Thursday, March 31, 2016

Presenting ... Molly and Bear

After several months in which I had very little to post, you've probably noticed that production at Photo Potpourri is up significantly in just the past week or so.

After today, I have at least another post -- one that also dates back a bit (to January, to be exact). It might not come right away tomorrow or even Friday, but it is on the back burner.

Today's post is merely a nod to two "friends" who have come into my life (via Lee Ann) in the past two years -- Molly and Bear. Most (if not all) of the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone. I'd never cared for dogs or any form of house pet in my life until Molly and Bear. They are a handful, but it's very uplifting when they greet you enthusiastically each time you come in the house door after being away for a while.

One thing that jumped out at me as I assembled these photos taken at various times in the past couple years is that I don't have many of the two dogs together. The one leading off the post is the best of the few. Molly is the older, smaller and darker-haired and is Bear's mother. She is about 14 years old. Bear is about two years younger. Molly is a predominantly terrier mix; Bear is a combo terrier/Maltese.

I hope you enjoy these photos. There's no photo geek coda basically because these pictures were taken with the iPhone ... except for a couple shots that my daughter, Kelly, took with her phone. I've noted those below. The shot at the very end is one of Molly that I caught in one of her favorite past times -- snuggling into some clothing on the floor to create an impromptu bed.

Above and below: These two photos were taken by my daughter using her own phone.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A windy winter's stroll ...
through Chicago's Wrigleyville

While trolling through the camera roll of my phone recently to retrieve the photos for my brewery/meatery post the other day, I decided to clear out pictures I'd forgotten about but wanted to use in future posts.

This post is devoted to one set of such pictures. They were iPhone shots I took when I was on the Northside of Chicago in mid-February for the birth of my newest grandchild, Anniston Marie. Her parents live in Wrigleyville -- walking distance from the home playing field of Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs. So on Feb. 20, the day after Anniston's birth, when there was a lull at their apartment, I hit the streets for a self-guided tour of the blocks near Wrigley Field.

Unfortunately, there was significant construction going on in the small area of open space on the ballpark grounds (the area near Clark and Addison streets, as evidenced by the banner in the photo leading off the post), so most of my photos are construction- related. I talked to one of the guys in hard hats who happened to be near the sidewalk along Clark when I strolled by and asked him if they were building a parking garage.

A quick sidebar: I've been to only one Cubs game in my life (it was in September of 1998 or '99; I definitely remember it was one of the two years that Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa vied to set new single-season home run marks in the 60s or 70s), and I frankly don't remember much about what we did for parking. I was in a group of four or five, and someone else was driving. The driver found a parking spot on a neighborhood street somewhere southwest of the park. I do remember a sense that accessible, easy parking was lacking. 

The construction worker told me that the structure going up (first picture below) was not a parking garage but an office building (I think he might even had said it was for the Cubs club headquarters). However, he did point across Clark Street to where there is a McDonald's restaurant (see photos two through four below) and said there are plans at some point to clear that property and build a hotel, which would include a parking garage and would have retail space for McDonald's to come back.

In mid-February, one should have seen snow in Chicago, but that wasn't the case when I was there. However, on this particular day, winds were wicked and fierce. Several times I had to fight to not be toppled or knocked into the street. You can sort of get a sense of that from the plastic sheeting in the first photo below or the leaning construction cones in some of the pictures.

Photo geek stuff: I shot all of these with my iPhone 6s Plus in HDR mode. Because these were taken on a very overcast day, I adjusted each in Photoshop Elements 13 to address issues of exposure and shadows. 

Above: The skeletal framework of what the construction worker told me would be an office building. 

Above and next two below: The construction told me there are plans to use this McDonald's property, on North Clark Street across from Wrigley, to build a hotel and parking garage. McDonald's would move back into the development and operate in retail space within the building.  

Above: Wrigley Field from where Sheffield Avenue meets Addison Street. 

Above: I took this photo because it wasn't too long ago that I sampled my first Goose Island beer. This had been the Wrigleyville branch of the Chicago brewery, at 3535 N. Clark St., but I understand it is permanently closed. 

Above and below: Two Cubs souvenir and merchandise stores, the Cubs Store above at 3620 N. Clark St., and the one below, Sports World, at the corner of Addison and Clark.

 Above and below: Two views of the Rockit Burger Bar at 3700 N. Clark.  

Above: Yak-Zies at 3710 N. Clark St. and Trace's nightclub next door at 3714 N. Clark. 

Above: Big G's Pizza at 3716 N. Clark St.

Above: A Cubs office building at 3721 N. Clark St. 

 Above: Wrigleysville Dogs at 3737 N. Clark St. 

Above: Another view of Wrigley along Addison from east of Sheffield Avenue. 

Above: A look Chicago's "L" line going over Addison Street east of Wrigley Field and just east of Sheffield Avenue.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Making inroads with the home gardens

A couple years ago, while trying to maximize use of space in my genus garden, I accidentally removed the bulbs of a few beautiful purple crocus and three or four lavender and pink hyacinth plants. I was left with a solitary white crocus from the original bulb planting.

Last week, I cleared out the last crocus plant and transplanted it into the circular garden in the middle of the backyard, where it joined well-established tulips (a pastel orange color, highlighted by stripes of purple). To the circular garden, I also added several new purple crocus plants (such as the those shown in the photo leading off the post) and a couple yellow daffodils, deciding to make that garden one of predominantly spring bulbs since those blooms go away just about the time blooms flower on the the red bud tree in the garden's center. We also put some lavender hyacinth and yellow tulips into the front garden.

The new plantings in the backyard, which gets more sun than the front, have already bloomed; foliage for the tulips and transplanted crocus there are up, so blooms from those should be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.

The transplanting enabled me to convert the entire genus garden to one of vegetables and strawberries. That garden has plantings of various forms of lettuce and some broccoli, and in a yet another nearby bed, one I refer to as my cucumber garden, there are broccoli, cauliflower and some cabbage. I'll put cucumbers in there once the spring plantings mature.

Speaking of transplants, for several years I've wanted to break up and transplant four well-established plants in separate gardens in the backyard -- the two day lilies in my genus garden (one of which had become surrounded by my sprawling strawberries) and the two sedum plants that served as bookends to my rear backyard fence line bed for about six years now.

The sedum have gotten huge ... and for the past three years, then have been been dwarfed by adjacent Henry's Garnet bushes. So I decided to give the bushes a bit more room to expand -- and me a better opportunity to keep them in check before the branches extend outside the garden boundaries.

I broke up all four plants and relocated them in two rows to a heretofore undeveloped patch of grass outside the back fence line facing the alley. It'll be interesting to see in the years ahead how well they do there ... and how (or even if) they spruce up the alley landscape as I had envisioned. I filled the lily spots in the genus garden with broccoli plants, short-term uses. The holes left by the sedum plants are unfilled at this time.

Photo geek stuff: I shot everything for this post with my Canon 6D equipped with a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro lens. I set the camera at 100 ISO and switched between f/5.6 and f/8, with the shutter set at 1/400. Ordinarily I like to stop another stop or two (i.e., f/8 or f/11) for floral closeups, but I was in an exploratory mood ... and decided to see what a little shallower depth of field would render.

Above: A perspective shot of the circular garden, with the new crocus and daffodils already in bloom. Foliage for the orange tulips is showing. The tree trunk belongs to the red bud, which I allowed to grow from seed dropped into the yard from a next-door neighbor's tree, which is no longer there. 

Above and below: Two more closeups of the new crocus.

Above: A closeup of one of the daffodils. 

Above and below: Looks at the genus garden, showing some of the strawberry foliage in the foreground in both photos and new lettuce plants in the background. The dirt adjacent to the pot in the photo above is where one of the day lilies used to be. A couple broccoli plants are there now. 

Above: Foliage and blooms from a plant that had started in my neighbor's yard on the other side of the property line fence found its way on my side. The blooms were pretty enough last year that I decided to see what it would bring this year.

Above: The start of one this year's large-petaled Asiatic lilies in the same bed as the spillover plant immediately above. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Enjoying a gourmet sandwich, craft beer

I've been interested in local craft breweries and their products for a few years now (ditto local/community wineries), and it's gotten to the point where I rarely (if ever) imbibe in mainstream brews or wines anymore. I drink almost exclusively local wines or craft beers.

I've been fortunate to live in a city (Indianapolis) where the microbrewery industry has exploded. One used to be able to count the local craft breweries on two hands; now, you need a program to keep them straight.

I've visited five of the Indy area breweries you'll find on this link, and I've tried brews (i.e., bought them in bottles at local retail stores) produced by maybe two or three others, and this just begins to tell the story. This link has a list of breweries throughout the state. I'm not sure if either of those is totally inclusive.

If you have an itch to tour some of the breweries and you like to do it by walking (which might be wise given the alcohol consumption), you can visit up to five or six downtown Indy breweries on foot -- and in a relatively straight geographic line if you do the tour on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when breweries have their longest hours.

One such self-guided tour starts on the near Southside of Indy at the new Metazoa Brewing (it opens April 1), at Georgia Street and College Avenue, just a block or so north of the Milano Inn (which would be a great place to get something to eat and give your stomach something to help absorb the upcoming alcohol content). From Metazoa, head north and east, hopping under the I-65 overpass, and stop at Indiana City Brewing, where Southeastern Avenue meets Washington Street. Indiana City is one of the places I've visited; I plan to check out Metazoa soon, too.

Then head north and west ... and again duck under the interstate overpass ... before reaching Sun King Brewing Co., one of Indy's first craft breweries -- and another that I've visited. It's at Ohio Street and College Avenue, right across the street from a downtown winery, Easley. From there, you walk north on College a few blocks to North Street and check out the St. Joseph's Brewery and Public House. This is another I've visited, and I can vouch for its wonderfully eclectic food menu, if you have an appetite to go with your brew ... and didn't start your trip at the Milano Inn or some other eatery. Just a couple blocks west of there is Outliers Brewing Co. at 534 E. North St.

A sixth option on this doable walking tour takes you slightly out of the straight line ... but only by a bit. It is a few blocks east of the interstate between Sun King and St. Joe's. I'm talking about Flat 12 Bierworks, which is in the 400 block of North Dorman Street and is another local craft brewery I've visited. It is right across the street from where the Smoking Goose Meatery throws a monthly gourmet meat blowout sale. The meatery and brewery often go together on promotions from time to time, and I've been to one of the blowout sales -- where Smoking Goose will grill some of its products for sale -- and enjoyed a brew along with a sandwich I've secured from Smoking Goose. It's where I first sampled Smoking Goose's divine smoked porked chops.

The one flaw with the walking tour is that, at Outliers on the far north end of the route, you have to make a long walk back to your car if you parked at the Metazoa start point. But perhaps it might be a good thing to get a nice walk under your belt before you attempt to drive again. An alternative "tour" option is the Indy Joy Rides brewery tour, which has a bus that drives people to four local breweries. The walking tour I pitched gives you -- at the very least -- options to check out five or six breweries in a day's time.

Right now, my "go to" brewery has been Fountain Square Brewery, not only because it was also the first I ever visited, but also because it's convenient to where I live ... and most important, I simply like its beers, especially its Workingman's Pilsner. FSB's $5.50 Sunday price on growler fills is the best in town as well.

Last weekend, I stopped at the relatively new Central State Brewing, at 25th and Delaware streets in the Fall Creek Place neighborhood of Indianapolis, after first visiting Goose the Market next door. The building is pictured immediately above and looks north along College from 25th Street.

I'd been aware of Central State for some time, and while I've purchased meats from Goose's partner meatery operation, the Smoking Goose, 407 N. Dorman St., I'd never been to the specialty butcher shop on Delaware ... until Saturday.

It might have been a better idea to go on a weekday -- it was crowded Saturday (and perhaps some of that was because this was the day before Easter) -- but I stuck around.

I investigated the upstairs butcher shop, fresh sandwich offerings and gelato display then went downstairs to check out the wine cellar, which also stocks a variety of bottled craft beers. Customers can help themselves to a recycle cardboard bottle holder and create their own six pack from the bottles in stock, which is what I did. I returned upstairs and bought four of the Goose's wonderful smoked pork chops, two of which I cooked on the grill at home later that day (photo at left).

I decided to try the spicy, much-heralded batali sandwich (pictured at right), whose primary ingredients are three Italian dried pork cuts -- coppa, capocollo and sopressata. The sandwich, which cost $8.35, is spiced up with giardinera (a relish of pickled vegetables that, apparently, includes jalapenos) and includes provolone cheese, tomato preserves, mayonnaise and (ordinarily) house-marinated red onions.

My digestive system has always had a terrible relationship with raw onions, so I waved off those when I placed my order. But the kick in the meat and relish more than made up for onions; the sandwich was indeed spicy, and my stomach dealt with me later for indulging. I soldiered through and ate the whole sandwich, but I don't think I would do so again. It was a little too much for my innards to withstand. But I repeat -- this sandwich gets rave reviews by many who have enjoyed it and filed write-ups on such places as Yelp.

While Goose will pour a glass of wine or sell you a cold bottle of beer to drink with your sandwich on the grounds, it doesn't have any draft beer, which is what I wanted. So when I did sit down to eat, I did so next door at the brewery, where I ordered a flight of the brewery's four house beers, which are pictured at the top of the post. From left, they are the Cast No Shadow On Liberty IPA (India Pale Ale), Road House Blonde With Cherries, Off Color Are We Doing This Right? (with black tea and honey) and the House Blonde. The brewery's full offerings are listed on a chalkboard near the entrance as shown in the photo at the right.

I felt that the IPA was Central State's strongest house offering; it would be the one I'd order in a pint glass the next time I visited. The House Blonde was my next favorite. The Off Color is interesting -- I normally don't gravitate toward brown beers (New Castle is an exception) -- but the Off Color didn't put me off like Guinness or most porters and stouts. Blonde With Cherries was too placid for my taste buds. A huge caveat with this critique paragraph: My mouth was on fire from the batali at the time, and I was turning to the flight often to restore peace to the palate. So perhaps eating a spicy sandwich wasn't a fair way to sample these brews.

At Central State, I was served by Jake Koeneman, one of the brewery's principals and co-founders. I walked in wearing a Wabash College sweatshirt, and he quickly asked me about my connection to the college. I told Jake that I procured the clothing as a souvenir from my stop at Wabash as part of "Game Day," my ongoing tour of small Indiana colleges that field football teams, and he told me he played center on the Wabash's 2005 undefeated football team. He didn't mention that he was named to the All-North Coast Athletic Conference team that season, something I found out when I got home and went to verify his connection.

It turns out that another of Central State's co-founders, Chris Bly, was a four-year letterman in swimming at Wabash and graduated in the same class (2006) as Koeneman.

When leaving to go home, I was struck by the angular upper architecture of not only the Goose building, but that of the Salon Orange Moon across 25th Street. The Salon Orange Moon building's top (which angles outward like the Goose) and storefront are pictured below. You can see me holding the iPhone in the window reflection in the bottom photo.

Photo Geek stuff: All photos were taken with an iPhone 6s Plus; the images outdoors were taken in the camera's HDR (high-dynamic range) mode, which explains the ghosting you see on my image in the Salon Orange Moon window reflection.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Taking the cast picture for Earnest

In the weeks leading up to the opening of every theatrical production, directors and their casts and crews invest considerable time in preparation, whether it's their lines and positions on stage, the stage and props, or costumes and promotion.

After the last show of a production and any cast party that is thrown, many of those people who had become friends and bonded during preparations go separate ways and, in some cases, never see each other again.

So it it is not surprising that a troupe appreciates a full-cast photo for participants to have a memento of their experience.

I shot these cast photos of the Garfield Shakespeare Company's spring production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest on the evening of the crew's dress rehearsal, Wednesday, March 9, two days before opening night.

Time was limited; I had no opportunity to think about lighting and posing. We threw everybody together, and fired away so we could begin the play. I stand slightly elevated on a step of a step-ladder I brought with me, and I did manage to get the cast to pose for a normal smiling photo, a "serious look" photo, then a fun/goofy photo where any of the performers could show their true colors ... and possibly release some stress and pent up energy.

When I prepared the photos to share on Facebook, I decided to place the "serious look" photo in black and white (the photo leading off the post). I just didn't expect the strong, enthusiastic response to that decision once the photos landed on Facebook. Many people expressed appreciation for the monochrome version. The remainder appear below, along with (at the very end) a candid shot I took following the rehearsal, as director Chris Burton (far left, in the photo) began to review performance notes with the cast.

Some cast members occasionally stiffen for the "fun" photo, then lament weeks later -- when they see the joy and hilarity in the faces and expressions of other cast members -- and wish they had done the same. I think you'll see what I mean when you study the "fun" photo of this cast.

But a photo is a photo, and no matter how one or more people end up posing, it still tells its own story. Random thought to share: Writing about this particular aspect of my March 9 shoot, I was reminded of the album and title song of an early 1970s rock music release by Rod Stewart -- Every Pictures Tells a Story -- and the concluding lyrics of the song: Make the best out of the bad, just laugh it off. You didn't have to come here anyway, just remember ... Every picture tells a story, don't it? 

A reminder: Three performances of Earnest remain -- Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week at 7:30 p.m. at the Garfield Park Arts Center on the Southside of Indianapolis. Admission is free, but it's wise to call the arts center ahead of time to ensure and reserve seats. The center's number is (317) 327-7135.

A full gallery of photos from Earnest can be found at my site at

Photo geek stuff: Not much different here than what I had in my "geek stuff" in yesterday's post about the play itself. I used available light with a Canon 6D equipped with a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens set at f/3.5, 1/160, ISO 4000 and average white balance. As I did for the play shots (which I failed to mention yesterday), I boosted the in-camera's auto noise-reduction to its highest level because of my need/choice to use such a high ISO. I did not need to use any noise-reduction software in post-processing. I tinkered slightly with color, exposure and shadows in Adobe Camera RAW before creating the JPGs in Photoshop Elements 13.