what i did with my staycation

Hello, 4-day weekend. So nice to have you here. So sorry to see you go… It’s been a lot of fun, having four consecutive days off and no homework to slog over. I painted. I meant to do a lot of other stuff, but I got into painty-land and just kind of stayed there. The large canvas is almost finished and I’m really in love with it. It’s my most ambitious painting to date. Here’s a li’l preview:
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That’s only about one square foot of the 3′ x 3′ canvas. More about it when it’s done.

I went for a walk Sunday, in the industrial wasteland of North Charleston’s old navy yard. That place is a veritable goldmine of visual riches. See here:

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an inexplicably festive balloon

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the new sculptures are up at Riverside Park. this year’s show is better than last year’s.

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this one makes noise. the wind hits the vertical steel poles & makes a bongy bell-type song.

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the cattlegate. employees only, single-file, no pushing.

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So that is my latest photo essay about the post-industrial world of North Charleston. I’m working on a new photo book through blurb.com. That’s on my list of Things I Should’ve Done, But I Just Painted Instead.

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Charlotte: home of 90 mph winds & 3 mph traffic

Aside from the flaming garbage truck on the interstate at rush hour Friday (creeping 3 whole miles in one hour!) and the semi-hurricane-force winds on Saturday, Charlotte seems like a nice city. I went up to explore the town and attend the opening of a group show at Baku Gallery in the famed arts district of NoDa. This was Contrast, curated and promoted by the Culture Initiative- and it went well. There were a lot of very talented people in the group of 61 artists, and the show was well attended.

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Actual people looking at my work- yay!

These two paintings were created especially for the requirements of this show- 12″ square, black and white.

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The following Saturday, I made my way to the two art museums in uptown Charlotte– the Mint Museum and the neighboring Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Both were fabulous, containing a myriad of treasures, as well as a few snicker-worthy bombs. I didn’t care for the featured exhibit at the Bechtler- Niki de St. Phalle. I find her work garish and simple, and her forms are crude and unrefined. She certainly has pop appeal though, which is for me another tick on the ‘con’ side.

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this is the statue outside by St. Phalle. its shininess is its redemption.

I also saw the work of many greats- Tinguely (the aforementioned Niki de St. Phalle’s more talented husband), Picasso, Ernst, Miro, Rauschenburg, etc… and I was exhausted & a bit art-saturated afterward. The museums offered great views of the surrounding streets and were architecturally interesting themselves.

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lobby of the Mint. Chihuly sculpture in the background.

Charlotte’s inner city has several great modern buildings and an aesthetic not to be overlooked.

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from the backside of the Latta Arcade- an historic group of buildings around the corner from the museums

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The wind was also against me and my plan for a walk. Aye, thar was a cold wind a-blowin, and mighty hard. I had to walk at an angle on some streets, and my hair would’ve been whipped off my head, had it not been firmly attached to my scalp by the roots.

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These poor poppies were taking a beating, and were probably rendered completely petal-less shortly after this photo was taken.

I am also fascinated by Charlotte’s public transit system, the Light Rail… or whatever it’s called. Being from a city which barely has a bus system (which I have never ridden) I am enthralled by the trains of the larger cities and Europe. Subways and elevated rails are like alien constructs to me, providing hours of delightful window-watching and hands-free travel opportunities. Themselves worthy of being photographed, with all their tracks and stations and associated accoutrements, the culture of rail travel is exotic and captivating. Crossing trains also provide opportunities for erstwhile auto travelers to photograph other roadside interestingness whilst being stopped…

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I wanna ride that train at some point. I also have several other things to do on my Charlotte list, and I look forward to returning at the end of the month to claim my unsold work (if any)  from the Baku Gallery.

roadtrip, part deux!

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now really. Does it get more charming? The cherry/apple/pear trees a-blooming, the mornin’ sun a-shining, the whole place smelling like old mashed grapes… ’twas a fine Saturday to be at Westbend Vineyards in Lewisville, NC, just 20 minutes from Winston-Salem. We arrived just 5 minutes after they opened the doors, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for our first real wine-tasting.

The wine-making process is fascinating, and all the tubes and barrels and tanks were cool.

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Westbend is a small operation, a true mom&pop place, started back in 1972, as the first vineyard to plant French varietals in North Carolina. (Everyone else was doing the sweet muscadine wine at the time.)

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The wine was good- we especially liked the cab and bought the magnum bottle. It was a bit smoky, oaky, robust, but well-balanced.

After Westbend, we drove north-ish for about 45 minutes to Shelton Vineyards for a drastically different experience. Shelton is large and corporate, inhuman and insincere. We didn’t care much for the wines either, but maybe the flavor of the atmosphere tainted the flavor of the wines. The grounds were expansive, heavily landscaped toward the picturesque, and touristy all around. Half the interior was taken up by gift shop merchandise sprawl.

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and the scenery was really nice…

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I got pretty close to that bird, before he freaked out and flew to the other side of the pond…

And then we drove back to ol’ Winston-Salem to wander the streets a bit before nightfall. We found the old cigarette factory, now closed and hulking against the sky, still steel and cold. An entire city block, we circled it and then found our way to the top of an adjacent parking garage for eye-level views.

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Our second date–nearly six months ago– was an afternoon photo safari in the industrial wasteland of North Charleston’s Navy Yard. I must admit, I do love to photograph the wasted and decadent beauty of industry gone cold… There’s a sad irony to the twisted pipes of progress that ruined everything… and then left town.

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I’ve noticed a trend in my photography of abandoned gloves. I have at least half a dozen by now. Perhaps I’ll do a series…

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That’s a car on the sidewalk. Is that art?

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And my favoritest photo of the 298 we took… Eery, ain’t it?

and that’s all I’ve got for this week… up next… well, it’s a mystery… Tune in to find out.

roadtrip, part #1

I used to be the queen of road trips- I’d jaunt out at a moment’s notice, grabbing my tent, sleeping bag and my trusty road atlas, boldly charging into parts unknown. It’s been a while since I did that, having discovered air travel & therefore Europe sometime around 2005, and satiating my wanderlust in great big expensive leaps instead of little economical hops.

But now, with Europe impossibly far away for my bank account, I find myself wishing I still had my tent and sleeping bag. Especially after our experience with the hotel in Winston-Salem, NC…

For my latest birthday, I went to the nearest wine country to tour a couple of vineyards and check out other points of interest in and around Winston-Salem, NC. Our first stop was SECCA, the SouthEastern Center for Contemporary Art, featuring an exhibit by Oscar Munoz, a highly conceptual artist who deals with the transience of life and the imminence of death, and how identity is impermanent. His work was thoughtful and thought-provoking, and engendered a quiet sense of carpe diem tempered with futility.

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Creepy leaf people, aaaaugh! The window shopping continued into Winston-Salem proper, where we wandered around until nightfall, trying to figure out why it’s called “the City of the Arts”.

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she didn’t know either.

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What we found instead was an industrial wasteland left ravaged by JR Reynolds Co., the tobacco magnate, and a lot of closed mills.

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But even industrial wastelands have their charms and unique flavor of beauty… we discovered more of that the following day. Our biggest find of Friday was on the “Avenue of the Arts”, the 4 block strip of cutesy shops, galleries, bars and restaurants that serves as the cultural center of W-S.

We had dinner at a little place called 6th and Vine where the food was beautiful and delicious. I drank a cab called “Irony” in honor of my entire experience that day.

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Coming up next: roadtrip, part duex! wherein I tour 2 wineries vastly different in nature & explore the ruins of the tobacco empire…

top 10 wines under $15

And now–as promised last week, a fluffy little post about my favorite recently discovered & inexpensive wines. If you’ve had any of these wines, especially the ones that I lack sufficient descriptions for, please comment. And if you’ve had any you’d like to recommend, do that as well, please & thank you.

In order of their discovery:

D’autrefois Pinot Noir & Malbec
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The pinot has been a trusted go-to wine since I  discovered it last summer with my good buddy Joel. It’s a light, peppery cherry and well-balanced. While waxing particularly poetic one evening, I wrote that it tasted like “a little boat made of bark and leaves floating down a dappled woodland stream.” yah, it’s all that.  The Malbec is new on the shelves, and is equally thrilling. Total Wine carries both- $9.99.

Finca Flichman Malbec – 3 months oaked
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Paul will go on & on about his Finca Flichman, though his pronunciation of “Flichman” varies by day. I do know that finca means “ranch”– & that counts for something. Extremely rich/bold- a singular chord of intense flavor. This vineyard also produces Misterio, another Malbec oak-aged 4 months- but Paul insists that the 3 months is better. Total Wine $7.99– but they don’t always have it.

Fat Bastard
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I’ve never met a Fat Bastard that I didn’t like. We’ve had the 2008 Merlot, the 2007 Cab, the 2009 Shiraz. I believe it’s the cab that we like the most- it’s hard to tell from my copious notes there. Easy to find- usually under $10. And that hippo is just so darn cute…

Contempo — 2005 Cab, 2007 Merlot
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November of 2010, Paul wrote “this is my idea of a great wine” of the 2005 cab. Also written is that it “attacks softly, then explodes with flavor & finishes sweet.” We had an argument over who to attribute that quote to, but I’m pretty sure it was me because I’m the poetic one. Long berry finish, smooth tannins. We trusted Contempo & bought it whenever we were at Harris Teeter- & then the unthinkable happened- Contempo let us down. We bought a bottle of cab with no vintage marked on the bottle- and it  tasted like fishy cork. We haven’t gotten any Contempo since then, our hearts were broken. Moral of the story: If you buy it- check the back label & make sure there’s a year marked. If there isn’t, then the wine is from multiple harvests spanning two or more years. Shy away from that– the risk is just too great.

Robert Mondavi Private Collection Cab 2009
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Easy to find, carried by almost any supermarket. Even the Food Lion has it. The label doesn’t come off very easily though…

Graffigna Malbec 2007
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The Malbec from Argentina has flavors of Blackberry, currant, tobacco, oak & spice. 2007 Cab also delicious. Publix carries it, $11

Colores del Sol Malbec 2009
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Another fine Malbec carried by Publix $12. I’ve slacked off on my flavor notes by this point in my journal… But it was definitely worth buying again. And the label is pretty.

Edgewood Estates 2007
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A blend of cab, petit bordeaux and malbec. We splurged on this one- $15– it was Valentine’s Day, & I served butternut squash, black beans (soaked overnight & simmered with jalapenos), spinach salad, and toasted seeduction buns from Whole Foods bakery. It was divine.

Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz Cab 2009
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Ordinarily we’d shy away from anything named “Jip Jip Rocks”, but a trusted Total Wine associate by the name of Tiger pointed us to this Australian blend. In Tiger’s honor, Paul & I have declared that this wine is grrrrrrrreat! $15.

Releaf 2009 blend
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This organic wine is Fran’s Pick at Total Wine, & we like Fran. Fran has a good taste in wine & a simpatico palate. It’s a cab/merlot/shiraz blend from South Africa- fruit forward, mellow tannins, smooth & silky, peppery & well-balanced. Served with sweet potato, quinoa with steamed sweet peas & sweet peppers, spinach salad with herbs, avocado & pickled banana peppers. $9.99 AND IT’S ORGANIC, Y’ALL.

cheers!

swampy adventures & local kumquat I.D.

This unseasonably gorgeous weekend, Paul and I discovered the Francis Marion National Forest. We did the South Tibwin trail, about an hour from Charleston up 17 north. It’s not as photogenic as CawCaw County Park, but the walking sure is good. It’s a bird sanctuary, and there were bird-watching blinds in key areas along the trail–but we saw nary a critter–save one crow, one hawk, & one li’l ol’ measly regular tweety-type bird. Grassy marshlands abounded, but alas, no grassy marshland birds abounded. How odd. Perhaps they were all downtown at SouthEastern Wildlife Expo. DSC04875

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oooh, pretty!! I cannot resist old paint and rust in a split-complementary color scheme!

Hidden Ponds Nursery (HWY 17 North of Mt. Pleasant) is like a veritable amusement park for green-thumbed dorks. Consequently, I had a blast; it was like Disneyland. There were thematic elements…

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charming still lifes…

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amusing bits of spooky…

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and kumquats!

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And I purchased this handsome li’l specimen to add to my expanding family of flora.

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golden ingot ivy, pretty, eh?

There are other trails in the Francis Marion National Forest that we’d like to try in the future, hopefully they’ll be a bit more photogenic. I took more pictures on the way home than I did at the destination, once again proving that it’s the journey that matters. I’m still trying to find the ever-elusive perfect shot of a cypress swamp from just the right angle with the right light and perfect arrangement of brackish waters & cypress root-knees. I would also like to see some wildlife, but Paul crashes through the forest with the musicality of a buffalo, surely scaring the bejesus out of every nearby critter, including myself. The paleface tenderfoot runs strong in that one, for sure.

In summation, I guess the biggest takeaway of the day is that I now know what a kumquat looks like, and I could pick one out of a citrus line-up if I had to. So yay, education & stuff!

alligators and alligator pears, oh my!

CawCaw County Park! After 3 days of rain, the sun pokes out her little head long enough for us to revisit CawCaw, this time with my camera.

our favorite picnic spot- cawcaw

This is our picnic spot on the reclaimed rice fields trail- see the little bench under the tree? And what you don’t see is the alligator snoozing in the sun just 20 yards away. shyah. More photos of CawCaw to come, but first– a bit about nutrition, yay!

So a few weeks ago I fell deeply in love with the eggplant, that gorgeous and mysterious vegetable of so many asian stir fries,  italian pasta dishes, and of course–the french ratatouille. And while I will always hold a special fondness for that rather attractive and delicious vegetable, I find that this week, I’m falling for the avocado.

Oh, avocado, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… I love you with my eggs at breakfast, I love you in spinach-based salads at lunch, I love you on the side of my stir-fry for dinner… but most of all, I love to mash you up in guacamole, OLE’!

After extensive research on the interwebs, I determined that all you really need to make guacamole is a few avocados and a little imagination. Ingredients vary from recipe to recipe- some people even added in mayonnaise or cream cheese… bleh. So I made up my own recipe:

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Mash 3 avocados, mix with 4 scallions, finely chopped  (white and green parts), 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt, and  1 fruit’s worth lemon or lime juice (to keep avocado from browning). Refrigerate for 1 hour so flavors can properly mingle.

Some terribly interesting facts (no, really) about the our featured fruit(?), the  “alligator pear”:

  • Avocados are a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure.
  • Not only does adding avocado to a salad of carrot, lettuce and baby spinach or to salsa greatly increase the absorption of carotenoids from these foods, but the improvement in carotenoid availability occurred even when a very small amount-as little as 2 ounces-of avocado was added.
  • Adding avocado to salad increases absorption of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein 7.2, 15.3, and 5.1 times higher, respectively, than the average amount of these carotenoids absorbed when avocado-free salad is eaten.
  • Add avocado to your favorite creamy tofu-based dressing recipe to give it an extra richness and beautiful green color.
  • Spread ripe avocados on bread as a healthy replacement for mayonnaise when making a sandwich.
  • For an exceptional salad, combine sliced avocado with fennel, oranges and fresh mint.

And now, to go with that delicious guacamole, how about some Black Bean Burgers & Salsa? I found these recipes online (probably allrecipes.com) and modified them (as always) to make them my own.

Black Bean Burgers

  • 1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, minced
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • big dose of  sriracha or hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and lightly oil a baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix black beans, bell pepper, onion, and garlic with a fork until thick and pasty.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and hot sauce.
  4. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.
  5. Place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.

Serve in sammich form on whole wheat bread with spinach, sliced tomato, onions and bell peppers. Or mash up the patty & serve in burrito form in a whole wheat wrap with a little  Best Salsa Ever (drained well to preserve burrito integrity),  and OH MY Guac! In place of sour cream, use plain organic yogurt.

Best Salsa Ever

  • 1 can or frozen box of shoepeg corn, rinsed, drained
  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 zucchini, finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro, torn into small bits
  • 1/2 cup scallions, white and green parts finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar

mix and refrigerate for at least an hour.

And before we get to the photos, here’s an interesting factoid I found on another site: When crushed garlic was heated its ability to inhibit cancer development in animals was blocked; yet, when the researchers allowed the crushed garlic to ‘stand’ for 10 minutes before heating, its anticancer activity was preserved. A sulfur-based compound called alliin and an enzyme called alliinase are separated in the garlic’s cell structure when it is whole. Cutting garlic ruptures the cells and releases these elements allowing them to come in contact and form a powerful new compound called alliicin which not only adds to the number of garlic’s health-promoting benefits but is also the culprit behind their pungent aroma and gives garlic its “bite”.

Now, without further ado, I give thee CaCaw County Park:

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/galacticbloom/5424128032/&#8221; title=”our favorite picnic spot- cawcaw by galacticbloom, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5260/5424128032_b3322c323e.jpg&#8221; width=”500″ height=”334″ alt=”our favorite picnic spot- cawcaw” /></a>

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and here’s me, standing in the marsh grass, 20 yds from an alligator.

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not a care in the world… but I never really realized how big those sunglasses are– they’re gigantor, omg.

Old Sheldon Church

On a slightly cold, but no less glorious day, we went here:

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The Old Sheldon Church, about 50 miles down HWY 17 South. It was burned down during the Civil War and simply left standing. Lots of people get married there. But we just did this:

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and some of this:

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I won that hand. He didn’t see it coming.

and on the way home we stopped and photographed this:

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