the sculpture garden at the national gallery of art

Sunday, August 25:  After giving up trying to find photos of people interacting with art at the National Gallery of Art, I went to the Sculpture Garden to see if I would have any luck there.  This search was to meet the challenge posed by Instagram to post photos taken over the weekend for their Hashtag project: #WHPartwatching.

Finally, I got this interesting fellow wearing purple athletic pants and a turquoise shirt, with a video camera partially balanced over his turquoise-dyed hair.  He was actually interacting with this metal tree sculpture.  Bingo!  Not the greatest, but it met the challenge.

a wild looking man interacting with a metal tree at the Sculpture Garden
a wild looking man interacting with a metal tree at the Sculpture Garden
this is what I entered on the Instagram #WHPartwatching
this is what I entered on the Instagram #WHPartwatching

After I got my picture, I walked around the Sculpture Garden, taking more photos of all the cool sculptures on the grounds.

Alexander Calder American, 1898-1976 George Rickey American, 1907-2002 Cluster of Four Cubes, 1992 stainless steel
Alexander Calder
American, 1898-1976
George Rickey
American, 1907-2002
Cluster of Four Cubes, 1992
stainless steel
Mark di Suvero American, born 1933 Aurora, 1992-1993
Mark di Suvero
American, born 1933
Aurora, 1992-1993
Joan Miró Spanish, 1893-1983 Personnage Gothique, Oiseau-Éclair (Gothic Personage, Bird-Flash), 1974, cast 1977
Joan Miró
Spanish, 1893-1983
Personnage Gothique, Oiseau-Éclair (Gothic Personage, Bird-Flash), 1974, cast 1977
Typewriter eraser by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Typewriter eraser by Claes Oldenburg
and Coosje van Bruggen
Alexander Calder American, 1898-1976 Cheval Rouge (Red Horse), 1974 painted sheet metal
Alexander Calder
American, 1898-1976
Cheval Rouge (Red Horse), 1974
painted sheet metal
Alexander Calder American, 1898-1976 Cheval Rouge (Red Horse), 1974 painted sheet metal
Alexander Calder
American, 1898-1976
Cheval Rouge (Red Horse), 1974
painted sheet metal
Alexander Calder American, 1898-1976 Cheval Rouge (Red Horse), 1974 painted sheet metal
Alexander Calder
American, 1898-1976
Cheval Rouge (Red Horse), 1974
painted sheet metal
Sol LeWitt American, born 1928 Four-Sided Pyramid, 1999, first installation 1997
Sol LeWitt
American, born 1928
Four-Sided Pyramid, 1999, first installation 1997
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Flower by Mother Nature 🙂
pond & fountains at the Sculpture Garden
pond & fountains at the Sculpture Garden
Barry Flanagan British, born 1941 Thinker on a Rock, 1997
Barry Flanagan
British, born 1941
Thinker on a Rock, 1997

By this time I was getting pretty hungry, as I always do, and I found these colorful food trucks, or kiosks, sitting along the road serving up some culinary delights.

Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall

I decided I would indulge at the “froyotogo” truck, mainly because it was painted purple, on some frozen yogurt with raspberry and kiwi toppings.

Food kiosks on the Mall
Food kiosks on the Mall
Frozen yogurt with raspberries and kiwi :-)
Frozen yogurt with raspberries and kiwi 🙂

Now that the Instagram project was over, I could simply enjoy my frozen treat on a bench along the long stretch of the Mall.  A lovely day in Washington, D.C. 🙂

On Friday evenings during the summer, jazz concerts are held at the Sculpture Garden.  I didn’t make it to any concerts this summer, but here’s me before I went to Korea, in the summer of 2009, holding a leafy plant (??) at Jazz in the Sculpture Garden.   I don’t know why, but I always get a hoot out of this photo. 🙂

me at Jazz in the Sculpture Garden in the summer of 2009
me at Jazz in the Sculpture Garden in the summer of 2009
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in search of the weekend hashtag project: the national gallery of art

Sunday, August 25:  On this Sunday, I went in search of photos to enter in Instagram‘s Weekend Hashtag Project: #WHPartwatching.  The challenge, as posed by Instagram, which I just joined, was this: The goal this weekend is to take creative photos and videos of people interacting with art. Some tips to get you started: Head to a museum or sculpture park if you have one nearby, but don’t be afraid to explore unconventional art like neighborhood murals and statues. Look for interesting colors and patterns, both in the art and in the clothing of the people in your shot. Finally, think about the way your art watchers move and pause—groups assembling, viewers sketching or solitary people contemplating a piece.

the West Wing of the National Art Gallery
the West Wing of the National Art Gallery

I thought it sounded like an interesting challenge, but I found it was much harder than I imagined.  If I had taken along a willing subject to pose “interacting with art,” it might have been much more interesting.  Instead, I went around trying to take surreptitious pictures of strangers interacting with art.  I didn’t have much success at this project, but it was fun to try anyway.  I headed first to the National Gallery of Art’s East Wing.  I went to the East Tower, where there was a special exhibition of paintings by Kerry James Marshall, born in the same year as I was.  His work explores the experiences of African-Americans and the narratives of American history that have often excluded black people. Drawing upon the artist’s prodigious knowledge of art history and the African diaspora, his paintings combine figurative and abstract styles and multiple allusions, drawing from “high” and “low” sources (National Gallery of Art: In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall).

Upon first entering the Tower Gallery, I found this man sitting on a bench looking at the paintings, but I felt uncomfortable being so intrusive, even though his back was turned to me.  We were the only two people in the gallery, besides the guard, and I’m sure he could hear my camera clicking behind him, taking a shot that included him in the picture.

In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall ~ "artwatching" :-)
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall ~ “artwatching” 🙂

I didn’t think this picture was particularly interesting, so I continued to search.  But the pictures I wanted to take would have required me to get up close and personal, and intrusive, on that person’s experience of art.  So instead I resorted to just taking pictures of the paintings. 🙂

In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall

It’s difficult to take pictures of people interacting with art when there are only one or two people in the gallery.  The only exhibit that had big crowds was the Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music exhibit.  However, when I pulled out my camera to take pictures in that gallery, the guard wagged his finger at me.  “No pictures in this exhibit, miss!” And he promptly pointed out the sign that said just that.

In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall

In a small exhibit next to the Ellsworth Kelly Colored Paper Images, I saw some fish hanging in a small exhibit.  I especially liked the shadows the fish made on the wall.

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fish scales & shadows

Still, no people were interacting with this colorful fish! I found this cool sculpture in the lobby, but no one was interacting with it.

a cool sculpture in the lobby
a cool sculpture in the lobby

And later, when I walked past it again, people were interacting with it, but I couldn’t get a good angle.

a father and daughter interacting both with each other and the sculpture
a father and daughter interacting both with each other and the sculpture

I was fascinated by this colorful wall art, but I couldn’t figure out a way to get someone in front of it.  Even if someone had been in front of it, it wouldn’t have been interesting unless they were posing or doing something interesting!

I liked this colorful wall art, but couldn't find any people interacting with it!
I liked this colorful wall art, but couldn’t find any people interacting with it!
Another colorful painting, with no people!
Another colorful painting, with no people!

Oh well.  I was starting to get discouraged so I went to the Concourse walkway between the East and West wings.  At least I could get some lunch and see the Multiverse, the largest and most complex light sculpture created by American artist Leo Villareal.  The work features approximately 41,000 computer-programmed LED (light-emitting diode) nodes that run through channels along the 200-foot-long space. Development of this LED project began in 2005, and installation took place between September and December 2008.

Multiverse
Multiverse
Multiverse
Multiverse
Multiverse
Multiverse

You can see a couple of people “interacting” with this art, but they were kind of blurry in the dark!

Multiverse
Multiverse

When I reached the end of the moving walkway, I came to the cafeteria, where I ordered lunch and watched this waterfall flowing down steep steps behind glass.  It’s very soothing to watch while eating lunch.

waterfall in the concourse
waterfall in the concourse
the waterfall in the concourse
the waterfall in the concourse

Finally, I gave up and went outside, where I found these little mini glass pyramids and fountains, and I took some photos here.  I found this couple interacting with the fountain, which I guess you could say is “art!”

a couple interacting with the fountain!!
a couple interacting with the fountain!!

And these young people walking through the pyramids.

mini glass pyramids between the East and West wings of the National Gallery of Art
mini glass pyramids between the East and West wings of the National Gallery of Art

But I actually thought the pyramids were more interesting with no people and their interesting reflections.

more mini pyramids
more mini pyramids

I finally gave up and went to try my luck at the Sculpture Garden….

By the way, the thousands of people who entered the Instagram Weekend Hashtag project seemed to have taken much better photos than I was able to get, and I couldn’t help wondering if many of them were posed.  Next time I think I better take along an accomplice. 🙂

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the united states capitol

Sunday, August 25: Since I returned home to the USA at the end of July after three years living abroad, I’ve been posing as a tourist in my own country.  I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area for most of the last 25 years, and though I don’t live in the city itself, I live in one of the largest of the metropolitan area suburbs:  Fairfax County, Virginia.  The monuments in Washington seem commonplace to me since I’ve seen them so many times.  In fact they seem so commonplace that I’ve hardly ever bothered to photograph them.  Isn’t it funny how sometimes you don’t even notice the things in your own backyard?

Today I venture into Washington on a Sunday morning in search of photos for the Instagram Weekend Hashtag Project: The project is called Partwatching and the goal is to take creative photos of people interacting with art.  I’m heading for the National Gallery of Art, where I hope to surreptitiously capture people interacting with art.   However, before going there, I decide I’ll talk a little stroll around the United States Capitol, the iconic symbol of Washington.  I’ve taken the tour of the interior before, but today I just walk around the grounds out front.

The United States Capitol, according to The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, is a symbol of the American people and their government, the meeting place of the nation’s legislature. It is built in neo-classical style with a white exterior.  Construction of the U.S. Capitol began in 1793. In November 1800, the U.S. Congress met in the first completed portion, the north wing. In the 1850s, major extensions to the North and South ends of the Capitol were authorized because of the westward expansion of our nation and the resultant growth of Congress. Since that time, the U.S. Capitol and its stately dome have become international symbols of our representative democracy.

the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol

Though it has never been the geographic center of the federal district, the Capitol is the origin by which the quadrants of the District are divided and the city was planned (Wikipedia: United States Capitol).

The U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol

The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial is a presidential memorial at the base of Capitol Hill, honoring American Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. The sculpture of Grant on horseback faces west toward the Lincoln Memorial, which honors Grant’s wartime president, Abraham Lincoln; together, the Grant and Lincoln memorials define the eastern and western boundaries of the National Mall.

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The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

A striking feature of the central statue is Grant’s calm attitude amidst the raging fighting going on around him. This is not surprising because Grant was known for his calmness and coolheadedness during battle. In sharp contrast to Grant are the sculpture groups on either side, Cavalry Charge and Artillery (Wikipedia: Ulysses S. Grant Memorial).

Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Cavalry Charge sculpture in front of the U.S. Capitol
Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Cavalry Charge in front of the U.S. Capitol
Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Artillery Sculpture in front of the U.S. Capitol

Standing on the grounds of the Capitol and looking West, I can see the National Mall stretching before me, with the Washington Monument, covered in scaffolding, standing between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial.

The Mall and the Washington Monument
The Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument

I hop into a small traffic circle with a garden and a statue, behind which looms the dome of the Capitol.

the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol

I love the view below of the National Mall and the Washington Monument.  The Monument is like an alien object now; it’s covered in black scaffolding while it undergoes repairs due to structural damage from the 2011 earthquake.  My first reaction when I saw it upon my return was the same irritation I felt when I went to Angkor Wat and found its front facade covered in scaffolding and green netting.  But… now that I’ve gotten used to it, I think I like it!  Maybe they should keep it like this forever. 🙂

the Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument
The U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
steps up the U.S. Capitol
steps up the U.S. Capitol

I then head to the National Art Gallery, in search of people interacting with art.

weekly photo challenge: focus

Saturday, August 24This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is inspired by Matthew George’s post on focus, in which he introduced us to the basics of depth of field and aperture. He explained what an image with a shallow depth of field looks like (or conversely, a photo with a greater depth of field), and how the aperture setting on your camera affects it.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands of WordPress writes: For this challenge, get out there and take a picture demonstrating the concept of focus. Depending on your skill level or type of camera, tinker with the manual settings, use the auto focus feature, or play around with an app. Some ideas:

  • Snap a photo of something or someone in focus, against a blurred background.
  • Share a panorama or landscape in sharp focus, in which you can see details far away.
  • Use a camera app to force focus (or blur) in an experimental way.
  • Take multiple photos of the same scene or subject using different aperture settings and publishing the results.

IN A NEW POST CREATED SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO DEMONSTRATING THE CONCEPT OF FOCUS.

I worked on this today, specifically following the instructions to change my aperture settings, using the smaller number f-stop to get a shallow depth of field and a larger numbered f-stop to get a greater depth of field.  I’m not sure my experiments worked very well, especially because when I used the higher f-stop number, I just got a lot of blur all around.  Here’s an example of one I thought worked well.

Shallow depth of field, F-stop 3.5
Shallow depth of field, F-stop 3.5

I’m excited that WordPress is doing this Photography 101 series and then pushing us in the photography challenges to use what we learn.  This is the first time I’ve gotten off my lazy butt and opened my camera manual and tried to use the manual settings!

Here are Matthew George’s instructions:

  • For a more shallow depth of field, use a bigger opening/aperture, which is a lower-numbered f-stop.
  • If you want a greater depth of field, use a smaller opening/aperture, which is a higher-numbered f-stop.

I liked this one too, although I wasn’t sure how this worked as some of the fungi on the foreground of the tree are blurred; the middle ground seems in focus and the distance is blurred.

f-stop 4.0
f-stop 4.0

And yet another photo of fungi.  I know, exciting, right?

f-stop 4.7
f-stop 4.7
f--stop 4.4
f–stop 4.4

I took these shots of my son with a f-stop of 3.5, but I don’t understand why the background isn’t more blurred.

f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5

Here are a few successful shots (I think!) from my archives.  These, however, were done with pure luck, and automatic settings.  With much chagrin, I have to admit today is the first day I experimented with adjusting aperture manually.

f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5
f-stop 4.9
f-stop 4.9
f-stop 5
f-stop 5

Finally, in one weird moment today I tried an f-stop of 22 and here’s what I got.  I took this in my living room and the focus was supposed to be the pot.  Now, that’s just wrong!

f-stop 22 in my living room
f-stop 22 in my living room

What went wrong here?

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a walk at scott’s run nature preserve

Saturday, August 24: Today, I go with Mike, Alex & Bailey on a short 3 mile walk through Scott’s Run Nature Preserve along the Potomac River.  This park wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for citizen protesters in the late 1960s and early 1970s who fought against development of the area.

We walk through mature hardwood forests of large oak and beech trees, among ancient hemlock and wild cherry trees.  We toss sticks into the Potomac River for Bailey; we clamber up cliffs and across creeks.  We lose Alex for a while and when Mike makes a strange bird call, Alex answers back from the  depths of the forest. We add stones to a large cairn in the middle of the creek and find leaves rippling under flowing water.  Alex does hand stands and leg lifts.  I find fungi on fallen tree trunks and photograph the strange colors and shapes from every angle.  We discover initials carved into a large tree that tell of those who have gone before us.

It’s hot today, but I can feel fall is around the corner.  I can’t wait.

Alex prepares for the walk with a gymnastics move
Alex prepares for the walk with a gymnastics move
Mike and Bailey at Scott's Run
Mike and Bailey at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Alex
Alex
initials carved into trees
initials carved into trees
Alex does another gymnastics move
Alex does another gymnastics move
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run

Scott’s Run is the main creek that runs through the park.  It winds to its journey’s end where it spills over a small yet lovely waterfall before entering the Potomac River

waterfall at Scott's Run
waterfall at Scott’s Run
the Potomac River
the Potomac River
waterfall at Scott's Run
waterfall at Scott’s Run
The Potomac River
The Potomac River
The Potomac River
The Potomac River
Alex
Alex
cairn at Scott's Run
cairn at Scott’s Run
in the creek
in the creek
a lone leaf
a lone leaf
Alex does a handstand
Alex does a handstand

Scott’s Run was once a battlefield between developers and environmentalists.  Mike remembers going with high school friends in 1970 to a Fairfax County Board Meeting where opposing sides presented arguments for and against the formation of a park. It turned into a major battle. According to the website for Fairfax County, Virginia: Scott’s Run Nature Preserve:

In the 1960s, there were 336 wooded acres along the Georgetown Pike known as the Burling Tract. The land had belonged to an attorney named Edward Burling, Sr., who had a secluded cabin at the site. A developer bought the land after Burling’s death in 1966 and proposed 309 cluster homes for the area that would have left about half of the site as preserved, open land.

Neighbors saw small rezoning signs in the woods, and the clash of philosophies was under way. A citizen movement to stop the development arose, and the conflict of ideas that followed over the next year eventually enveloped county residents, the governor of Virginia and local elected officials, four U. S. senators, conservation and park agencies, the federal government, the New York Times, a national conservation organization, developers, protesting high school students and door-to-door petitioners.

Eventually a local public referenda passed as voters decided to tax themselves one and a-half million dollars to buy the land, although negotiations over the price continued. Eventually the U.S. Department of the Interior provided $3.6 million dollars to buy the land, which today belongs to the Fairfax County Park Authority.

travel theme: play

Friday, August 23: Ailsa’s Travel Theme for this week is play.  She quotes:

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” – Plato

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

My son Alex loves pushing himself to the limits to accomplish tough gymnastics moves. Here he is playing in our backyard doing some handstands and plank moves on his rings.

Click on any of the pictures below to see a full-sized slide show.

Here are some monks playing drums and doing Sunmudo Martial Arts at Golgulsa Sunmudo Temple near Gyeongju, South Korea.

Koreans playing drums at Golgulsa Sunmudo Temple near Gyeongju, Korea
Koreans playing drums at Golgulsa Sunmudo Temple near Gyeongju, Korea
monks doing Sunmudo at Golgulsa Sunmudo Temple in Korea
monks doing Sunmudo at Golgulsa Sunmudo Temple in Korea

These children are driving around helter-skelter in motorized cars in Gyeonju, South Korea.

Korean children in Gyeongju, South Korea, playing in motorized cars
Korean children in Gyeongju, South Korea, playing in motorized cars

And these children are playing at Sports Day at Chojeon Elementary School in Chojeon, South Korea.

children playing at a sports day at Chojeon Elementary School, Chojeon, South Korea
children playing at a sports day at Chojeon Elementary School, Chojeon, South Korea

These Omani girls are having fun playing with mud on Jebel Akhdar, Oman.

Omani girls playing in the mud on Jebel Akhdar, Oman
Omani girls playing in the mud on Jebel Akhdar, Oman

And in Ethiopia, during a slow time at the Bishangari Lodge in Lake Langano, the staff plays a game of checkers using bottle caps to pass the time.

Lake Langano, Ethiopia
Lake Langano, Ethiopia
checkers with bottle caps
checkers with bottle caps

Finally, part of play is just relaxing while on holiday in exotic places with a glass of wine.  This is me, a self-portrait, having a glass of wine on the rooftop of the Acropolis View Hotel, with, guess what (?), the Acropolis behind me. 🙂

me, at "play," atop the Acropolis View Hotel in Athens :-)
me, at “play,” atop the Acropolis View Hotel in Athens 🙂

crab cakes and cupcakes in berlin, maryland

Thursday, August 22:  This morning, my sister Joan and I lounge around her house in Salisbury, chatting and drinking coffee. After we’re tired of being totally lazy, she suggests we take a little trip to Berlin, Maryland.  Before we go, I set the self-timer and take a picture of the two of us in front of her backyard pool.

me and Joan in front of her backyard pool
me and Joan in front of her backyard pool

The town of Berlin had its start around the 1790s, part of the Burley Plantation, a 300-acre land grant dating back to 1677. The name Berlin is believed to be derived from a contraction of “Burleigh Inn,” an old tavern. Berlin incorporated as a town in 1868.

Hotel Atlantic in Berlin
Hotel Atlantic in Berlin

We head straight for lunch at the Hotel Atlantic.  I order the most delicious crab cake sandwich; this one has no filler and is broiled instead of deep-fried.  It’s absolutely perfect.

Crabcakes at the Hotel Atlantic
Crab cake sandwich at the Hotel Atlantic

Since the late 1980s, Berlin has undergone considerable revitalization of its historic downtown commercial district and adjacent residential areas. Berlin’s historic residential areas feature nearly two centuries of architectural heritage from three distinct periods: Federal, Victorian, and 20th Century.  Forty-seven of these structures have been noted in the National Register of Historic Places as well as the historic commercial district. Berlin has also been designated as a “Main Street Community” by the State of Maryland.

Berlin’s claim to fame is that its Main Street and some of the outlying areas were altered to become the fictitious town of Hale, Maryland in the 1999 film The Runaway Bride, starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts.

For the 2002 movie Tuck Everlasting, starring Sissy Spacek, Ben Kingsley, and William Hurt, alteration of the streets and sidewalks transformed Berlin into the fictitious town of Treegap (Wikipedia: Berlin, Maryland).

After lunch, Joan and I wander through the little shops, each of us buying a few trinkets.  I’m enticed by the little cupcake shop, Cupcakes in Bloom.

Cupcakes in Bloom
Cupcakes in Bloom

The walls are decorated with pretty cupcake liners.

the walls of Cupcakes in Bloom
the walls of Cupcakes in Bloom

And the glass case is full of enticing and pretty cupcake creations.

cupcakes in bloom
cupcakes in bloom
bouquets of colorful cupcake liners
bouquets of colorful cupcake liners

I buy some cupcakes to take home to the family: S’mores, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Lemon and German Chocolate.

cupcakes
cupcakes

Other shops in the town are cute little enticements.

Main Street Sweets in Berlin
Main Street Sweets in Berlin
shop window in Berlin
shop window in Berlin

After we finish our wanderings, we drive back to Salisbury, where I say goodbye to my darling little sister and head back home to Virginia.  On the way, I make a stop at a farmer’s market, where I load up on watermelons, cantaloupes, and fresh corn, and admire the colorful Adirondack chairs displayed out front. 🙂

Adirondack chairs at the farm market
Adirondack chairs at the farm market