec at f/5.0, ISO 2000 and 640 respectively

A view from the Watchtower.

16-35mm at 16mm, 1/800 sec at f/5.0, ISO 100

A look back at the tower from Navajo Point.

16-35mm at 35mm, 1/800 sec at f/5.0, ISO 100

By now it was nearly 3:00 and we wanted to stop at some of the other highlighted points including Lipan, Pinal, Zuni, and Moran before darkness fell.

24-105mm at 67mm, 1/1000 sec at f/5.0, ISO 100

But with the sun lower in the sky, its golden light making the colors glow and stretching out shadows, I made my favorite shot from the trip at Lipan Point.

16-35mm at 16mm, 1/250 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100

Our stops became briefer and briefer as the sun dropped. I’m not entirely sure which lookout point this was, but I loved the velvety caress of the late afternoon sun across those contours.

16-35mm at 35mm, 1/125 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100

Looking at these images from only two weeks ago already makes me want to go back. Until next time.

fff nov 13

Posted in five faves friday by nikkipolani on November 13, 2015

I started to make a list of cooking projects for the week and realized that between dinner guests, house guests, potlucks, and early Thanksgiving gatherings, there was cooking scheduled every day for a week. Yikes! Time to pause and note the good things — here are five:

1. Had a good visit with my parents last weekend. My mom likes a particular restaurant in Little Saigon for its food and convenient location, but their service level leaves a lot to be desired. No matter, we took the opportunity of delayed meals to chat and catch up.

2. We officially finished our study of the book of Job with a rousing round of ideas and theories and new insights. I love those invigorating discussions.

3. Roomie and I spent a few hours in the garden attending to the most urgent chores. While toiling away with pruners and loppers, we devised a plan to propose to our two friends from Cambria who own a gardening business. We’re looking forward to getting their ideas and help to fix some issues, prune some trees, and update the design a bit to account for the increasing shade.

4. This year’s German student came to dinner. She has amazing amount of English and had gone to the Grand Canyon just a few weeks before I did with my friends so we had lots to talk about and compare.

5. Our friends from Cambria have arrived to stay for a few days and they brought wonderful produce from their farm — a bouquet of zinnias (image at the top), tomatoes, kale, squashes (kabocha, buttercup, and delicata), green beans, poblano chiles, and radishes. Plus we’ve had a wonderful evening of visiting.

grand, part 2

Posted in outings by nikkipolani on November 11, 2015

24-105mm at 75mm, 1/80 sec at f/4.0, ISO 100

Years ago when roomie was a kid, her family visited the Grand Canyon one summer and took the mule ride down Bright Angel trail to Phantom Ranch where they spent the night before heading back up via the South Kaibab trail. With temperatures in the low 110s (F), it was an arduous trip — over 5,000ft descent, but well worth the cool oasis at the bottom of the Canyon.

With those vivid memories in mind, roomie wanted to get some photos of this year’s group heading out for their adventure. Mules, as you probably know, are more sure-footed than horses and have been used to transport visitors down into the Canyon since 1887. They are specially chosen to be gentle and good with novice riders.

24-105mm at 105mm, 1/100 sec at f/4.0, ISO 100

24-105mm at 105mm, 1/100 sec at f/4.0, ISO 125

The morning was cold and blustery but the mules were placid and the group of eight riders looked excited. At the base of that cluster of trees is Indian Garden where the group will stop for lunch. Above, the group’s guide is probably giving the riders a last chance to bail if they were in any way uncomfortable riding. As far as we could tell, none of them did.

24-105mm at 35mm and 105mm respectively, 1/100 sec at f/7.1, ISO 100

One night, we looked over the rim to see tiny dots of light snaking along an invisible path — hikers making their way back up with lights attached to their foreheads. Even if I were in good health (no anemia limiting exertion), I’m not sure I’d want to be out in minimal visibility.

24-105mm at 24mm, 1/40 sec at f/4.5, ISO 500

On our second full day, the sun arrived casting the cliffs and layers in beautiful contrast against blue blue skies that needed no polarizing filter. (As it turns out, a polarizer is not recommended for wide lenses). Because I wasn’t feeling well, we took the shuttle to the farthest western point (Hermit’s Rest) and then walked or rode our way back as needed.

24-105mm at 24mm, 1/1250 sec at f/4.0, ISO 100

Hermit’s Rest is a structure designed by Mary Colter (and built in 1914) to look like it had been part of the natural stone formation.  Inside, the oversized fireplace immediately draws the eye. As we headed for the Rim Trail, I overheard a young boy of about 8 squeal in revulsion after reading one of the many signs warning against feeding squirrels.  Well, that’s one win for the sign-makers.

Shall we head out?  Yes!

24-105mm at 24mm, 1/40 sec at f/4.0, ISO 640

I was constantly amazed by how quickly the human form shrunk to a tiny dash in these broad landscapes.

24-105mm at 45mm, 1/1250 sec at f/4.0, ISO 100

Roomie had gotten a book about a different perspective on the formation of the sharply defined striations you see. The common theory of slow and gradual erosion doesn’t seem to account for those distinct delineations between the red hermit shale and white coconino standstone. Rather, it seems to point to a catastrophic tremendous flow of water in a short period of time.

24-105mm at 33mm, 1/160 sec at f/6.3, ISO 100

24-105mm at 35mm, 1/2500 sec at f/4.0, ISO 100

Can you see sections of the milk-chocolate colored Colorado in the image below? Partly because it is late in the season, the reddish muddy color is from sediment washing down after rainfall.

24-105mm at 24mm, 1/1600 sec at f/4.0, ISO 100

In my last post, I described the paths as paved and easily accessible.  There were several other outlooks with rocks of varying sizes laid in roughly stepping stone style. Of course, kids loved clambering over them but we also enjoyed the sheer variety of their color and texture.

16-55mm at 16mm, 1/1000 sec at f/5.0, ISO 100

24-105mm at 24mm, 1/1000 sec at f/6.3, ISO 100

One more post to come.


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