Amsterdam: Keukenhof Gardens (and the CFFC challenge: Eyes)

You may think I’m reaching, using Keukenhof Gardens for the CFFC “Eyes” challenge, but it’s hard to think of anything but our eyes — staring goggle-eyed and visually dazzled — when confronted with so much color and light and so many beautiful blooms.

Eye dazzling displays – rivers of tulips. And see the fellow tourists on the upper left? We were part of a river of people touring that river of blooms. 

When we first planned to stop-over in Amsterdam for a few days on the way back from a tour, I was thinking about art, not flowers. “But wait –,” I thought, “We’ve only been to Amsterdam in autumn. If we’re going in the spring, shouldn’t we see tulips?” Sam agreed to a tulip tour, so we booked early. After all, we were going to be there Easter weekend. There would be crowds. And so there were…

The fields alongside were full of color too…

Tulip fields - alongside Keukenhof Gardens

Tulips and hyacinths in the fields alongside Keukenhof Gardens.

I’ve since read that there were a record 200,000 visitors to Keukenhof over the 4 days of Easter weekend. Compare that to 236,000 visitors in the entire first year the park was open – 1950. We were 2 of the multi-thousand there on Good Friday. It was “hot, flat, and crowded” (thank you Thomas L Friedman) but still drop-dead gorgeous. Keukenhof crowds - Easter Weekend 2019We took a tour bus from the Central Train Station, a ride of 30-40 minutes depending on traffic. I later read that by Saturday, traffic was so heavy that there were problems just getting to the Gardens, and tourists went into the fields along the way instead. We saw that happening on Friday too — here are some pictures I took out the bus window on the way back to Amsterdam…

Tourists in the tulip fields near Keukenhof Gardens - Amsterdam 2019 -- Driving by Tulip Fields

Tourists in the tulip fields near Keukenhof Gardens – Amsterdam 2019 

Near Keukenhof - Posing in the tulip fields - snapshot out the bus window

Posing in the tulips

 

Snapshot out the bus window - posing in the tulip field near Keukenhof

Snapshot out the bus window – posing in the tulip field near Keukenhof

Meanwhile, no flowers were harmed in the actual gardens — Is this peak tulip or what?

Keukenhof Gardens - iphonography

Iphonography – one more look before we go.

Keukenhof wasn’t exactly a bucket-list item, but now that I’ve been there I’m tempted to count it as such.  Tulips and other spring bulbs were among the first things I planted when I bought a house. Along with violets, irises, and peonies, they’re the plants most likely to evoke a sense of home and childhood memories. The graceful arc of a stem, light slanting through blossoms, or the heady scent of a large bed of blossoms in sunlight are enough to transport me.

I guess I qualify as a flower-fanatic… do you?

 

Keukenhof Gardens

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Eyes

Advertisements

Hoarding Coffee Cups (and Tea Cups) – Part 1 – and Last Week’s CFFC: Shiny

It’s easy to accumulate too many coffee (and tea) cups. First it was vintage collectible sets, scrounged one at a time in flea markets and thrift shops. Then industry conferences and meetings with vendors at work kept me well supplied with complementary mugs. When traveling, it’s even easier to acquire nifty souvenir cups from museum gift shops. But eventually, moving day comes and something has to go.

Before I moved, I gave away lots of the themed coffee mugs, but still held on to certain gifts and favorites from times past. Here’s a small selection of each category —

A tea cup with infuser and a Met Museum travel coffee cup

KEPT:  On the left: a travel mug from the Met Museum gift shop in NYC, purchased when we discovered our hotel room had a microwave… bonus! On the right, a teacup fitted with its own infuser.

Harlingford cups and saucers - Homer Laughlin Company, 1930s - 1950s

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Harlequin cups and saucers – 1st cousins to original Fiesta Ware, Homer Laughlin Company, 1930s – 1950s, enthusiastically collected in the 1980s.

Doll dishes: tea set

GONE: To a friend with granddaughters, my dolls’ tea set from my childhood.

Vintage Fostoria: American Clear

GONE: Vintage Fostoria: American Clear. Here they in a quick snapshot taken when I was sorting what to keep and what to release. These were my mother’s, and remarkable because she still had the cups. Most cups eventually got broken… her go-to anger release.

Jean-Luc Picards tea cup from Star Trek TNG

GONE: I had these glass “beaker” mugs before Star Trek – The Next Generation’s Jean-Luc Picard did. (“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” -?- whatever he’s sipping here looks too dark for Earl Grey) I bought that set in Kansas City in the 1980s at a store called Function Junction. Sadly, they were fragile and didn’t last — and I didn’t have a replicator to make new ones. I’m glad to know the pattern survived until the 24th Century. 

I’m looking back at the cups-of-my-life now because I just broke my VERY favorite.

RIP the last coffee cup from a set of four  –  cherished through four moves. Two of them bit the dust years ago, but up until the last couple of weeks I still had two in use. Then I dropped one. After that, the remaining one cracked, perhaps in sympathy. Here it is in black, in memoriam.

Glass coffee cup, from Function Junction in Kansas City, c. 1980s

GONE: My Goldilocks cup. See the crack along the bottom? — Glass coffee cup, also from Function Junction in Kansas City, c. 1980s. Some cups are too big, some are too small, but this one was “just right”…

Now I know how hard it is to find a good coffee/tea cup that’s…

  • microwaveable
  • glass (so I can see it in the microwave)
  • mug-style
  • large enough for greedy coffee drinkers – 16 oz please
  • simple, and attractive
  • and for an eco-warrior woman who wants to ‘buy locally,’ at least made in the same country I live in

So – now I know what I want. I’m still interviewing new cups.

Do you have an all-time favorite coffee cup?

 

Be still my heart, and thank you Google. I just saw that there is one remaining Function Junction store. It’s in Kansas City… something to find on my next trip. Shiny!

Shiny: Something that is great, wonderful, very cool – from Joss Whedon’s TV Series “Firefly”

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Shiny

The screen-grab shot of Captain Picard, above, from “Now pour the tea” An Aesthetic Evaluation of Picard’s Tea Sets

Winter Parks and Streets, Vacating Storage, and Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Colorful Monotones

Christmas week at Lake Anita, Anita Iowa State Park…

Deer in Lake Anita State Park - Anita Iowa

We didn’t have a white Christmas this year. The deer are hard to see until they move, and the white flags of their tails show up against brown and gold surroundings. 

We’ve had some sepia days in Atlanta too…

Atlanta in sepia - clearing after a storm

The end of a storm, with stop lights like little red eyes on the next street over. 

Segue to a cool palate — here’s my November triumph…

Empty storage bin

It’s my second storage bin and YES it’s empty!

With a lot of help, I’m now down to one storage bin. When I sold my house last year, the plan was to get one bin and keep an apartment’s worth of furniture. Then I found at the last minute I wasn’t quite as downsized as I thought I was. The only thing to do was get an extra (but smaller) bin for the overflow. Then at the very last minute, I needed yet another. Bin number three got consolidated in April, and bin number two by the end of November.

Here it is when it was almost empty…

Almost-empty storage bin with vintage dress form

What -? Doesn’t everyone keep a vintage mannequin around for decoration? Oh yeah, and a mineral specimen? And a 70s reel-to-reel recorder? And archived paper towels?

Now that I’ve sneaked a little color in, I’ll share one more storage view. Here’s the first bin this time last year. Some things are gone now, but it’s still packed pretty tight with boxes from the second bin taking the place of some furniture — there’s plenty more work to be done.

Storage bin number one

Always a dilemma – what should I keep and what can go? 

I have to keep the red wicker rocking chair. My great aunt gave it to her husband for their wedding anniversary in 1929. I adopted it in the 80s when they downsized from their farmhouse and moved to town. It spent most of its life as white wicker, but I went a little crazy and painted it red a couple of years ago.

It’s still an odd feeling to go visit my stuff in storage — sort of like a window into my past life. Soon (I hope) I’ll be down to just what I intended to keep.

Have you ever had a storage bin? I’d love to hear others’ experiences with downsizing.

 

More on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Colorful Monotones

Castleberry Hill Loft Tour 2018, and Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge (CFFC): Places People Live

One more post on Places People Live:  I couldn’t pass up a chance to blog my favorite Atlanta homes tour — the Castleberry Hill Loft Tour.

It comes in October, and this year I timed two fall trips with a week at home between them just so I’d be here for the tour.

Barbie - Castleberry Hill Loft Tour 2018

“Hooray – it’s time for the tour!” (Barbies seemed to be a decorative thread this year. It was near enough to Halloween that there were zombie Barbies too)

 

Castleberry Hill Loft Tour - interior

There’s always lots of art…

 

Castleberry Hill Loft Tour - detail over doorway

… and individual decoration. I loved the sculptural arrangement of these metallic bowls over a doorway.

 

Castleberry Hill Loft tour - home/studio

Another loft home, with signs that it’s also this artist’s studio (brick walls and paint on the table: a little like my fantasy-future, back when I was an art student).

 

Castleberry Hill Loft Tour Dino detail

Dino detail: I covet the T-Rex planter.

 

Castleberry Hill Tour favorite - 2018

This was a favorite – serene, elegant and livable.

 

Stairwell with art - Castleberry Hill Loft Tour 2018

It’s on three levels…

stairwell Castleberry Hill Loft tour 2018

I do love the big-dipper light fixture at the bottom of the stairs.

 

Rooftop view - Castleberry Hill Loft tour 2018

It was a beautiful blue October day – perfect for rooftop views…

 

balcony - Castleberry Hill Loft Tour 2018

… and balconies

 

Castleberry Hill tour - balcony 2018

… and more balconies.

As we were leaving, we saw this group in the Gulch. We thought it might be a movie-site walking tour, or maybe a Walking Dead location tour. Lots of filming gets done in Atlanta these days.

Could it be a Walking Dead tour?

 

We appreciate the Castleberry Hill tour because it’s different, more ‘personal’ than some of the other local homes tours, which lately have featured places staged for sale, or even newly built homes that have never been occupied and are open for viewing anyway (are you listening, Modern Atlanta Tour?).

Castleberry Hill is a little quirky, and fun; the neighborhood seems welcoming, with residents always willing to talk about the advantages of inclusivity. Plus, all residences are within walking distance, so we get a good feel for the area.

— For me, it encourages that vision of my “fantasy future loft” — what’s your fantasy future home?

 

More on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Cee’s Challenge: Places People Live

Castleberry Hill Neighborhood

 

Keeping Magazines, and Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Places People Live

Coming home after back-to-back trips —  the first one the longest vacation I’ve taken in years — gives me a fresh look at my surroundings. Sam’s condo has always been much neater than my house was when I was downsizing. I knew my piles of reading material were accumulating, but living here every day, I didn’t quite notice how much. It’s not just what I’m currently reading or even what I’m planning to read, I’m holding on to what I’ve already read and “might want to see again”.

Here’s a sampling from the stack in the corner…How old are some of these magazines?    *Blush* — um, decades.

First — Smithsonian, 1982.  “Yak caravan makes way back to Tibet after trading in Nepal.” I couldn’t possibly let this go, could I? Because: yaks!

Smithsonian 1982

I’m focusing on magazines. For books I (maybe) have better excuses. Some of these magazines are here because I found them in storage, brought them back to sort out and still haven’t let go; some are recently accumulated.

Utne Reader, 1992. Here’s an oldie, but somehow I can’t seem to move on. It may be from decades past but I still want to “free myself from consumer culture.” (I’m working on it)

Utne Reader 1992

 

Annals of Improbable Research, 1996. Bob used to take this magazine, and I found several in the basement.

Annals of Improbable Research, 1996

More on Improbable Research:  In case you didn’t notice, this issue’s cover photo features seeing an image of ET in a “ventral view of Capillaria (Nematoda: Trichinelloidea) from the epithelium of the tongue of a long nosed bandicoot” from New South Wales, Australia.

 

The New Yorker, May 1990. Clearly I should never subscribe, if I still have an issue after this long. Upon examination, it doesn’t have the article I thought I was keeping it for. (Maybe here’s one I can pass along after all)

The New Yorker, May 1990

 

Aura Publications, 1976. This is the oldest one in the stack and here’s a mystery. I remember having a photograph accepted in an exhibition called Aura, but that would have been a decade later.  I wasn’t taking photography classes yet in 1976. I have a list of publications somewhere; I’ll check that out next time it surfaces.

Aura Publications, June 1976

 

Writer’s magazines – at last, something contemporary. I’ve kept these to refer to, but shouldn’t I move on?

Writer's Digest and Writer's Chronicle

 

Star Trek cruise activity schedule, 2018. Technically not a magazine, but it insinuated itself into the stack. I kept it after our January vacation because I wanted to research a couple of the space and science presentations. Time to scan it if I think I still need to, and let this one go. See? Worf is glowering at me for keeping it all these months.

Star Trek cruise catalog

There must be a lesson here. (Besides the shout out that “Hey, writers and photographers, there’s someone out here who appreciates your work enough to hold on to it!”)

I also have clipped-out articles for how to do something, magazines with great photos, and other quirky things of interest — special thanks here to Bob’s 1980-90s stash of Smithsonians.  I’ve tried online subscriptions, with the result that I never got around to reading the issues. Apparently I need a real presence to pay attention. Last year I asked the library about donating subscriptions, then going there to read the magazines. Apparently that’s complicated, and I was not met with enthusiasm.

I could do a massive scan project, or maybe I just need to realize I can’t keep everything that interests me, and move on. Are you a keeper of magazines, and if so, how do you rein yourself in?

 

More on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge and this week’s Places People Live

Waterfalls, Lotus Ponds, Atlanta’s Midtown Open Garden Stroll, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Liquid

Sunday was the 4th year we’ve gone to the “Midtown Open Garden Stroll” in Atlanta – it’s always a joy, and speaking of liquid, it almost always rains at least some time during the day. This year there was thunder rumbling as we walked home, but the rain held off until later. We were lucky to see the sun shining on garden ponds and fountains. Here’s a favorite from this year’s tour —

Garden Pool with waterfall - Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll 2018

This one had everything: lotus flowers, koi, and electric-blue dragonflies who were determined not to sit still for their close-up.

 

Lotus Pool - Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll 2018

Here’s the lotus side of the pool.

Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll sign

Signs identify homes on the tour, indicating which part of the yard/garden is open.

Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll 2017 - frog planter

This frog planter is from a front garden on last year’s tour.

Side Garden - Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll  2017

Here’s a side garden from last year’s tour – even the narrow space between homes is beautifully planned and tended.

Back Garden - Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll  2017 and 2018

There’s a koi pond at the end of the walkway in this serene back yard garden.

Atlanta Midtown Open Garden Stroll 2017: we liked this house across the street from one of the open gardens..

Sometimes there are surprises along the way. This house was across the street from one of last year’s open gardens. I was fascinated by the colors, the roofline, the arched windows and door. 

I’m lost in admiration for these gardens and the people who design them, care for them, and let all us strangers tromp in to see their private wonderlands. But I have a new outlook on garden tours now that I no longer have a back yard of my own. I can still identify and appreciate plants. If I see something new and different I want to know what it is, but there’s been a shift in my regard. They seem more like garden art, and (at least for now) I’ve lost my possessive instinct. I no longer yearn to have them for my own to nurture. Maybe it’s just laziness, or maybe it’s facing reality that there’s only so much time available. After all, I always liked development work more than maintenance and let’s face it – weeding is maintenance.

Here’s more on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Liquid

Do you have a favorite local garden tour?

The High Line, the BeltLine, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Lines

The High Line: on this year’s trip to New York, we finally got to see it greening up for spring.

High Line Park NYC - from the Whitney Museum

From a balcony at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The High Line: a 1.45 mile long park in New York City, created on a stretch of elevated railway that was no longer used. 

High Line Park NYC - spring

Looking back toward the Whitney. I love it that pieces of the old railroad track are incorporated into the landscaping. 

High Line Park NYC - spring blooms

The daffodils were blooming. That’s a first for us, after the last two years when we traveled in March and were blessed with snow.

At home in Atlanta, we have the BeltLine, not elevated like the High Line, but destined to be much longer. It’s a proposed loop of around 22 miles of trails planned to connect 45 neighborhoods. Here’s Sam on a rainy day last fall. It was one of the days with lots of hurricane-engendered rain, and for a while we were the only ones out braving the storm.

Atlanta BeltLine - stormy day

The BeltLine already needs a new lane. It’s often mobbed. Between speeding bicycles and people with dogs on long leashes making trip-wires, it can be difficult to walk safely.

There’s lots of art along the way, and landscaping is coming along nicely. These are from a sunnier day —Atlanta BeltLine - morning glory Atlanta BeltLine - grasses

Turning disused rail lines into walking trails is not a new idea. Years (decades) ago, when the trains no longer came through my small hometown, there was a plan to remove the rails and ties and make the railroad line into a walking trail. I’d already moved away, so I’m not sure what became of that, but I think it would have been hard to keep the trails going. For example, they were fragmented by the removal of two of the three railroad bridges. Here’s one that stayed,  (I think it’s still there) —

NH railroad bridge

The bridge on the other end of town is a background in this next photo, a family history photo now — the girl wearing glasses is my mother at 16.

When I was growing up there, we walked on the railroad tracks, played on the bridges (gasp!) and along the way, picked berries and asparagus that grew beside the tracks. With all these railroad track paths, it sounds like I’ve spent my life walking railroad lines, doesn’t it?

Do you have a favorite rail line path?

More on the Manhattan High Line  Wow – I see you can adopt a plant. I’m considering… I’d want to see updates on mine though, and maybe visit it each year to check on progress and be allowed to give it a little compost treat.

More on the Atlanta BeltLine

More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Lines