Monday, January 31, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 76

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge


ISO 1600, f/14.0, 1/4th Second

A doughnut or donut is a type of fried dough food popular in many countries and prepared in various forms as a sweet (or occasionally savory) snack that can be homemade or purchased in bakeries, supermarkets, food stalls, and franchised specialty outlets. They are usually sweet, deep-fried from a flour dough, and shaped in rings or flattened spheres that sometimes contain fillings. Other types of dough such as potato can also be used as well as other batters, and various toppings and flavorings are used for different types.

The two most common types are the toroidal ring doughnut and the filled doughnut, a flattened sphere injected with jam (or jelly), cream, custard, or other sweet fillings. A small spherical piece of dough may be cooked as a doughnut hole. Baked doughnuts are a variation cooked in an oven instead of being deep fried. Doughnut varieties are also divided into cake and risen type doughnuts.

Various doughnut incarnations are popular around the globe. Shapes include rings, balls, and flattened spheres, as well as ear shapes, twists and other forms. Not all doughnuts are sweet: in Southern India for instance, savory doughnuts called vadai are served.

Ring doughnuts are formed by joining the ends of a long, skinny piece of dough into a ring or by using a doughnut cutter, which simultaneously cuts the outside and inside shape, leaving a doughnut-shaped piece of dough and a doughnut hole from dough removed from the center. This smaller piece of dough can be cooked or re-added to the batch to make more doughnuts. A disk-shaped doughnut can also be stretched and pinched into a torus until the center breaks to form a hole. Alternatively, a doughnut depositor can be used to place a circle of liquid dough (batter) directly into the fryer. Doughnuts can be made from a yeast-based dough for raised doughnuts or a special type of cake batter.

After frying, ring doughnuts are often topped with a glaze (icing) or a powder such as cinnamon or sugar. Styles such as fritters and jam doughnuts may be glazed and/or injected with jam or custard.

As well as being fried, doughnuts can be completely baked in an oven.  These have a slightly different texture from the fried variety with a somewhat different taste due to the lack of absorbed oil—and so have a lower fat content. The fried version may sometimes be called "fried cakes".

There are many other specialized doughnut shapes such as old-fashioneds, bars or Long Johns (a rectangular shape), or with the dough twisted around itself before cooking.In the northeast USA, bars and twists are usually referred to as crullers. There are also beignets, which are square donuts topped with powdered sugar.

Doughnuts have a disputed history. One theory suggests that doughnuts were introduced into North America by Dutch settlers, who were responsible for popularizing other American desserts, including cookies, apple and cream pie, and cobbler.[citation needed] Indeed, in the 19th century, doughnuts were sometimes referred to as one kind of olykoek (a Dutch word literally meaning "oil cake"), a "sweetened cake fried in fat."

Hansen Gregory, an American, claimed to have invented the ring-shaped doughnut in 1847 aboard a lime-trading ship when he was only sixteen years old. Gregory was dissatisfied with the greasiness of doughnuts twisted into various shapes and with the raw center of regular doughnuts. He claimed to have punched a hole in the center of dough with the ship's tin pepper box and later taught the technique to his mother.  The first cookbook mentioning doughnuts was an 1803 English volume which included doughnuts in an appendix of American recipes. By the mid-19th century the doughnut looked and tasted like today’s doughnut, and was viewed as a thoroughly American food.

I hope you enjoyed today's yummy picture.  I'd love to hear what your favorite kind of doughnut is so send me a note and let me know.  Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 75

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

 Soap Bubble

ISO 1600, f/4.0, 1/60th Second

A soap bubble is a very thin film of soapy water that forms a sphere with an iridescent surface. Soap bubbles usually last for only a few seconds before bursting, either on their own or on contact with another object. They are often used for children's enjoyment, but they are also used in artistic performances.

A soap bubble can exist because the surface layer of a liquid (usually water) has a certain surface tension, which causes the layer to behave somewhat like an elastic sheet. Soap film is extremely flexible and can produce waves based on the force exerted. However, a bubble made with a pure liquid alone is not stable and a dissolved surfactant such as soap is needed to stabilize a bubble. A common misconception is that soap increases the water's surface tension, soap actually does the opposite, decreasing it to approximately one third the surface tension of pure water. Soap does not strengthen bubbles, it stabilizes them, via an action known as the Marangoni effect. As the soap film stretches, the surface concentration of soap decreases, which in turn causes the surface tension to increase. Thus soap works by selectively strengthening the weakest parts of the bubble, preventing any one part of the bubble from stretching excessively. In addition, soap reduces evaporation, making the bubbles last longer; but this effect is relatively small.

The spherical shape of a bubble is also due to surface tension. The sphere has the smallest possible surface area for a given volume, thus taking up a spherical shape minimises the free surface of a bubble. This shape can be visibly distorted by air currents. However, if a bubble is left to sink in still air, it remains rather spherical.  
Freezing soap bubbles blown into air that is below a temperature of −15 °C (5 °F) will freeze when they touch a surface. The air inside will gradually diffuse out, causing the bubble to crumble under its own weight.
At temperatures below about −25 °C (−13 °F), bubbles will freeze in the air and may shatter when hitting the ground. When a bubble is blown with warm air, the bubble will freeze to an almost perfect sphere at first, but when the warm air cools, and a reduction in volume occurs, there will be a partial collapse of the bubble. A bubble, created successfully at this low temperature, will always be rather small; it will freeze quickly and will shatter if increased further.

When two bubbles merge, the bubbles will adopt the shape with the smallest possible surface area. Their common wall will bulge into the larger bubble, as smaller bubbles have a higher internal pressure.  If the bubbles are of equal size, the wall will be flat.  At a point where three or more bubbles meet, they sort themselves out so that only three bubble walls meet along a line. Since the surface tension is the same in each of the three surfaces, the three angles between them must be equal to 120°. This is the most efficient choice, again, which is also the reason why the cells of a beehive have the same 120° angle and form hexagons.

17th century Flemish paintings show children blowing bubbles with clay pipes. This means that bubbles as playthings are at least 400 years old. Bubbles can also be effectively used to teach and explore a wide variety of concepts to even young children. Flexibility, color formation, reflective or mirrored surfaces, concave and convex surfaces, transparency, a variety of shapes (circle, square, triangle, sphere, cube, tetrahedron, hexagon), elastic properties, comparative sizing... as well as the more esoteric properties of bubbles listed on this page. Bubbles are useful in teaching concepts starting from 2 years old and into college years. A Swiss university professor, Dr. Natalie Hartzell, has theorized that usage of artificial bubbles for entertainment purposes of young children has shown a positive effect in the region of the child's brain that controls motor skills and is responsible for coordination with children exposed to bubbles at a young age showing measurably better motion skills that those who were not. 

Hope you enjoyed today's picture.  Please send me your comments, I'd love to hear what you have to say.  Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 74

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

Cuban Brown Anole

ISO 400, f/7.1, 1/200th Second

The Brown Anole, Anolis sagrei (or Norops sagrei) is a lizard native to Cuba and the Bahamas. It has been widely introduced elsewhere, and is now found in Florida and as far north as Southern Georgia, Texas, Taiwan, Hawaii, Southern California and other Caribbean islands.

Male brown anoles tend to do "push-ups" and bob their heads when they're angry, when they're ready to fight, and when they're trying to attract mates.  They are athletic creatures that run fast, and jump many times their length. They can also climb straight up almost any surface at blinding speed.  They also shed their skin and as a defense mechanism, can voluntarily drop off most of their tails when pursued or captured by the tail. The bit that breaks off thrashes around, distracting the predator as the anole makes its escape. The lost tail will then partially grow back.

This species is highly invasive and feed on insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, roaches, spiders, mealworms, and waxworms.  If handled by a human, they will bite, however the brown anole gets used to humans and can be studied at close range. 

Hope you liked today's picture.  I'd love to hear your comments about the photo or Anoles, so drop me a note and give me your thoughts.  Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 73

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

Darth Vader Flash Drive

ISO 800, f/7.1, 1/8th Second

Darth Vader (born Anakin Skywalker) is a central character in the Star Wars saga, appearing as the chief antagonist in the original trilogy and one of the main protagonists in the prequel films. He is first depicted as Darth Vader, a Dark Lord of the Sith in the first of the three original films. He is then revealed in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and in the subsequent prequel films to be originally a Jedi Knight called Anakin Skywalker who falls to the dark side of the Force.  He is also revealed to be the father of both Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa, the two main protagonists of the original trilogy. Luke ultimately redeems his father in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and Anakin sacrifices himself to save his son.

The character was created by George Lucas and numerous actors have portrayed him. His appearances (in one form or another) span all six Star Wars films, and in the expanded universe of television series, video games, novels, literature and comic books. He has also had an impact on popular culture such as politics and television, being commonly regarded as a synonym of evil. Psychiatrists have even considered him as a useful example to explain borderline personality disorder to medical students.

Hope you like today's picture.  Comments are welcome so drop me a note and let me know what's on your mind.  Thanks for stopping by and come back soon. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 72

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge


ISO 1600, f/6.3, 1/60th Second

The onion is any of a variety of plants in the genus Allium, specifically Allium cepa. Allium cepa is also known as the "garden onion" or "bulb" onion. Above ground, the onion shows only a single vertical shoot; the bulb grows underground.  The onion is easily propagated, transported and stored.  It is a close relative to garlic

Onions are found in a large number of recipes and preparations spanning almost the totality of the world's cultures. The whole plant is edible and is used as food in some form or the other. They are now available in fresh, frozen, canned, caramelized, pickled, powdered, chopped, and dehydrated forms. Onions can be used, usually chopped or sliced, in almost every type of food, including cooked foods and fresh salads and as a spicy garnish. In European cultures they are rarely eaten on their own, but usually act as accompaniment to the main course. Depending on the variety, an onion can be sharp, spicy, tangy, pungent, mild or sweet.

It is thought that bulbs from the onion family have been used as a food source for millennia. In Bronze Age settlements, traces of onion remains were found alongside fig and date stones dating back to 5000 BC.  In ancient Greece, athletes ate large quantities of onion because it was believed that it would lighten the balance of blood. Roman gladiators were rubbed down with onion to firm up their muscles. In the Middle Ages, onions were such an important food that people would pay their rent with onions, and even give them as gifts. Doctors were known to prescribe onions to facilitate bowel movements and erections, and also to relieve headaches, coughs, snake bite and hair loss.

The onion was introduced to North America by Christopher Columbus on his 1492 expedition to Hispaniola. However, they found that strains of wild onions already grew throughout North America. Native American Indians used wild onions in a variety of ways, eating them raw or cooked, as a seasoning or as a vegetable. Such onions were also used in syrups, as poultices, as an ingredient in dyes and even as toys. According to diaries of colonists, bulb onions were planted as soon as the Pilgrim fathers could clear the land in 1648. Onions were also prescribed by doctors in the early 16th century to help with infertility in women, and even dogs, cats and cattle and many other household pets. However, recent evidence has shown that dogs, cats, and other animals should not be given onions in any form, due to toxicity during digestion.

Wide-ranging claims have been made for the effectiveness of onions against conditions ranging from the common cold to heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other diseases. They contain chemical compounds believed to have anti-inflammatory, anticholesterol, anticancer, and antioxidant properties.   In many parts of the world, onions are used to heal blisters and boils.  Onions may be especially beneficial for women, who are at increased risk for osteoporosis as they go through menopause, by destroying osteoclasts so that they do not break down bone.  An application of raw onion is also said to be helpful in reducing swelling from bee stings.

As onions are sliced or eaten, cells are broken, allowing enzymes called alliinases to break down amino acid sulphoxides and generate sulphenic acids. A specific sulfenic acid, 1-propenesulfenic acid, formed when onions are cut, is rapidly rearranged by a second enzyme, called the lachrymatory factor synthase or LFS, giving syn-propanethial-S-oxide, a volatile gas known as the onion lachrymatory factor or LF. The LF gas diffuses through the air and eventually reaches the eye, where it activates sensory neurons, creating a stinging sensation. Tear glands produce tears to dilute and flush out the irritant. Chemicals that exhibit such an effect on the eyes are known as lachrymatory agents.

Supplying ample water to the reaction while peeling onions prevents the gas from reaching the eyes. Eye irritation can, therefore, be avoided by cutting onions under running water or submerged in a basin of water. Another way to reduce irritation is by chilling, or by not cutting off the root of the onion (or by doing it last), as the root of the onion has a higher concentration of enzymes. Using a sharp blade to chop onions will limit the cell damage and the release of enzymes that drive the irritation response. Chilling or freezing onions prevents the enzymes from activating, limiting the amount of gas generated. Eye irritation can also be avoided by having a fan blow the gas away from the eyes as the onion is being cut.

It is also possible to avoid eye irritation by wearing goggles or any eye protection that creates a seal around the eye. Contact lens wearers can experience less immediate irritation as a result of the slight protection afforded by the lenses themselves. It may also be that lens wearers are familiar with controlling reflexive actions of their eyes, such as blinking, with regard to irritation, as this is an ability useful when manipulating the lenses.

Hope you liked today's picture.  Send me your comments, they are always appreciated.  Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 71

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

Hairbrush Bristles

ISO 1600, f 2.8, 1/60th Second

A hairbrush is a stick brush with rigid or soft bristles used in hair care for smoothing, styling, and detangling human hair, or for grooming an animal's fur.

The earliest U.S. patent for a modern hairbrush was by Hugh Rock in 1854.  A brush with elastic wire teeth along with natural bristles was patented by Samuel Firey in 1870 as U.S. Patent 106,680.

A brush is typically used on long hair while a comb is normally used on shorter hair; however, both may be used for either. A flat brush is normally used for detangling hair, for example after sleep or showering; a round brush for styling and curling hair, especially by a professional stylist, and with a blowdryer. A paddle brush is used to straighten hair, flatten long hair, and tame fly-aways. A hairbrush can also be used to remove loose hairs, and increase circulation to the scalp.

Types of hairbrushes

A Cushion Boar-bristle hairbrush is used to detangle hair.  A round hairbrush is sometimes used to style medium length hair with a blowdryer.Examples of brushes used for different purposes:

    Cushion Brush – used to straighten tidy and neat hair and gives it a professional look.

    Paddle Brush – used for untidy and unkempt hair which is hard to manage.

    Round Brush – used for neat hair; the brush curls hair at the ends.
   Comb – mostly used for shorter hair. Combs can also be used for hair decoration.

Hope you enjoyed today's picture.  Comments are welcome so send me a note and give me your thoughts.  Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 70

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

Stained Glass Butterfly Wing

Taken on my camera phone

The term stained glass can refer to coloured glass as a material or to works made from it. Throughout its thousand-year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches and other significant buildings. Although traditionally made in flat panels and used as windows, the creations of modern stained glass artists also include three-dimensional structures and sculpture.

Modern vernacular usage has often extended the term "stained glass" to include domestic leadlight and objects d'art created from lead came and copper foil glasswork exemplified in the famous lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

As a material stained glass is glass that has been coloured by adding metallic salts during its manufacture. The coloured glass is crafted into stained glass windows in which small pieces of glass are arranged to form patterns or pictures, held together (traditionally) by strips of lead and supported by a rigid frame. Painted details and yellow stain are often used to enhance the design. The term stained glass is also applied to windows in which the colours have been painted onto the glass and then fused to the glass in a kiln.

Stained glass, as an art and a craft, requires the artistic skill to conceive an appropriate and workable design, and the engineering skills to assemble the piece. A window must fit snugly into the space for which it is made, must resist wind and rain, and also, especially in the larger windows, must support its own weight. Many large windows have withstood the test of time and remained substantially intact since the late Middle Ages. In Western Europe they constitute the major form of pictorial art to have survived. In this context, the purpose of a stained glass window is not to allow those within a building to see the world outside or even primarily to admit light but rather to control it. For this reason stained glass windows have been described as 'illuminated wall decorations'.

Glass factories were set up where there was a ready supply of silica, the essential material for glass manufacture. Silica requires very high heat to become molten, something furnaces of the time were unable to achieve. So materials needed to be added to both modify the silica network to allow the silica to melt at a lower temperature (potash, soda, lead), and then to rebuild the weakened network (lime) and make the glass more stable. Glass is colored by adding metallic oxides while it is in a molten state. Copper oxides produce green, cobalt makes blue, and gold produces red glass. Much modern red glass is produced using copper, which is less expensive than gold and gives a brighter, more vermilion shade of red.

Hope you liked today's picture.  Comments are welcome so send them over.  Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 69

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge


ISO 800, f/11.0. 0.6 Second

A sparkler is a type of hand-held firework that burns slowly while emitting colored flames, sparks, and other effects. 

The "classic" type of sparkler consists of a thin metal rod approximately 20 cm (8 inches) long that has been dipped in a thick batter of slow-burning pyrotechnic composition and allowed to dry. The composition contains these components, one or more of each category:

Metallic fuel, mandatory to make sparks; size of particles influences appearance of the sparks

    Aluminium or magnesium or magnalium, producing white sparks

    Iron, producing orange branching sparks

    Titanium, producing rich white sparks

    Ferrotitanium, for yellow-gold sparkles

Additional fuel, optional, modifying the burning speed



    Oxidizer, mandatory

    Potassium nitrate

    Barium nitrate

    Strontium nitrate

    Potassium perchlorate, more powerful but potentially explosive

Optional pyrotechnic colorants, for colored flames

    chlorides and nitrates of metals, e.g. barium, strontium, or copper

Combustible binder, holding the composition together



A more modern type of sparkler, known as the "Morning Glory", consists of a long, thin paper tube filled with composition and attached to a wooden rod using brightly-colored tissue paper and ribbon. Several different compositions can be packed into a single tube, resulting in a sparkler that changes color.

Sparklers are responsible for the vast majority of legal firework-related injuries. The most common situation for injuries occurs when lit sparklers are given to unsupervised children, many of whom may not understand the risks. The devices burn at a high temperature (as hot as 1800 to 3000° F, or 1000 to 1600° C), depending on the fuel and oxidizer used, more than sufficient to cause severe skin burns or ignite clothing. Safety experts recommend that adults ensure children who handle sparklers are properly warned, supervised and wearing non-flammable clothing which cannot catch fire easily. Children who are too young to understand the risk of burns should not be allowed to handle lit sparklers.

Hope you liked today's photo.  Comments are welcome so send me a note and let me know what you think.  Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 68

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge


ISO 1800, f/14.0, 0.6 Second

The acorn, or oak nut, is the nut of the oaks and their close relatives (genera Quercus and Lithocarpus, in the family Fagaceae). It usually contains a single seed (rarely two seeds), enclosed in a tough, leathery shell, and borne in a cup-shaped cupule. Acorns vary from 1–6 cm long and 0.8–4 cm broad. Acorns take between about 6 or 24 months (depending on the species) to mature; see List of Quercus species for details of oak classification, in which acorn morphology and phenology are important factors.

Acorns are one of the most important wildlife foods in areas where oaks occur.  Wildlife which eat acorns as an important part of their diets include birds, such as jays, pigeons, some ducks, and several species of woodpeckers. Small mammals that feed on acorns include mice, squirrels and several other rodents.  

Large mammals such as pigs, bears, and deer also consume large amounts of acorns: they may constitute up to 25% of the diet of deer in the autumn.  In Spain and Portugal pigs are still turned loose in large oak groves in the autumn, to fill and fatten themselves on acorns. However, acorns are toxic to some other animals, such as horses.

Acorns are attractive to animals because they are large and thus efficiently consumed or cached. Acorns are also rich in nutrients. Percentages vary from species to species, but all acorns contain large amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats, as well as the minerals calcium, phosphorus and potassium, and the vitamin niacin. Total food energy in an acorn also varies by species, but all compare well with other wild foods and with other nuts.

Acorns also contain bitter tannins, the amount varying with the species. Since tannins, which are plant polyphenols, interfere with an animal's ability to metabolize protein, creatures must adapt in different ways to utilize the nutritional value that acorns contain. Animals may preferentially select acorns that contain fewer tannins.  Animals that cache acorns, such as jays and squirrels, may wait to consume some of these acorns until sufficient groundwater has percolated through them to leach out the tannins. Other animals buffer their acorn diet with other foods. Many insects, birds, and mammals metabolize tannins with fewer ill-effects than humans. 

Species of acorn that contain large amounts of tannins are very bitter, astringent, and potentially irritating if eaten raw. This is particularly true of the acorns of red oaks. The acorns of white oaks, being much lower in tannins, are nutty in flavor, which is enhanced if the acorns are given a light roast before grinding. 
Acorns of the white oak group, Leucobalanus, typically start rooting as soon as they are in contact with the soil (in the fall), then send up the leaf shoot in the spring. 
Many animals eat unripe acorns on the tree or ripe acorns from the ground, with no reproductive benefit to the oak, but some animals, such as squirrels and jays serve as seed dispersal agents. Jays and squirrels that scatter-hoard acorns in caches for future use, effectively plant acorns in a variety of locations in which it is possible for them to germinate and thrive. Although jays and squirrels retain remarkably large mental maps of cache locations and return to consume them, the odd acorn may be lost, or a jay or squirrel may die before consuming all of its stores. A small number of acorns manage to germinate and survive, producing the next generation of oaks.

Acorns germinate on different schedules, depending on their place in the oak family. Once acorns sprout, they are less nutritious, as the seed tissue converts to the indigestible lignins that form the root.

Acorns served an important role in early human history and were a source of food for many cultures around the world. For instance, the poorer Ancient Greeks would eat acorns in their food and in the Jōmon period of Japan, acorns were harvested, peeled and soaked in natural or artificial ponds for several days to remove tannins, then processed to make acorn cakes.  Despite this history, acorn is currently not a significant source of calories for modern societies.

I hope you enjoyed today's picture.  Please leave your comments as they are always welcome.  Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 67

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

Crystal Wine Glass

ISO 1600, f/18.0, 0.3 Second

Stemware is drinkware that stands on stems above a base. It is usually made from glass, but may be made from ceramics or metals.

Stemware includes:

Wine glasses

Champagne flutes

Chalices and goblets

Cocktail glasses (including martini glasses and margarita glasses)

Brandy snifters

Cordial glasses

Crystal stemware comes in different sizes and shapes depending on the intended use. For example a wine glass is a type of crystal stemware which is used to drink and taste wine. It is generally composed of three parts: the bowl, stem, and foot. Selection of a particular wine glass for a wine style is important, as the shape can influence its perception.

Generally, the opening of the stemware is not wider than the widest part of the bowl. The stem provides a way to hold the glass without warming the wine from body heat. Visually, a stem prevents fingerprints from smearing the glass. A new trend for crystal stemware is the "stemless" wine glass which comes in a variety of sizes and shapes as well. These glasses are typically more casual than their traditional counterparts, as they negate the benefits of using crystal stemware.

Except for the wine connoisseur, crystal stemware can be divided into three types: red wine stemware, white wine stemware, and champagne flutes.

Red Wine Stemware

Stemware for red wine is characterized by their rounder, wider bowl, which increases the rate of oxidization. As oxygen from the air chemically interacts with the wine, flavor and aroma are subtly altered. This process of oxidization is generally more compatible with red wines, whose complex flavors are smoothed out after being exposed to air. Red wine stemware can have particular styles of their own, such as

• Bordeaux glass: tall with a broad bowl, and is designed for full bodied red wines like Cabernet and Merlot as it directs wine to the back of the mouth.

• Burgundy glass: broader than the Bordeaux glass, it has a bigger bowl to accumulate aromas of more delicate red wines such as Pinot Noir. This style of glass directs wine to the tip of the tongue.

White Wine Stemware

White wine stemware varies enormously in size and shape, from the delicately tapered Champagne flute, to the wide and shallow glasses used to drink Chardonnay. Different shaped stemware is used to accentuate the unique characteristics of different styles of wine. Wide mouthed stemware functions similarly to red wine stemware discussed above, promoting rapid oxidization which alters the flavor of the wine. White wines which are best served slightly oxidized are generally full flavored wines, such as oaked chardonnay. For lighter, fresher styles of white wine, oxidization is less desirable as it is seen to mask the delicate nuances of the wine. To preserve a crisp, clean flavor, many white wine glasses will have a smaller mouth, which reduces surface area and in turn, the rate of oxidization. In the case of sparkling wine, such as Champagne or Asti Spumante, an even smaller mouth is used to keep the wine sparkling longer in the stemware.

Champagne Flutes

Champagne flutes are characterized by a long stem with a tall, narrow bowl on top. The shape is designed to keep sparkling wine desirable during its consumption. The stemware is designed to be held by the stem to help prevent the heat from the hand from warming the champagne. The bowl itself is designed in a manner to help retain the signature carbonation in the beverage. This is achieved by reducing the surface area at the opening of the bowl. Additionally the flute design adds to the aesthetic appeal of champagne, allowing the bubbles to travel further due to the narrow design, giving a far more pleasant visual appeal.

Ok so I'm not even a wine drinker and I found this kind of interesting.  Hope you enjoyed today's picture.  Send me your comments and let me know what you think.  Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.

What's new at The Loft - Episode 66

Macro Challenge 3.6.5.

Postage Stamp

ISO 1600, f/4.5, 1/20th Second

Postage stamps have been carrying the mails of the world to their destinations since the 1840s. Before this time, ink and hand-stamps (hence the word 'stamp'), usually made from wood or cork, were often used to frank the mail and confirm the payment of postage. The first adhesive postage stamp, commonly referred to as the Penny Black, was issued in the United Kingdom in 1840. The invention of the stamp was a part of the attempt to reform and improve the postal system in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland which in the early 19th century was in disarray and rife with corruption. There are varying accounts of the inventor or inventors of the stamp. In 1845 some postmasters in the United States issued their own stamps, but it was not until 1847 that the first official U.S. stamps were created, 5 and 10 cent issues depicting Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.

Before the introduction of postage stamps, mail in the UK was paid for by the recipient, a system that was associated with an irresolvable problem: the costs of delivering mail were not recoverable by the postal service when recipients were unable or unwilling to pay for delivered items, and senders had no incentive to restrict the number, size, or weight of items sent, whether or not they would ultimately be paid for.

The postage stamp afforded convenience for both the mailer and postal officials, more efficiently recovered costs for the postal service, and ultimately resulted in a better, faster postal system. With the conveniences stamps offered, their use resulted in greatly increased mailings during the 19th and 20th centuries. Postage stamps during this era were the most popular way of paying for mail, but by the end of the twentieth century were rapidly being eclipsed by the use of metered postage and bulk mailing by businesses.  The same result with respect to communications by private parties occurred over the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st due to declining cost of long distance telephone communications and the development and explosive spread of electronic mailing ("e-mail" via the Internet) and bill paying systems had.

As postage stamps with their engraved imagery began to appear on a widespread basis, historians and collectors began to take notice. The study of postage stamps and their use is referred to as philately. Stamp collecting can be both a hobby and a form of historical study and reference, as government-issued postage stamps and their mailing systems have always been involved with the history of nations.
Stamp collecting is a popular hobby. Collecting is not the same as philately, which is defined as the study of stamps. It is not necessary to closely study stamps in order to enjoy collecting them. Many casual collectors enjoy accumulating stamps without worrying about the details. The creation of a valuable or comprehensive collection, however, may require some philatelic knowledge.

Hope you enjoyed today's picture.  Comments are welcome so please drop me a note and let me know what you think.  Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 65

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

Steve the Anniversary Pig (made with Model Magic)

ISO 1600, f/16, 0.3 Seconds

Steve the Anniversary Pig was a gift our oldest daughter gave to my husband and myself several years ago obviously for our anniversary.  It was made of Crayola's Model Magic, and over the years it seems to have lost some pieces, namely both ears and his tail.  But even so it is still a treasured possession.

Never heard of Model Magic, here's a little bit of information on it. 

Model Magic is a soft, easy-to-use modeling material-- with it you can:

Blend colors, build sculptures, cover & decorate a variety of forms, and can be colored with Crayola paint

& markers.  It air-dries to the touch in 24 hours and cleans up easily.  It's nontoxic and is recommended for children ages 3+

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 64

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

Jack of Diamonds

ISO 800, f/14, 0.5 Second

A Jack, also Knave, is a playing card with a picture of a young man on it. The usual rank of a jack, within its suit, is as if it were an 11 (that is, between the queen and the 10).

As the lowest face (or "court") card, the jack often represents a minimum standard — for example, many poker games require a minimum hand of a pair of jacks ("jacks or better") in order to start the bidding.  As early as the mid-16th century the card was known in English decks as the Knave (meaning a male servant of royalty). It became Jack in 1864, when Samuel Hart, an English cardmaker, published a deck using J instead of Kn for the lowest court card. The Knave had been called a Jack as part of the terminology of All-Fours since the 17th century, but this was not common usage because the word was considered vulgar. However, because the card abbreviation for knave was so close to that of the king, it was very easy to confuse them, especially after suits and rankings were moved to the corners of the card in order to enable people to fan them in one hand and still see all the values. The earliest known deck to place suits and rankings in the corner of the card is from 1693, but these cards did not become common until after 1864 when Hart reintroduced them along with the knave-to-jack change. However, books of card games published in the third quarter of the 19th century evidently still referred to the "knave", and the term with this definition is still recognized in the United Kingdom.

In the standard English playing card deck, the jack and the other face cards represent no one in particular — this is in contrast to the historical French practice, in which each court card is said to represent a particular historical or mythological personage. The jacks in a French deck have traditionally assigned names as follows

       Jack of Spades: Ogier the Dane (legendary hero of the chansons de geste) or Holger Danske (a  knight of Charlemagne)
       Jack of Hearts: La Hire (French warrior)

       Jack of Diamonds: Hector (mythological hero of the Iliad)

      Jack of Clubs: Lancelot or Judas Maccabeus

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 63

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

35 mm Film

ISO 800, f/11.0, 4.0 Second

35 mm film is the basic film gauge most commonly used for chemical still photography (see 135 film) and motion pictures, and remains relatively unchanged since its introduction in 1892 by William Dickson and Thomas Edison, using film stock supplied by George Eastman. The photographic film is cut into strips 35 millimeters (about 1 3/8 inches) wide—hence the name. The standard negative pull down for movies ("single-frame" format) is four perforations per frame along both edges, which makes for exactly 16 frames per foot (for stills, the standard frame is eight perforations).

A wide variety of largely proprietary gauges were used by the numerous camera and projection systems invented independently in the late 19th century and early 20th century, ranging from 13 mm to 75 mm (0.51–2.95 in). 35 mm was eventually recognized as the international standard gauge in 1909,] and has remained by far the dominant film gauge for image origination and projection despite challenges from smaller and larger gauges, and from novel formats, because its size allows for a relatively good tradeoff between the cost of the film stock and the quality of the images captured. The ubiquity of 35 mm movie projectors in commercial movie theaters makes it the only motion picture format, film or video, that can be played in almost any cinema in the world. 

The gauge is remarkably versatile in application. In the past one hundred years, it has been modified to include sound, redesigned to create a safer film base, formulated to capture color, has accommodated a bevy of widescreen formats, and has incorporated digital sound data into nearly all of its non-frame areas. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Eastman Kodak and Fuji film have held a duopoly in the manufacture of 35 mm motion picture film.

In 1880, George Eastman began to manufacture gelatin dry photographic plates in Rochester, New York. Along with W. H. Walker, Eastman invented a holder for a roll of picture-carrying gelatin layer coated paper. Hannibal Goodwin's invention of nitrocellulose film base in 1887 was the first transparent, flexible film; the following year, Emile Reynaud developed the first perforated film stock. Eastman was the first major company, however, to mass-produce these components, when in 1889 Eastman realized that the dry-gelatino-bromide emulsion could be coated onto this clear base, eliminating the paper.

The early acceptance of 35 mm as a standard had momentous impact on the development and spread of cinema. The standard gauge made it possible for films to be shown in every country of the world.  It provided a uniform, reliable and predictable format for production, distribution and exhibition of movies, facilitating the rapid spread and acceptance of the movies as a world-wide device for entertainment and communication.

The film format was introduced into still photography as early as 1913 (the Tourist Multiple) but first became popular with the launch of the Leica camera, created by Oskar Barnack in 1925.  Just as the format was recognized as a standard in 1909, still film cameras were developed that took advantage of the 35 mm format and allowed a large number of exposures for each length of film loaded into the camera. The frame size was increased to 24×36 mm. Although the first design was patented as early as 1908, the first commercial 35 mm camera was the 1913 Tourist Multiple, for movie and still photography, soon followed by the Simplex providing selection between full and half frame format. Oskar Barnack built his prototype Ur-Leica in 1913 and had it patented, but Ernst Leitz did not decide to produce it before 1924.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 62

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge


ISO 800, f/3.5, 1/30th Second

A quarter dollar, commonly shortened to quarter, is a coin worth ¼ of a United States dollar, or 25 cents. The quarter has been produced since 1796. The choice of 25¢ as a denomination, as opposed to 20¢ which is more common in other parts of the world, originated with the practice of dividing Spanish Milled Dollars into eight wedge shaped segments; at one time "two bits", i.e. two pieces of eight, was a common nickname for a quarter.  The current regular issue coin is the George Washington quarter (showing George Washington) on the front. The reverse featured an eagle prior to the 1999 50 State Quarters Program. The Washington quarter was designed by John Flanagan. It was initially issued as a circulating commemorative, but was made a regular issue coin in 1934.

In 1999, the 50 State Quarters program of circulating commemorative quarters began; these have a modified Washington obverse and a different reverse for each state, ending the former Washington quarter's production completely.  On January 23, 2007, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 392 extending the state quarter program one year to 2009, to include the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories large enough to merit non-voting Congressional representatives: Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The bill passed through the Senate and was signed into legislation by President Bush on December 27, 2007.
On June 6, 2008, a bill titled America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008 was introduced to the House of Representatives. On December 23, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the bill into law. The America the Beautiful quarters program began in 2010 and will continue for 12 years.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 61

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge


ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/200th Second

Hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae. The generic name, hibiscus is derived from the Greek word ἱβίσκος (hibískos). It native to warm-temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world.  The different species are often noted for their showy flowers.  The flowers are large, conspicuous, trumpet-shaped, with five or more petals, ranging from white to pink, red, orange, purple or yellow, and from 4–18 cm broad. Flower color in certain species, changes with age.  The fruit is a dry five-lobed capsule, containing several seeds in each lobe, which are released when the capsule dehisces (splits open) at maturity.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 60

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

Pan Watercolor

ISO 800, f/11.0, 0.8 Second

 A watercolor is the medium or the resulting artwork, in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water soluble vehicle.  The term watercolor refers to paints that use water soluble, complex carbohydrates as a binder. Originally (16th to 18th centuries) watercolor binders were sugars and/or hide glues, but since the 19th century the preferred binder is natural gum arabic, with glycerin and/or honey as additives to improve plasticity and dissolvability of the binder, and with other chemicals added to improve product shelf life.  Watercolor paint consists of four principal ingredients:

pigments, natural or synthetic, mineral or organic;

arabic gum as a binder to hold the pigment in suspension and fix the pigment to the painting surface;

additives like glycerin, ox gall, honey, preservatives: to alter the viscosity, hiding, durability or color of the pigment and vehicle mixture; and

solvent, the substance used to thin or dilute the paint for application and that evaporates when the paint hardens or dries.

Commercial watercolor paints come in two grades: "Artist" (or "Professional") and "Student".

Artist quality paints are usually formulated with fewer fillers (kaolin or chalk) which results in richer color and vibrant mixes.

Student grade paints have less pigment, and often are formulated using two or more less expensive pigments. Artist and Professional paints are more expensive but many consider the quality worth the higher cost.

Bodycolor is a watercolor made as opaque as possible by a heavy pigment concentration, and gouache is a watercolor made opaque by the addition of a colorless opacifier (such as chalk or zinc oxide). Modern acrylic paints are based on a completely different chemistry that uses water soluble acrylic resin as a binder.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 59

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

Candle Flame

ISO 800, f/16, 0.3 Second

A flame (from Latin flamma) is the visible (light-emitting), gaseous part of a fire. It is caused by a highly exothermic reaction taking place in a thin zone. Color and temperature of a flame are dependent on the type of fuel involved in the combustion.  In a candle the applied heat causes the fuel molecules in the candle wick to vaporize. In this state they can then readily react with oxygen in the air, which gives off enough heat in the subsequent exothermic reaction to vaporize yet more fuel, thus sustaining a consistent flame. 

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 58

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge


ISO 800, f/16, 0.5 Second

The tomato is a savory, typically red, edible fruit, originating in South America.  While it is botanically a fruit, it is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes.  Tomatoes are one of the most common garden fruits in the United States and there are around 7500 tomato varieties grown for various purposes.  The tomato is consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes and sauces, and in drinks. 
Most tomato growers produce red fruit; but tomatoes also can be yellow, orange, pink, purple, green, black, or white.  

Some of the more common tomato varieties are:

Beefsteak tomatoes-  are large tomatoes often used for sandwiches and similar applications.
Oxheart tomatoes - can range in size up to beefsteaks, and are shaped like large strawberries.

Plum tomatoes, or paste tomatoes (including pear tomatoes), are bred with a higher solid content for use in tomato sauce and paste and are usually oblong.

Pear tomatoes are obviously pear shaped and based upon the San Marzano types for a richer gourmet paste.

Cherry tomatoes are small and round, often sweet tomatoes generally eaten whole in salads.

Grape tomatoes, a more recent introduction, are smaller and oblong, a variation on plum tomatoes, and used in salads.

Campari tomatoes are also sweet and noted for their juiciness, low acidity, and lack of mealiness. They are bigger than cherry tomatoes, but are smaller than plum tomatoes.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 57

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

Vincent Lecavalier Bobble Head
(I tried to capture the bobble motion)

ISO 800, f/16, 2.5 Seconds

Vincent Lecavalier, born April 21, 1980 is a Canadian professional hockey center and the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League (NHL).  He wears number 4 to honour Jean Béliveau and legendary Boston Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr.  Lecavalier was drafted by Tampa Bay in the 1998 NHL Draft.  On March 1, 2000, following his sophomore season, he was named captain, becoming at 19 years old the youngest captain in NHL history.   He was later stripped of the captaincy before the 2001–02 NHL season when Lightning management decided he was too young and not mature enough to be captain.    In 2007 Lecavalier broke the all-time Lightning record for most points in a season (95) and became the first Lightning player to record 50 goals in a season, finishing the season with a total of 52.  Before the start of the 2008–09 NHL season, he was re-named captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  In 2008, Lecavalier agreed to an eleven-year, $85 million contract extension with the Lightning which will run through the 2019 season.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What's new at The Loft - Episode 56

Macro 3.6.5. Challenge

Spool of Thread

ISO 1600, f/16, 0.5 Second

What is Thread? (definition taken from

Thread is a tightly twisted strand of two or more plys of yarn that are circular when cut in cross section. It is used for hand sewing and in home sewing machines. Ninety-five percent of all sewing thread that is manufactured is used in commercial and industrial sewing.

The three basic types of thread are based on their origin and are animal, plant, or synthetic. Early sewing thread consisted of thin strips of animal hide that were used to stitch together larger pieces of hide and fur. The advance of civilizations brought many refinements in clothing and adornments, including the spinning and dyeing of thread made from plant fibers and using the wool and hair from domestic animals in spinning. They and the Phoenicians also pioneered the use of berries and plant matter in the manufacture of colorful and long lasting dyes. The Chinese and Japanese discovered the beauties of silk fibers spun as thread and made as cloth.

During the Industrial Revolution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, production of thread moved out of the cottages and into factories equipped with high-speed machines. Machine manufacture generated more uniform thread with fewer flaws, and producers could devote more time to maximizing the characteristics of the types of fibers being used. Stronger thread, truer dye colors, and production of a wider variety of thread for different applications were among the direct results.

Engineers who design sewing thread are called seam engineers. They are experienced in the practical aspects of sewing, sewing machine operation, and clothing manufacture. When a new sewing thread is designed, the needs of the specific market are analyzed carefully, and a prototype thread is produced and tested under actual use conditions.

Choosing the Right Thread for your Sewing Project (courtesy of eHow)

The thread you choose for any sewing project should be similar in fiber content to that of your fabric. Cotton, polyester and cotton/poly threads are the most widely used.  Here are some tips for selecting the right thread. 

1.  Choose a color thread that matches the most dominant color in your fabric. If you are unable to find a perfect match, select a thread that is one or two shades darker. Stitches made with a lighter shade of thread will stand out more. 
2.  Use cotton thread for light to medium-weight fabrics that have little or no stretch to them. Cotton thread will not "give," and the stitches may break if used on a stretchy knit fabric. 

3.  Use polyester thread for most hand and machine stitching. This thread is most suitable for synthetic fabrics or fabrics with a lot of stretch to them. The finish of this thread, however, can appear waxy or shiny. 

4.  Use a cotton-wrapped polyester thread for most sewing projects. This thread is usually labeled "all-purpose" and is the thread you will see most frequently in fabric stores. It is suitable for all types of fabrics and for both hand and machine sewing. 

5.  Use fine cotton or silk thread on very thin or delicately woven fabrics such as those used for lingerie or sheer garments. Silk thread is more elastic than cotton, so opt for silk if your garment fabric has any stretch to it at all. 

6.  Look for thread labeled "heavy duty" for projects that require extra strength and durability in stitches. For example, an upholstery project that uses very heavy or stiff fabric will require heavy-duty thread. Some apparel items made with a similar type of fabric will also require this thread. 

7.  Use metallic thread for both machine and hand embroidery. Make sure, however, that the thread you use for machine embroidery is labeled suitable for machine sewing. 

8.  Use quilting thread for your hand or machine quilting projects and for projects that are similarly layered. Most quilting thread is all-cotton and has a finish that allows the thread to slip more easily through the fabric and batting layers.

I hope you have found today's post fun and informative.  Comments are always welcome so please send me your comments and tell me what's on your mind.  Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.