Bee Feet, Chocolate Shoes, Very Spiky Heels, and the CFFC Photo Challenge: Feet

There’s diversity of foot size in this post. Let’s go small-medium-large…

Bee feet clinging to the butterfly weed

Bee feet. This one was snuggling the butterfly weed in Piedmont Park on Sunday morning.

 

What goes on feet (unless they’re bee feet)? — shoes of course. But I saw these in the window of a candy store in Asheville NC.

Asheville NC - chocolate shoes

Not quite life-size, but almost. I say the bigger the better if they’re chocolate.

Moving on to real shoes…

Red shoes with lobster - in a NYC window

Seen when window shopping in New York City. Candy-colored but not candy – would these be appropriate for a meal at a ‘Red Lobster’ — that is, if you ate lobster?

These are impressive too…

NYC again. These have a look of speed, ironic, for something that looks hard to walk in. If super-heroes wore spike heels (and *sigh* if they’re women drawn by men I suppose they do) then these might be just the ticket.

One more. Where else but NYC? These spiky ones remind me of the bee feet, and they could be a little difficult to wear if you can’t fly. 

There. I got my shoe-fascination taken care of for a while, thanks to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge.

What do you think – where would you wear shoes like these (well, except the chocolate ones)?

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Pech Merle, Prehistoric Cave Paintings in France, and the CFFC Photo Challenge: Hands

What were we humans painting 16000 to 25000 years ago? — horses, bison, mammoths, sometimes people, and…  outlines of our hands.

Poster near the entrance to the Pech Merle cave, Southwestern France

It’s a poster in the entry lobby to Pech Merle, an ice age cave in Southern France, one of the few still open to the public.

Oh, and dots. We (our ancestors) were painting dots — dots that meander through the scenes and make us wonder about their meaning, and dotted horses that modern researchers have determined were not just another excuse for dots, but most likely represent ancient horses with coats in patterns similar to our Appaloosas.

Road sign - on the way to Pech Merle

Road sign – on the way to Pech Merle

A reproduction red hand-print sign in a village near Pech Merle, Southwestern France

A reproduction red hand-print on a sign in a village near Pech Merle, Southwestern France

Hand-print on a postcard - Pech Merle cave - Southwestern France

Hand print, souvenir postcard

We assume illiteracy, but their visual language was rich, and still speaks to us. Who’s to say the patterns of dots and animal shapes weren’t a language of symbols we just haven’t found the Rosetta Stone for?  Or maybe, as one of our group suggested, considering some of the exaggerated female figures we saw here we could argue instead for teenage-boy graffiti.

But there’s also a relatively recent study of prehistoric hand stencils that argues many if not most were made by women. Could female artists have had an equality in ancient times that we don’t have even today? (hey, maybe those cave-men weren’t such cave-men after all)

Hand-print and horses - from the tourist brochure for the Pech Merle cave

Hand-print and horses – from the tourist brochure for the Pech Merle cave

It couldn’t have been easy to do — in dark caves, with flickering torchlight, at difficult heights in corridors deep underground.  But on a lighter note, here’s one thing our ancestors may not have seen when exiting the caves…

Exit through the gift shop - Pech Merle furry mammoths and bats!

Exit through the gift shop – Pech Merle, with cute fuzzy mammoths and cave bats

And one thing we cave tourists have in common with the prehistoric world?  — no photography. And I understand that. I’m just glad they let us breathe (body heat, moisture and CO2 from our breath can be harmful to the paintings, with the result that only a few are still open to the public).

This was our favorite cave tour of our April trip to southern France. We thought it had some of everything — dots, horses, mammoths, reindeer, bison, and aurochs, some human figures, and of course, the outlines of hands along with incised drawings, and even fossilized footprints.

Do you have a cave tour to recommend?

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Hands

Pech Merle Cave  

More on Pech Merle

Who made those hand-stencils?

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Refuge, Midwest Flooding, Hope, and the CFFC Photo Challenge: Feathers

At Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Refuge – sometimes there’s a chance to get (relatively) up close and personal with feathers…

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - Heron - evening light

Heron – autumn light

And sometimes, still lots of feathers, but maybe not so close…

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - Fall Migration - geese in the air, masses of starlings

Fall Migration – geese in the air & a few stragglers from the masses of starlings that swarm like nanoparticles

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - Geese - ice in winter

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Geese – cold feet on the ice in winter.

I’ve been wondering if I’ll get a chance to see any birds when I visit the midwest this summer. Flooding along the Missouri River in March this spring breached many levees in the area. Not just the roadway around the wildlife refuge, but even the Expressway a few miles over had to be closed after damage from flooding.

There was a 500-year flood along the Missouri River in the 1990s too, the year our office was transferred from Kansas City to Atlanta. I remember flying back and forth for work, and seeing the river spread out like an inland sea below.

A few years earlier I’d seen a schoolhouse for sale in a small town near the river, and considered buying it to renovate as a home. I had regrets about passing on that plan, but during the flood, the roads leading to the town with the schoolhouse were closed. It would have been hard to sell my schoolhouse and move, so it was just as well my scheme didn’t work out.

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - heron in summer

Heron – Squaw Creek in summer.

Birds can fly to safety in a flood, but what happens to everyone else? Do they get swept away?

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - frog in the mud - spring 2018

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs – froggy nestling in the mud – spring 2018

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - swimming muskrat - spring 2018

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs – swimming muskrat – spring 2018

And fish – what happens to them when the river rages through?

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs - fishing heron - spring 2018

Fishing heron/muskrat mounds – Spring 2018

Here’s hoping all the creatures survived. I just called the office and found that, despite what the website still says, the auto-tour route around the refuge is open again.  I’m hoping (there’s that word “hope” again) it stays that way. You know about hope, right? — “Hope is the thing with feathers.”

Hope is the Thing with Feathers by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all …

 

Squaw Creek/Loess Bluffs Wildlife Refuge

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Feathers

 

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

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

Amsterdam Bicycles (Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Bicycles, Tricycles…)

Bicycle wheels — where are we? Amsterdam of course. Where else can you go where you can’t even take a photo of the iguana-sculpture without getting bicycles in the frame?

Kleine-Gartmanplantsoen in 2014 - Amsterdam square with iguana sculptures

When I looked up the name of the park – Kleine-Gartmanplantsoen – I found out the iguanas are gone now. They’ve been removed and, appropriately for this post, the area is now used for bicycle parking.

When it comes to bicycles, it’s hard to imagine more in any one place than there are in Amsterdam. I just re-discovered these photos from a 2014 trip. Here’s the bicycle parking lot near the central train station —

Amsterdam: bicycle park at the Central Train Station

There’s parking on the bridges too. I liked this one, and wondered how long it had been there. Look closely: an enterprising spider was happy to set up housekeeping…

Amsterdam bicycle with spider web

Bridge-parking: I think it’s been there for a while.

Amsterdam - Wood Bicycle

We were impressed to come upon this handsome wooden bicycle.

It even has a story…

Amsterdam Wooden Bicycle - the story

“I am a wooden bike and my owner is the Banks Mansion Hotel behind me. Because I am made from wood, I am totally recyclable and good for the environment…”

Then, we saw this wooden one, which appears to have seen some good use.

Amsterdam - wooden bicycle 'Cool Endeavour'

It has a name!  — “Cool Endeavour”

I came home from that 2014 trip to more work on downsizing, trying to get to the point where I could sell my house. It took three years after that, but by the fall of 2017, I’d moved. Travel is so much more enjoyable now that I don’t have to worry about my house. Still, as a Hoarder, I haven’t quite come clean. But, a storage bin is more manageable than an entire house… and, hopefully I’ll downsize to smaller storage someday soon. I’m working on it.

And — Happy New Year!  Wishing everyone safe travels in 2019.

Previous posts: Amsterdam: Coming Home, and Amsterdam: Orange

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Bicycles, Tricycles, Motorcycles, Wagons

Iowa Farm Fun, Baby Chicks, and Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Farm Animals

Picture a warm summer day in the midwest. I’m on my way through Iowa. The corn is about as high as an elephant’s knee, and I see — a giraffe! Wait, what? That’s what happened to me last summer…

Iowa corn giraffe

Seen grazing just north of Clarinda Iowa. I was hurrying to meet a friend, so found the giraffe again on my way back for its photo op. S/he was still there a few weeks later, on my next midwest trip.

By October’s trip most of the corn was harvested, and I didn’t see the giraffe anywhere. But “just up the road a piece” something else caught my eye…  It’s further from the road than it looks here. I used significant zoom.

Iowa: roadside moose

A moosely cutout. It’s good to know that farmers have a sense of humor. I wonder how many people noticed this Iowa moose. It was still there on Thanksgiving week.

And yes, the title here is “Farm Animals.” I haven’t forgotten. But these are animals (sort of)– and they’re on a farm.

Here’s a little farm-reality from same part of the country. On last year’s trip I saw these squirmy baby chicks at the Mennonite Country Store. They wouldn’t hold still for their close-up …

Chicks at Galaxy Country Store

Chicks at the Galaxy Country Store – I heard them peeping before I saw them. 

All the Easters of my childhood flashed before my eyes at the first peep, each year’s downy chick a little side-kick to follow me around, to be raised in the yard and eventually taken back to the farm by the time Easter came again. Now I suddenly wonder what happened to them after they went home. At the time, I pictured them hanging out in the pasture, garden, and chicken house with the flock, eating bugs, laying eggs, squawking, scratching, all those chicken-activities. But, um… now I know that life is not kind to chickens. Still, I hope they survived.

Are there Easter chicks in your past?

More on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Farm Animals