Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Imagine my delight when I stumbled across Foodscapes by photographer Carl Warner. I love art. I love meat. To combine them in meatscapes is simply sublime!

Salami Stream by Carl Warner
Salami Road by Carl Warner
Even I can see the the beauty of a vegetarian composition.

Celery Forest by Carl Warner (image updated 12-5-2010)
Fruit Balloons and Cart by Carl Warner
Warner's Foodscapes delight like bonsai -- playing with textures, scale, light and perspective. But really, I just love that they make me drool. I think I might order a print of Salami River for my crate.

How does he do it? Warner's website describes the team process of creating each Foodscape:

The ‘Foodscapes’ are created in Carl’s London studio where they are built on top of a large purpose built triangular table top. The scenes are photographed in layers from foreground to background and sky as the process is very time consuming and so the food quickly wilts under the lights. Each element is then put together in post production to achieve the final image.

“Although I’m very hands on with my work, I do use model makers and food stylists to help me create the sets. I tend to start with a drawing which I sketch out in order to get the composition worked out, this acts as a blue print for the team to work to.”

“I’ve always enjoyed the discipline of working in the studio, and the spontaneity of working outdoors in natural light, as you never know what you’re going to get. With my ‘Foodscapes’ I can now put together the knowledge of natural light with the control of recreating it in the studio in order to bring out the colours and textures as well as the beauty of a scene”

These images can take up to two or three days to build and photograph and then a couple of days retouching and fine tuning the images to blend all the elements together. Carl spends a lot of time planning each image before shooting in order to choose the best ingredients to replicate larger scale shapes and forms within nature, so he spends a lot of time staring at vegetables in supermarkets which makes him seem a little odd! However, he is careful to point out that finding the right shaped broccoli to use as a tree is an all important task.

Read all about it and see his works in their full glory (plus moving Foodscapes made with stop frame animation) on Carl Warner's website.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Poodle Days of Summer

Some people have clown phobias.
Me? Poodles.
Poodles were out en masse today. They were everywhere on my six-mile, morning constitutional. Seriously. I think we counted a dozen poodles and poodle-licious dogs and only three non-poodles -- four, counting me.

I realized, I just don't see poodles out and about all that much. Barking from backs of couches behind plate glass windows, yes. Tucked under the arms of protective owners, yes. But out in the heat, the cold, the rain, the snow or at the dog park? Not so much.

The snappy autumn weather makes us all feel frisky. This fine day obviously called all those poodles and their owners out of their houses for a stroll along the river. It was sunny, breezy and not a lick of that humidity. I don't think I panted once. It was one of the fine poodle days of summer.

As we passed poodle after poodle - which is no easy task, as they are often nasty, barky things that seemed ready to tear out my throat - it got me thinking about poodles as a breed. I admit to having some serious stereotypes to slog through. 

First, are poodles and their like too froo-froo fragile to be out in the true dog days of summer? Or are they just too picky? Maybe poodles don't like to walk like active dogs like me.

My Susan's friend has a little lap dog that simply lays down and goes all conscientious objector at about block two of any walk -- even on the most perfect of days. (I also hear that she goes pee-pee on a little mat-mat in the house-house.) Do poodles have delicate constitutions? Are they hot-house flowers?

After a bit of research - because, frankly, I don't know any poodles well -- I've decided that poodles may well be one of the most misunderstood breeds out there.

I think their cuteness and non-shedding coats get poodles them selected for duty by people looking for cute widdle doggies that won't mess up their house. (Ironically, poodles apparently have a very high "marking" drive so they may well cause some serious havoc in white carpet abodes.)

Poodles are actually very active dogs and require very active owners. In fact, poodles are hunting dogs. Water retrievers. Think lab or spaniel.

It does look funny, doesn't it?
It is time for me to re-think the poodle.
That silly haircut? The puffy pom-pom "poodle clip" was actually, according to the American Kennel Club, "designed by hunters to help the dogs move through the water more efficiently. The patches of hair left on the body are meant to protect vital organs and joints which are susceptible to cold." 

The poodle-do actually serves a practical purpose. Who knew?
And poodles are actually razor smart. We're talking second-only-to-border-collie intelligence. Poodles excel in obedience training. There's a reason circus dogs are poodles - beyond the fact that they look better in tutus than hounds - they can learn to do amazing things.

Yet the poodles I see in public are, as a group, among the most obnoxiously ill-mannered creatures on the leash - straining and barking and jumping on people and dogs. (I'm mostly talking medium and toy poodles, not standard. Standard poodles are big dogs - such behavior would not be tolerated.) My Susan has been bitten by a dog only once in her life. You guessed it - he was a poodle.

So, if it isn't that poodles are dumb or hard to train, then that pretty much puts their bad behavior back in the laps of the owners. What a surprise.

Poor poodles.
I feel bad for poodles. Poodles are noble hunters asked to be couch cushions, teddy bears and fashion accessories. No wonder they are cranky. I will try to be more sympathetic when I pass them on a fine summer day.

Note: I always thought  the "dog days of summer" described days that are so hot and humid that the dogs just lounge around and pant. But the "dog days of summer" actually comes from the ancient belief that Sirius, also called the Dog Star, in close proximity to the sun was responsible for the hot weather. I like my idea better.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Puff the Muggle Wagon

Going on a camping road trip is quite a process in my house. A week ahead, piles begin to appear. The dining room becomes a staging area. Tempers rise, feet stomp and lists rule.

staging area, car camping 2010
I dislike the tension. I gutted my favorite stuffy this week. I wish I hadn't. Now it is floppy and doesn't go squeaky squeaky.

I wish I hadn't.
We were set to head west early tomorrow morning. Destination: Wall, South Dakota. Then on to the Black Hills and the Bighorn Mountains. My family has done variations on this trip lots, but Wyoming is a first for me. I do love camping and hiking!

Water just tastes better camping.
Colorado, August 2009
We get to be outside all the time, the smells are fantastic, I get to chase Dan the Turbo Fawn (What? I can't this time! Phooey!), and we all sleep in a cozy pile in our den-- which is good, because it gets chilly.

They make sure I am comfortable camping.
Jay Cooke State Park, June 2009
So, Friday morning, Susan and Boy#2 went off to run final errands. A longer leash for me, a bone for me, food for me and a new stuffy for me for Christmas (I can hear you, people. I am standing right here.) and some other stuff. They also procured a massive bag of ice and then stopped at the ATM to get some cash on the way home.

They way they tell it, Susan and Boy#2 had been discussing a bad smell that was making them feel icky. They thought is was asphalt or some other nasty fume. But it seemed to follow them where ever they went. At the bank, Boy#2 inquired if it was normal for black smoke to be curling up from the hood.

There is a family legend about my Susan and her sister watching Tarzan on their old black and white TV. The story has it that they were so enthralled with an epic forest fire scene that their dad had to pull the plug when he entered the room and found smoke pouring out of the TV. They also speak of the time their hotel mini fridge exploded in Costa Rica. I worry that my Susan will die in a conflagration someday.

Puff the Muggle Wagon, on a better day.
Colorado, August 2009
But back to the smoking Subaru. Susan clearly knows nothing about cars. She can barely open the hood. She has changed a few flats. But mostly, her car care knowledge involves knowing which way to point the car to get to people who know things.

So she thought of the closest auto shop - the place her sister goes to - and prayed the car wouldn't blow up while driving the last mile down Snelling Avenue.

Friday really isn't the best day to have car trouble. I'm not saying I believe in that Friday the 13th stuff but... Luckily, Susan's sister's car place was  sympathetic. They took a look under the hood and checked her car into urgent care right away. The guy said there was oil all over which was burning as it hit the hot engine. (Susan wondered if they shouldn't have gotten the oil changed for cheap last week.) She was very relieved the auto guy gave her, Boy#2 and their melting bag of ice a ride back home.

A day later, the mechanics are still perplexed. They keep calling about disassembling the exhaust system to "get a better look," checking about the warranty (since there are only 35,000 miles on the wagon) and they are now injecting dye to try to figure out where all that oil is coming from. Words you don't like your vet or mechanic to ever say: "We've never seen anything like it!"

Now it is coming up on Sunday and that is the day of rest for mechanics. We are going nowhere. Hotel and campground reservations have been canceled.  The family is coping even though I seem to be the only one with any food in the house. Maybe they will start making camping meals.

My Susan decided re-channel her stress into a morning mega-walk with me (woo hoo!) and by ripping sweaty armloads of weeds from the garden. She found these cute little baby bell peppers hiding under the weeds.

If we left on time, we would have never found our baby bell peppers!
Maybe is a good thing to gain a few unexpected days of home vacation. No appointments. No schedule. And the grocery store is close enough on foot.

I am good at waiting. 
But... I just can't wait to GO!

Hiking in the wilderness with Boy#1
Colorado, August 2009

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Morning Face

My Susan overslept this morning and missed her shower/caffeine ritual before running Boy#1 to the orthodontist. She glanced in the car mirror and bemoaned the stubborn pillow creases in her aging face and neck.

"You look like the Emperor in Star Wars," her delightful child informed her.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Milkmaid and Dog (De Melkmeid en Honden)

click on image to enlarge
Content and Criticism
The Milkmaid and Dog (De Melkmeid en Honden), sometimes called The Kitchen Maid and Hound is an oil painting of a domestic kitchen maid and a little brown dog by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. It was painted between 1657 and 1659. The housemaid is preparing a traditional bread pudding in a Dutch oven while her companion, a polite little hound, watches hopefully.

Like Dog with a Pearl Earring, Vermeer depicts a quiet wistfulness of his subjects in simple poses. He captures the window light with luminous colors highlighting the face of the humble servant, the flowing stream of milk and the bright eyes of the hopeful hound. 

The ivory of the maid's cap, the stream of milk and the delicate snout of the dog form a visual triangle that is intersected by the ivory of the maid's arm. Not only is this an interesting compositional choice, but Vermeer also emphasizes clearly the relationship of the maid to dog - the arm closing an inner triangle and forming a barrier to the milk, excluding the dog.

Perhaps the dog’s long-suffering gaze represents Vermeer’s own isolation or his longing to shed the rigid constraints of Dutch society. Is the dog a commentary on the class system of haves and have-nots? The strong diagonal of her gaze follows the forbidden bread, the out-of-reach milk and to the glass barrier of the window to freedom beyond. Yet, she waits… for a few humble crumbs.

Many critics have speculated about the identity of the little brown dog - as she is the subject of many of Vermeer’s lesser-known works (most of which now reside in private collections throughout the world).  Was the hound his own faithful companion or that of a secret love whom he could not paint? Whoever she was, the dog lends a quiet dignity and grace to Vermeer's works.

More Art Hound (by artist)
Johannes Vermeer's The Milkmaid (De Melkmeid)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bat Attack

Yikes! Remind me not to go to Duluth. I have nightmares about flying things like bats. And a bat-wielding, Ozzy Osbourne-inspired youth sounds absolutely terrifying!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bark, Birch, Branches, Berries, and Bark

Here are some pretty shots from our Sunday photo shoot at Battle Creek Dog Park.

Get it? Bark. Ha ha ha.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Battle Creek Dog Park

Battle Creek Off-Leash Dog Park is a slice of heaven in Maplewood, Minnesota. The spacious 35 acre area is recently fenced. There are also miles of lovely multi-use trails outside the dog park for leashed walks. Battle Creek is a mix of open fields of wildflowers, groves of sumac and birch, pines and even some huge cottonwoods. 

The off-leash area contains two social area fields and several ponds nestled in rolling hills. There is plenty of room to play with others or stroll in solitude. Recent improvements include lots of benches, clean poop bag boxes, trash cans and wood chips for the paths. 

Battle Creek Off-Leash Dog Park is located just south of 94 (near 3M). Travel south on McKnight Road and then turn left at Upper Afton Road or Lower Afton Road and park in one of the lots. The dog park area isn't signed. But check out the map below for the parking lots to get your bearings. 

The red line is the fence (roughly).

There are three gates to access the dog park and 
one gate to access a pond area.

The numbers correspond to the photos and descriptions below.

1. North dog park entrance gate
from the Upper Afton parking lot.

2. North dog park entrance gate. 

3. Bridge and seasonal stream just past north gate.

4. North social area field.

5. Once of the many trash cans and 
clean poop bag mail boxes 
located throughout the park 
and maintained by volunteers.

6. Northeast corner of north social area looking west. 
My favorite place to rip! 
click to enlarge to see my fine racing form

7. North social area looking east.

8. Benches and chairs in north social area.

9. Western path from north social area 
going south towards the big pond.

10. Big pond with marshy wetlands (and mud), 
looking south.

11. Big pond, looking west.

12. Small pond in the middle of the dog park.

13. Western path going southwest
towards southwest gate.

14. Southwest gate. 
Neighborhood access but no parking lot.

15. New bench at the south social area.
Bench looks north.

16. Older bench on hill overlooking south social area.
Bench faces south.

17. South social area. Looking north.

18. Southeast gate 
up the hill from Lower Afton Road parking lot.

19. Path going north from southeast gate.

20. Side gate leading to fenced pond area on the east
(not an entrance to the park).

21. Eastern path going north.

22. Eastern path. 
Go left for north social area. 
Go right for north gate.

23. Entering north social area looking west.

24. Center path, going south.

25. Center path, going south. 
Veer right to large pond.

26. Center path, going south

27. Center path, going south.

Tired, muddy and happy Carmella.