Friday, July 29, 2011

Donna's Violets - a Macro Flowers Saturday entry…

See: Macro Flowers Saturday

For some reason, the office atmosphere has always been conducive to growing African violets. Well, maybe not always – I’ve grown my share and ruined my share. But I’ve seen lots of plants brought into the office in less-than-thriving condition only to perk up in a matter of weeks. Maybe it’s the lighting or the fairly constant atmosphere or temperature or maybe it’s the constant companionship.




Years ago I had a desk located in an alcove and, along one wall adjacent to large windows, I had 3 huge African violets growing. They were magnificent and, with my brown thumb, I was really thrilled. But then we moved to the manufacturing plant where the windows were tinted blue (yes, blue). The effect was beautiful – from the outside of the building; but inside it was another story. No matter what the weather or what time of day it was, it always looked overcast and cloudy. Needless to say, it was somewhat depressing. I’ve always attributed the demise of my magnificent African violets to those depressing blue tinted windows.






Well, years later and now in another office, the violets are once again thriving. They are not mine, unfortunately, but belong to a friend who sits out in the atrium. When Donna called me over to see them, we were in awe of how the petals sparkled in the sunlight coming through the skylights – a perfect photo opp. Donna nurtured this plant back to health and she’s as proud of its beauty as I was of my violets – years ago before those blue windows.




Hmmmmm, maybe it’s time I try my hand again with violets in the office. Do you have anything growing in your office?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This garden thing...

Way back when I started this blog, I created a page specifically for this garden that I had planned out.  The garden did get done - I put the retaining wall up (fairly straight I might add), I had it filled with dirt, the lilacs, foxglove, lillies got planted along with cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, and strawberries.  And then the rabbits came along to feast on the cabbage...

What time does the buffet open?
and something unknown came along to reek havoc on the tomatoes.  The cucumbers did survive quite well but the birds did a number on the strawberries.  I've often wondered if they had champagne with those strawberries?  And the heat wave we just went through was not kind at all despite watering every evening.
Blackeyed Susans reach for the sun.



All in all, the garden did quite well for it's first season but I have come to realize that it basically took on a life of its own.  As much as I wanted to control how it grew, I could do little when it came to the rabbits; I managed to rid the garden of caterpillars - only after I realized they took on the same color as the plants they were eating; and the weeds - well, the weeds were and are about the only plants that are loving the heat.
Hang in there!  An interesting looking bug hangs onto a geranium.

I guess this garden thing is a lot like life all around us.  You can do only so much to control certain things but most of the time you just have to do your best, sit back and watch what happens, all the while hoping for the best.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Go Home...a Macro Flowers Saturday Entry


See: Macro Flowers Saturday

Lilacs in the backyard - blooming for the second time this season.
Ever get stuck? It could be a 'simple' stuck like not being able to complete the day's crossword puzzle or an 'involved' stuck like being unable to decide on a career path. Or it could be an 'emotional' stuck like being unable to move physically or mentally after some traumatic event. Getting stuck isn't fun unless, of course, you're stuck in some great fun place.

I used to get stuck bowling - yea, I know, 'simple' stuck but stuck nonetheless. I'm an avid bowler. I said avid, I did not say good.  There were so many times I would get stuck, sort of in a slump, and take it very seriously to the point of being unable to get unstuck. I'd adjust my approach, change speed, alter my swing and nothing would work. Then someone, near and dear, gave me some great advice....when you are having a bad game, when you're stuck; go back to basics. Shake off all those things you've heard and read that are supposed to improve your game and bowl like you were just starting out fresh. To simplify...go home. Go to what is familiar, comfortable, natural and don't make any effort to make any changes, don't make any decisions. Go back to basics, just let it happen - go home.

Rutgers Gardens - Echinacea waiting for the bees.
Over time, I've realized this is not only great advice for the lanes or any other sport for that matter but it works in lots of other stuck situations.  Lately I've been stuck in the middle of technical stuff - reading, researching, staring at a computer screen with Photoshop starring back.  Stuck.

So I decided to 'go home' - to go to that familiar place, enjoy the surroundings, take photos of what I am comfortable with, go back to basics.  'Home' in this instance is Rutgers Gardens and my own backyard - familiar, comfortable, quiet, serene.  It was great to break away from 'stuck.'

Take a deep breath and Go Home! Find the 'familiar,' covet the 'cozy,' surround yourself with the 'serene' of your life. The answer will find you, calmness will reign, a light will turn on - maybe not right away but it will happen - and, in the meantime while you're waiting, sit back, relax and enjoy home.



It's always good to go home  - 
no matter where it is.




Sunday, July 10, 2011

My favorite cake...today

There are certain things I can actually say are my favorites without a doubt - chocolate ice cream; the color green; baseball; etc.  But I can never really decide on a favorite cake.  Maybe it depends on the season or the occasion or who knows what but, truth is, I love all cake.

I make a pretty mean cheese cake, a carrot cake from baby food with cream cheese frosting, Southern Pecan Pie with bourbon and pizzelles that melt in your mouth but all this is not rocket science.  And my favorite cake today is truly a 'not rocket science' kinda cake.  Most (if not all) of the credit goes to JELL-O, Dole, and Cool Whip and a little to me for having the guts to tear the recipe out of the magazine in the doctor's office (Honestly, this was a first for me.  Honestly!)

So here is something called Angel Lush with Pineapple along with some of my own hints or tricks I picked up along the way...
Wish I had some seasonal berries!


 You will need:
  • 1 20 oz. can Dole crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 3.4 oz. pkg. JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling
  • 1 Cup thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping
  • 1 10 oz. round angel food cake cut into 3 layers
  • seasonal berries (optional)
Mix the pineapple and dry pudding mix in a medium bowl.
Gently stir in whipped topping.
Stack the cake layers on a plate, placing pudding mixture between each layer and on top.
Refrigerate 1 hour before serving.  Add berries before serving.

Hints/Tricks
  1. Remember - do not drain the pineapple.
  2. After you mix the pineapple, pudding, and cool whip place the mix in the refrigerator.  This is especially helpful is you're making this in hot/humid weather.  I've found that refrigerating gives the mix a little 'body' and makes it hold up better between cake layers.
  3. If you've bought a cake that's in a plastic bundt-type container, do not (repeat do not) run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake.  Some of you cake mavens out there probably already know this but I learned the hard way that, when you do this, your cake comes out looking like someone took a bad razor to it.  After you remove the lid, turn the cake onto a plate, gently give the plastic container a couple of squeezes and the cake will come cleanly out onto the plate - looking like you just spent 2 hours baking it.
  4. That toothpick-around-the-cake and cutting-with-a-serrated-knife thing they taught you in Home Economics really does work.

Honestly, this cake is delicious and a piece-of-cake to make and I really think I need to have another piece right now!  Do you have a favorite cake....today?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

UV Index 9...

Yesterday was the first day of a week+ long vacation but I was up at 4:30 AM.  It was not because I couldn't sleep but because I had a 20 minute drive ahead of me.  About a week before I spotted a location that would afford an unobstructed view of the sunrise.  This was like finding gold - after all, how many places are there in central Jersey where your view is not pierced by a telephone pole or cell tower or cut in half by electric and cable lines.

The air was cool, the sky was cloudless, and, except for some early walkers and seagulls, I had the view to myself  -  a view that changed from minute to minute, a view that you cannot buy, a view to the beginning of a new day.
Click on each photo to enlarge.
Outerbridge Crossing to Staten Island - 7/1/11, 5:09 AM

Here it comes - 7/1/11, 5:34 AM


UV Index 9 - get out the sunscreen - 7/1/11, 5:41 AM



The sun bounces off the bay lighthouse as a lone boater skims across the open water - 7/1/11, 5:46 AM


The townhouses along the bay are turned to gold as the sun rises above the horizon.
What a view to wake up to every morning!
7/1/11, 5:56 AM
Was I insane getting up at 4:30 AM on a vacation day? Yep   Was I tired? Yep   Am I still tired? Yep     Was it worth it?  Yep    Would I do it again?  Yep - After all, I need photos with clouds!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Christ Church, New Brunswick, NJ

A study in black & white...

On my way to the camera shop the other day, I varied my route and did some exploring on the grounds of Christ Church http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~lesk/church/ .  This is a parish rich in history.  Stepping onto the property, you almost get a sense of stepping back in time.  In all honesty, with July 4 around the corner, there were a few moments when I actually thought I would turn around to see a British officer in pursuit of General Washington as he made his way toward the Delaware River and Trenton.

Walking among the burial grounds, you can spot birth and death dates as early as 1732-1798 (Captain John Hodge) and gaze upwards to see the church steeple, appearing much as it did in the 1850’s.  Restoration of the church is currently underway with support from the Garden State Preservation Trust, administered by the NJ Historic Trust, State of NJ.  It will be interesting to see how history will be kept intact as this project moves forward.

Following are my very first attempts at black & white photos.  Since I'm programmed to think in color, I confess I found this exercise a little daunting  but I thought this subject lent itself perfectly to the black and white format.

Come; take a step back in time…

Click on each photo to enlarge.

The church bell tower and steeple, located at the corner of Nielsen and Paterson Streets.
Entrance to the church Memorial Garden on Paterson Street.
The church grounds, also the parish cemetery, where you can
find original headstones, crypts, and monuments.
Iron fencing surrounds several unique plots.
Iron work detail.
Toppled tombstones and above-ground crypts await restoration.