May 31, 2014

it's like magic!

So, my birthday was Tuesday... not sure yet how I feel about being 45-  how does that happen?!? It seems like just yesterday that I was somewhere in my thirties... Anyway, this afternoon I was doing some magic after work in our front yard: 
(you should be able to click on any of them to make them larger)

Magic Trick #1

Magic Trick #2

Magic Trick #2b

Magic trick #3

Have you figured it out yet? Tom's birthday present to me was something totally unexpected, and quite thoughtful- I said a couple posts ago that I'd kind of like a macro lens for my camera, and now I have one! He didn't even read that on the blog, he just knew I was getting more interested in close-up photography of insects, flowers, and the like, and thought I might like it. And he was right! (Now I just have to figure out exactly how to use it... although the little bit of messing around with it that I've done so far is pretty cool, I think.)

The#2 photos are of a smallish saguaro cactus (about 2 1/2 feet tall) in our front yard. The first one is the very top of the cactus, where all the new growth happens, and the second one is an older established grouping of spines farther down the plant. These areas on a cactus, when looked at closely, make some really neat abstract patterns. (fyi, from my internet searches, the spines on a cactus help to shade the plant from the sun-- and protect it.)

This is #3: a flower off our spruce cone cactus.
The photo above is a close-up of the pollen grains
 (pollen grains!!! how cool is that!!) inside the flower. 
I called it 'like magic' because with this lens, I can see things that I can't (or don't really pay attention to, at the very least) with the naked eye. I've always been fascinated with stuff like that, even when I was little- I spent plenty of time outside in our yard: laying in the grass watching ants, examining maple tree helicopters, acorns, and the like, and carting home pockets full of rocks that didn't really look special at all, except, I guess, to me. I don't remember how old I was, but Mom and Dad even got me a microscope set one year (for Christmas, maybe?) and I remember spending lots of time looking at what was in a drop of water from a puddle, that sort of thing. This is kind of the 'grown up' version of that, I guess- I can take a photograph of something and look even closer at it than I'd be able to otherwise (especially with the limitations of my bad eyesight). 

This is the zoomed-out version of what's in pic #1;
it's a withered-up flower from the golden barrel cactus.
Not all that interesting, maybe, except for in the close-up
it takes on a more abstract sort of form. 

He also gave me two bottles of Vitamin D gel-caps, which was also quite thoughtful, since I needed it- and it made me laugh, besides! 

Hopefully you liked my 'magic tricks' and hopefully I'll have more of them to show over the coming months!

May 23, 2014

scrapping, then and now (again)

In addition to taking lots of photos, I have been doing some scrapping, and rearranging my scrap space a bit, which I'll show you once it's clean (which means it could be months before I show it to you, lol). Anyway-- 

I've also actually been taking photos of scrapbook pages in order to make a scrapbook layout about my scrapbooking hobby. (did you follow that logic? lol!!) To that end, here's a few possibly/probably never-before-seen scrapbook pages from the archives: 

This page was probably made in the early-mid 2000s;
I'm guessing, since the photos are from Winter 1999.
(not sure, as I didn't used to date my pages when I made them)
I've written a bit already about my scrapbook style changing over time in a blog post titled 'My Scrapping Style Evolution.' I think everyone's style has to change at least a little, based on trends that come and go in scrapping just like in fashion, colors that go into or out of style, and new products or tools that become available for scrappers to use. 

a page documenting moving into my first house--
no patterned paper at all here, just cardstock and stickers!

another page from the early 2000s- no real 'design' to the page at all,
just one piece of patterned paper, and some handwritten journaling.
The pages above reflect the 'trends' and scrapbooking styles of the time in which they were made, and I'm perfectly okay with that. I'm glad I have the photos and the journaling that goes with them safely in my album.

For me, my SB style even changes from page to page, depending on what I'm inspired by at the time: a pretty new patterned paper, using a cool new tool or product I just bought (or maybe just 're-discovered' in my craft room!), whether I have pictures I really want to showcase vs. a story to tell, that sort of thing. And that's perfectly okay- for me, it's necessary, even, to keep me interested in the hobby long-term. (with some things, I have a pretty short attention span and get bored easily!)


Another page about the flowers at my first house,
this page was made last year, I think.
(I probably dated the back of the page)
The page above is definitely full of trendy features a la 2010-to-present: the background was misted and splattered with spray inks, there are cardstock letter stickers, there are two 4x6 photos butted up next to each other on one photo mat, there are layers of patterned paper behind the photos, and there are wood veneer embellishments on the page. I still like it! It reflects 'me' today, as far as scrapping goes. I don't do this kind of thing on every page, but it's fun to 'try on' a trend now and then, and even though there's no 'story' I wanted to tell with these pictures, I'm glad to have the photos on a page instead of in a box.


Left-hand page of a 2-page spread made sometime last year.

This is kind of tough to visualize because these next pages are made to go together in the album, so the pages above and below were made together as a 12 x 24 canvas. (I'll take some photos of them together so you can see how they look together.) But, from the photos here, hopefully you can see that these pages are in a very different 'style' than the pink splattered page above. These two pages are much more about the photos and not so much about the 'artsy' or 'trendy' things used on them. They were designed using a Scrapbook Generations page sketch so I wouldn't have to do the 'work' of designing them from scratch, and the focus is much more on the photos (I hope, anyway) than on the artistic details.
  
right-hand page of the same 2-page spread


Still, the various page details were all chosen to support the photos- from the colors of the cardstock and patterned paper to the stickers and flower embellishments I used. In addition, my switch to a digital camera has led me to take more (and hopefully better quality) photos so some of my pages are more photo-centric and photo-heavy than technique-heavy. I also recorded the main details of the day for posterity, to tell the 'story' that goes with these photos. Whatever works for the given situation and the objective you want to achieve, I say!

And then there's goofy pages like this one, made 'just because'

I used my (new-ish) Silhouette cameo electronic cutter to cut the feather embellishments on this page, so it was partially inspired by a new tool. But it was also inspired by the photos, although not in an overly-serious way. This page was made using a divided page protector, which is also 'trendy' and popular right now; in this way, you can look at the sections individually as well as looking at them as a cohesive 'whole page'  that tells a story (well, that was my intent, at least).

a close-up of the top half of the page

Not sure if you can read it, but the page title is: "Bird Brains-- If birds could talk...' and the journaling says, "every once in a while I get a picture that makes me think, 'what is that bird thinking?' and even though I know they don't really 'think' the way we do, it's fun to imagine."
The thought bubble above the mallard (who is looking intently into the water) is 'Boy, do you look GOOD! (if I do say so myself!)' I've taken enough biology classes to be fairly certain that this mallard isn't actually admiring his reflection in the water, but doesn't it sort of look like that's what he could be doing?? 

a close-up of the bottom half of the page
The thought bubble above the grebe on the left-hand side is, '...I may have overdone it with the hair gel... what do you think?' because in the photo, all his feathers seem to be sticking straight up, like his 'hair' (feathers) is spiked up with hair gel. (if birds used hair gel, that is... haha!) The egret on the right is looking straight at the camera and to me he looked kind of irritated, so his thought bubble says, 'Don't even think about talking to me until I've had my first cup of coffee!'  

So, my scrapbook pages can be artsy and trendy, for showcasing photos and/or telling a story, and some of them are just for fun. (Or they can be any and all combinations thereof.)

One of my ongoing projects for the year (besides re-arranging my scrapping space and trying to keep it clean), is to organize all my layouts in albums, and to finish all the mostly finished layouts I have in piles. When (if) I make some progress on those projects, I'll show them to you as well!




May 20, 2014

more random pics from the Arboretum, March 2014 (and some history)

William Boyce Thompson was an American mining engineer and financier who lived from 1869 - 1930. He was born in Montana during a time when Montana was experiencing a mining boom and was sent to the East Coast for schooling as a teenager, but didn't enjoy school at all-- he left the Exeter Academy without graduating. He enrolled in the Engineering program at Columbia (apparently back then you didn't need a diploma to enroll, lol!), but left after his freshman year. He returned to Montana and got married in 1895, then moved to New York City in 1899 to start invest in mining stocks. By 1906, he was a self-made millionaire. In 1907, he purchased the Magma (Copper) Mine in Superior, AZ, and had built a 67-room Gilded Age estate in Yonkers, NY. (this is kind of sad; apparently his NY estate was abandoned for many years: read the story here.)

another wildflower close-up

In the early years of the 20th century Thompson had much success on Wall Street and was involved in many different endeavors including philanthropy and humanitarian causes, politics, being a political envoy to different countries including Peru and Russia, and working with the Red Cross. After World War I, he decided he disliked politics and devoted more time to the winter home (Picket Post House) he was building in the hills near Superior, AZ. He originally didn't even own any of the land where he was building his winter home; the Forest Service owned it as part of the Crook National Forest. He had to get a special permit from them just to build the house. 

a winter visitor I was really excited to see- a male Hooded Merganser duck.
Not the best photo, but he seemed kind of shy so this was actually pretty good.
(thank goodness for the long camera lens!)

Apparently he used some of his Wall-Street deal-making abilities with the Forest Service, though, and in exchange for him buying and giving them some land they wanted in Northern AZ, they gave him ownership of 400 acres of the National Forest around the house he was building. He chose someone from the University of Arizona to establish the Boyce Thompson Southwest Arboretum on a portion of the 400 acres; its mission was to study the plants of desert countries and make the results available to the public. 

a small lizard, warming himself in the spring sunlight.
He's actually quite colorful, as is the lichen-encrusted rock he's sitting on.


One of his philanthropic endeavors back in NY was also plant research, to study plant physiology with the goal of ensuring a stable food supply for the growing US population. He had developed an interest in plants after his Red Cross visits to Russia during WWI, where he came to understand how important plants are for humans as a source of food, clothing, and shelter. Apparently his original Institute for Plant Research site- which was across the road from his NY estate- is abandoned also; see the story here with more photos. (kind of creepy, actually.) FYI, the Institute is still functioning, and today is housed on the campus of Cornell University.

fruit tree blooms of some sort.
Not sure what kind of tree it is, but the salmon-pink color is gorgeous!

In one part of the arboretum, there is a very old stone cottage that's tucked right up next to a vertical cliff face (the cliff wall actually forms one wall of the cottage). This cottage was lived in years before Colonel Thompson bought the property, and its grounds contain planting beds including an herb garden, roses, and a small orchard area. (unfortunately I don't know my fruit trees either- without the fruit on, lol- and didn't think to look for tags on the trees.)

a view of the Queen Creek from a small suspension bridge that crosses it.
Picket Post House isn't visible in this photo, but it's on top of that ridge,
right above / behind that bright green tree.

The Arboretum is Arizona's oldest and largest (at 323 acres) botanical garden, was the first purely botanical institution in the inter-mountain states, and is the fourth oldest botanical garden west of the Mississippi River. It houses over 600 kinds of cacti as well as rare and endangered plants from around the world totaling more than 2,600 species altogether. It is an Arizona State Park, a National Historic Site, and in conjunction with the University of Arizona, a scientific research facility. It's a very beautiful- and picturesque- place to visit, and well worth the drive. (It's about an hour's drive from Phoenix, and just under two hours from Tucson.)

a bee, quite intent on loading up his pollen baskets.
They really don't pay any attention to me at all as I'm taking pictures;
they're too focused on the task at hand (so to speak, lol).

Sorry this post got sort of long; I started out with random photos then went down a bit of a rabbit hole, looking up the history of the Arboretum. I hope it was interesting, though- it was really interesting to research!

This blog post was made possible with information from the Arboretum's History Page, (here)the William Boyce Thompson page from the Yonkers Historical Society website (here), and the Wikipedia entry for the Arboretum (here) as well as various other websites including the AZ National Parks page.

May 18, 2014

it's all about scale... seeing the details

March in Arizona is prime wildflower time... the spring weather, warmer temperatures, and (hopefully) a good amount of winter rain all work together to make the short span of time between winter and the summer heat quite beautiful. Some years more than others, of course (that whole 'rain' thing is important!), and it helps if you know where to look, too. (The state parks department posts updates on their website to let people know when and where to go!) 

When we were hiking at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in March, along with the gorgeous vistas and beautiful scenery, there were quite a few wildflowers blooming. Here are a few pictures I took along the way (we'd be walking along, I'd see one, and yell ahead to Tom to 'hold up!!' till I took some pictures...) it made for some slow hiking! That's because some flowers are big, bright, and showy, but not all of them; some of them you need to look pretty carefully to see. 

These plants were growing out of a pretty-much-vertical hillside.
(the green arrows are pointing towards one individual clump.)

{a closer view}
This entire clump was, maybe, as big as my blue Pyrex mixing bowl??
(that's about 6 inches in diameter, and maybe, 4 inches high)

{closest}
I'd estimate that this pale purple flower was about as big as my thumbnail.

This plant was growing pretty much right out of the rock.
The clump of greenery was about the same size as the plant above,
but with bright red flowers on multiple flower spikes.
 
{closer}
This isn't the same exact plant, by the way.
That plant was on the edge of the rock overlooking the creek below,
but there were more growing right next to the path we were on.
(close proximity to the path made for much-less-scary picture taking!) 

{closest}
The flowers are quite complex, up close. By the tubular flower shape,
this plant is probably pollinated by butterflies or hummingbirds.
  
I didn't take a picture of this plant in its 'natural habitat' unfortunately.
I don't remember, but there probably wasn't too much interesting about it;
the (very!) tiny yellow flowers caught my eye, though.

{close-up}
This close, you can also see that the foliage is kind of 'hairy'

This view is along one of the paths,
where the tree on the left and the agave bloom to the right make a sort of 'arch' over the path.
(the plant I'm concerned with is the magenta flowers at the very bottom left edge of the picture.)

{closer}
Another low-growing plant with tall flower spikes.
This plant (+ flowers) was maybe, as tall as my knee, or taller??
(I don't remember, exactly.)

{closest}
These are a purplish-magenta color, and shaped a bit different than the red ones.
This one is probably pollinated by butterflies or hummingbirds, too.

I think the plants with the flower spikes are probably some sort of Penstemon, although I'm not sure exactly what kind. I don't know anything about the other ones- unfortunately, I haven't learned too much about Arizona wildflowers yet-- other than the fact that they're pretty!! They're also very ephemeral, too. There's a pretty short window of time when the conditions and temps are right for this sort of plant to do their thing: grow, bloom, and reproduce, so the seeds can wait through the summer till the next wildflower season.

It looks like this website: Sonoran Desert Wildflower Report has some good information about dates, blooms, names, and information about what plants bloomed when. I'll have to check it out myself, before next spring! (and also, maybe to get a macro lens for my camera, in order to get better, very close, close-ups.)