Sunday, December 30, 2012

Movin' on...

I have to chuckle and cringe whenever I get one of those year-in-review letters.  They are usually from people who I haven't seen in forever, haven't spoken to for so long, no longer associate with, and have absolutely nothing to do with my life.  The letters usually start out noting how busy the author has been because of all the wonderful happenings in their life.  Then they go on to list all the fabulous events of the year...none of which I was included in.  Please, I say, continue...I love it when you make me feel such a part of your life.

Ease into 2013 with some homemade
oatmeal chocolate chip pretzel cookies...yum!

Oh, don't misunderstand or get the wrong impression.  I love my life...I have everything I need, I am blessed, I am satisfied, I am lucky, I am grateful.  What I am, however, is simply amazed.  I'm amazed at how these people who just stated how busy they were, have been able to find the time to write this six-page letter and recall every single event of the past year.  Did they make notes over the course of the year in their organizers specifically for the purpose of composing this novella?  Now that's organized!

Relax in 2013 with delicious French milled
soap of milk, honey, wild almonds, and oats...hmmm.

Well, there will be no such letter from me...ever.  Unless I filled the pages with little white lies and exaggerations, you would be reading about all the run-of-the-mill, mundane, normal events of my days.  When I want to tell you something, I'll call you or e-mail you or visit you or, if it's for public consumption, blog about it.  So, as I read these wonderful letters and as 2012 quickly fades into the sunset, I'm desperately trying to recall the stellar events of my life during the past 365 days.  OK, give me a couple of minutes....I'm thinking...still thinking...still thinking....I should have made notes...I'll get back to you.  Right now, I'm movin' on to 2013.

Get a grip on life (or try) in 2013 with some meditations and reflections...breath.



Happy New Year Everyone!
May it be healthy, happy, joyful, and prosperous!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Flashback...

(A Weekly Top Shot entry)

When I arrived at work on Friday, there was a box on my desk. Usually this is not an unusual occurrence…especially at this time of year. We get gifts from all over because we have business contacts all over but, this box was different. It immediately brought me back to a place when life was a lot simpler, a lot slower, and maybe a lot tastier.
 

I suddenly recalled, as a child, going to the local bakery with my aunt or mother for cookies. You know those cookies…the ones that are bursting with butter, dipped in chocolate or sandwiching sweet jelly, coated with colorful sprinkles, or rolled out so thin they became lacy. And when your order was placed, you were guaranteed to find a hand reaching over the glass case with a sample just for you.
 
 
With your fingers wrapped tightly around that red and white cord, you carried that box home like it was a sacred treasure. After all, you didn’t want to find any broken cookies when that special cord was cut from the box. Those cookies were joined by a glass of cold milk and, this simple routine, this recurring exercise, became a bit of heaven.  It’s amazing what a simple box of cookies can do for you…it brings to mind comfort, quiet times, security.
 
All gone!
 
Dear Robin, thanks for these memories and Merry Christmas!
 
 
To all...hoping your Christmas and this holiday season is as sweet and delicious as these cookies were and you are blessed with love, peace, hope, and prosperity in the coming New Year.
XOXOXO

 
 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Finding your niche...

(A Weekly Top Shot entry)

When I got my very first 'adult' camera, I was 22 and newly married.  I loved all those dials and settings and lenses and...and...and...that's were the love affair ended.  I just couldn't wrap my head around apertures, ISOs, focal lengths, DOF, and shutter speeds (still having problems with that one).  But I struggled through it.

When my son was born in 1977, I moved from the fully manual Yashica to a Canon Rebel....yippee! no more manual focusing.  But between taking care of a baby and working and commuting, the camera stayed on automatic and, over the years, there wasn't really that much time to devote to taking photographs.  What I was taking were pictures...pictures of my son doing everything and anything, family get-togethers, holidays, etc.

Fast forward to 2012...I think I'm finally taking photographs.  But, I recently reviewed what I'm shooting and I don't think I've found a niche...a subject that I truly love to the point where I want to explore every aspect of the it, know it inside and out and, most importantly, be expert at it.  Actually, I'd love to be expert at everything I shoot but that's not going to happen.  So, I may not be an expert, but I know what I like...scenery, still life, florals, and macros, playing with depth of field and experimenting with natural light.  Don't ask me to take a photo of a person (even if that person is willing to step in front of my lens) or use a flash (I'd rather up my ISO).

So, have you found your niche?  Have you found the 'thing' that lights up your passion?  I wonder what will happen if and when I find mine.  Photokismet maybe?

Some things I liked this past weekend...including the heavy fog...

 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eat Hearty...

You're standing in a checkout line and the person behind you is standing way too close and sniffling and coughing all over the back of your neck.  You're at the ATM and the person in front of you just sneezed all over the touch screen.  Or the person in the bathroom stall next to you just left without washing their hands.  Ahhhhhh, you know that feeling....the 'Good God, I think I'm coming down with a cold and the holidays are around the corner' feeling.  What to do, what to do.

I came home from work Thursday night with that dreaded feeling.  I could feel something lurking, I could feel something sinister waiting to attack.   But noooooo, not so fast bud!  I've got homemade soup, whole grain bread, and a bottle of wine here and you don't stand a chance.  Besides, I'm on vacation tomorrow and you won't ruin my day off!

So that's what I did...I ate something hearty.  I heated up some homemade cabbage soup, toasted up some wonderful thick slices of bread (with dipping oil, of course), and opened up a bottle of red.  And, just in case I needed reinforcements, this was followed, at bed time, by a shot of Tylenol Multi-Symptom Nighttime Cold Medicine.


Bully Hill Vineyards I Love My Goat red wine...
I am not a wine connoisseur so, if you see this wine
in the +$15/bottle section of your liquor store, someone
has made a mistake.  Return to the $8.99/bottle section.

And all is right with the world....until the next 'attack.'  It's the cold and flu season...be safe everyone!

T-J Miracle Soup
(from Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Washington for Overweight Heart Patients)
  • 6 large onions
  • 2 green peppers
  • whole tomatoes (fresh or canned) - I use canned diced tomatoes and do not drain.
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • large stalk of celery
  • season with dry onion soup mix
Cut up all the vegetables and cover with water in a large post.  Boil 10 minutes.  Cover, lower heat and simmer until the vegetables are soft.

Yes, this soup is great if you're dieting.  You can eat as much as you want...it's claim is that it does not add any calories.  However, beware if your system is sensitive to cabbage...you know what I mean.  It freezes well and everyone in my family loves it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Pull Up Tree

I have been notorious over the years for extremely large Christmas trees...trees that require me to move furniture out of the room and, at one point, out of the house; trees that prevented you from easily getting into the living room; trees that, once decorated, could not be moved and had to be placed on plywood and slid across the carpeting.  But everyone has got 'tree stories.'  I have many friends who no longer put up a Christmas tree and some who are getting their very first tree.


My attitude is...as long as I can get around, I'm going to have a tree.  However, I realized last year that I could no longer safely handle the 7 1/2 foot tree stored in the attic.  Getting it down from the attic took five trips and that did not include the decorations.  And then there was the two step stools and ladder from the basement needed to decorate it.  The whole process took me 2 to 3 days.


So this year I've made a change.  You might say I'm cheating...it's really not a tree.  But, I couldn't resist the ease of this thing - it took 10 minutes to put up.  I didn't have to move furniture out of the room and it came decorated.  I did add my favorite brass star for the top and some additional special ornaments and balls but the lights were already there and most ornaments.


And when the holiday is over, the tree will come down with the decorations attached, the pole it hangs on will come apart in two pieces and put in the box with the stand and it will all fit under a bed or in the back hallway.  Yes, Martha Stewart would probably cringe but I'm thinking...it's a good thing.

Happy decorating!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Let the games begin...

(A Weekly Top Shot entry)

I was just looking back on my posts from a year ago...just to review what I've done, where I've been, what I've seen and to get a sense of where I'm going.  And to get some inspiration.  I've hit a dry spell or maybe it's just the daily grind that has gotten in the way.  My other excuse or confession...I've been spending a lot of time on tumblr.com and lensblr.com.

I so admire all my blogger friends (and I'm so thankful for them all) who have this endless energy to photo, post, and write such interesting, humorous, and entertaining articles.  Over the next several days I'll be away and I'm hoping to use some of that time for inspiration and thought so I can move out of this funk and come up with something close to what my friends post.  Note to self:  Bring journal to make notes if and/or when ideas pop out of my head.

In the meantime, I got some inspiration from my son and daughter-in-law.  They go shopping every year on Thanksgiving night...what energy!  While they were out, I stayed with my three grandsons...I adore them.

So let the games begin...shop until we drop...support the economy!  I will do my part up until the end of the year.  Next year the 'austerity plan' goes into effect!

Scenes from FAO Schwartz, New York City...taken a few years ago...for the child in all of us!

 


HOLD EVERYTHING!
So here I am, adding photos to my post and I run into this...
 
Whoops! You're out of space. You are currently using 100% of your 1 GB quota for photos. Upgrade storage
Photos are stored in your Picasa Web Albums account and are included in your 1 GB free quota for photos. Additional storage you purchase is shared between several Google products and is in addition to your free quota. Learn more
 
Soooooo, in order to maintain the photos I've loaded in past posts and add new photos, I'll need to BUY extra space.  Hmmmm, I don't think so.  BUT, if I delete photos, they will no longer be available with my past posts.  A double-edged sword to be sure!
 
OK, blogger friends, have you encountered this dilemma and, if so, what did you do?
 
Ya know, it's always something!!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mill Pond Trail

(A Weekly Top Shot entry...)

The first time I walked the Mill Pond Trail I was clueless.  I didn't know what markings to look for, had no idea of how the trail took turns that lead you in a circle, and didn't really know what to look for along the way to add to the enjoyment of the 'trip.'  Now, after about a half dozen hikes, it's become a familiar route but I know it will never loose its beauty.


I've never counted how many photos I've taken along the way but I'm always in awe when I happen to stop and just look at what surrounds me.

One of the first spots you encounter along the trail.



Large stones border stone step that take you down towards the lake
and then back up towards the park.

As the trail curves, pockets of sun
light up the autumn colors.


Tall trees line the path on the final
leg of the trail.


Hope you enjoyed this walk along the Mill Pond Trail.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Getting a leg up...


As utility teams from neighboring states and beyond pour into New Jersey, the clean up continues.  Residence are still pumping out basements, homeowners have begun to tear at sheet rock and wallboard in an attempt to ward off the growth of mold, personal possessions and home appliances have found their way to the curb.

In my hometown the local rag reports that 241 buildings took on 8 to 10 feet of water and, of these, 25 are so damaged they will probably be demolished.  In this tiny town, 300 residents from 18 streets had to be evacuated.  In comparison to some neighboring towns and our shore communities, this does not seem like a lot but, whatever the number, Sandy made quite an impression and we will be experiencing the far-reaching affects for some time to come.

As we start the new week, let's take a line from that late 60's play and let the sunshine in.  Don't forget to keep smiling!

Signs of the times...

NO ONE is permitted to enter this building...posted
on the Portuguese Fisherman restaurant.

This building is considered unsafe for human occupancy...
posted on most homes along the Causeway.
 
Water lines...

A water line immediately above the first line of windows (+6 ft.)
on this bay door at Eagle Tire.

The best place for bagels in town shows a water line on the
window visible just behind the American flag.
 
And other things noticed...

Up a tree...a single shoe hangs in a tree along
the causeway bridge where water reached
to 10 feet.

Clothing, business papers, and debris clog a storm drain.

Absolutely positively NO FISHING!

And finally...
Getting a leg up on clean up...a local shop owner
arranged these mannequins along his closed shop's front door...
a good sign his sense of humor is still in tact.

Smile!  We're still standing!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A seat among the thorns...

A photojournalist I am not.  This was so evident last week during the hurricane.  For some reason I just could not bring myself to photograph the trauma, drama, destruction, and devastation around me.  Looking back, I was really annoyed about this.  I feel like I missed a chapter in my history book.  Oh well, it's done...for the most part.

So here I am, revisiting photos I took just prior to the storm.  It's a good thing.  It's connected me with 'normal.'  It's reminded me of the 'beautiful.'  It's there...under all the debris, sand, mud, broken glass, and water.  It's there and we'll see it again.

Over the next several posts I'll probably be posting shots of the Davidson's Mill Pond Park area in South Brunswick, NJ.  It's one of my favorite haunts.  Hope you enjoy these shots and enjoy revisiting the beauty and the normal with me.

The same bench photographed at different shutter speeds...both at f5.6, ISO100, 160mm...and edited in Adobe Photoshop Elements 9...

@ 1/160 sec.

@ 1/125 sec.
 
Enhancing in Photoshop Elements, I got two totally different results.  I can't decide which one I prefer.  I will have to go back there to sit and enjoy the view of the pond.  Maybe, next time, I'll catch a shot of the blue heron.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Happy Halloween!

It's Monday, November 5.  It's the day before Election Day.  It's 20 days away from Thanksgiving.  And it's one week after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey and communities up and down the East Coast.  BUT it's Halloween in my home town.  You absolutely cannot cancel Halloween...no way, no how.

After this past week of no electricity, no heat, no refrigeration...nothing...I am thrilled to see all the little cute ghosts and goblins at my door.  This is not one of them...


To all my friends who have suffered through this past week and to so many who are still trying to survive, I send you prayers and hope for better days ahead.  And they will come...after all, we are New Jersey.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The butterfly bush...

I have a dear friend Marie who has a beautiful butterfly bush in her yard.  She has enjoyed watching numerous butterflies all summer long.  I absolutely needed one of these butterfly bushes.  After all, what a great way to create photo ops.  So, at the beginning of the summer, I planted one and waited...and waited...and waited.  Flowers bloomed and died off and bloomed again but I saw no butterflies...until last weekend when I went out to cut everything back in preparation for winter.  There it was...one butterfly and a companion.  I was thrilled and even more thrilled that it waited around for me to get my camera.  I managed to shoot more than several photos and, with a slight breeze, they are certainly not as sharp as I would have liked but I did get to document a 'first' in the garden.

Now, can anyone identify these creatures?  I pulled out and dusted off an old insect guide and believe it might be a Painted Lady.  Could the companion be a young butterfly or is it just a moth along for the ride.

Pardon the repetition of photos but I just could not resist!  I had to wait until the fall for this event!

 

 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A walk on the wild side...

 

I am notorious for taking a vacation day and planning, in my head, that I’m getting up early to take advantage of the golden hour. I’m going to get out there and shoot some unbelievable photos.   And then I hit the power button on my laptop, with coffee in hand, and begin surfing blogs, photo sites, and the like to enjoy everyone else’s unbelievable photos.  The last time I followed through on the ‘golden hour’ idea was spring 2011 when I managed to catch a sunrise…I was oh so proud of myself.
 

My vacation day last Tuesday began with the push of that power button followed, several seconds later, by the horrible beep and immediate shut down of my laptop. After three unsuccessful tries, I pulled all the cords out of the laptop and began, one by one, replacing and rebooting. No problems…until I plugged the last cord in, the cord belonging to my port replicator. At least I found the culprit and, since the manufacturer is on the West Coast, I resorted to corresponding through their web site.

 
With high noon an hour away, I got my act together and headed out to Davidson’s Mill Pond Park and the woods…not the ideal time to photograph but, with a mix of clouds and sun, I was hoping for the best.
 
 
Needless to say, the late start wasn’t the best but being out hiking around for 3 hours was wonderful. I didn’t see any wild ‘things’ but I saw lots of wild flowers and some docile ducks. And the port manufacturers…after their solution failed, they opted to replace the replicator, sans original invoice. It’s all good.




 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Game over...

 
 

With the big ‘R’ (that’s retirement) lurking around the corner, I’ve had several people (already retired) remark to me that I’m so lucky to have something I’m interested in…my photography. They could not be more right. But I’m lucky even now, while I’m still working. This ‘passion’ has saved my sanity in many instances. Granted, the house doesn’t get cleaned that often, the windows could use a washing, I need to scrub the mold off the deck, etc. but I could not be more satisfied. It’s extremely fulfilling…I don’t get that feeling when I wash the kitchen floor. Hmmmm, is that what those retirees are doing? Ugh!

 
 
So with crazy ‘stuff’ going on around me over the weekend, I headed out and walked around a local pond looking for some sanity and some color; camera and tripod in hand. It was late, the sun was setting but what a great way to test long exposures. And there was a baseball game (love baseball) just ending under the lights at an adjacent field.

 
 
I didn’t catch any baseball action but I did hear the final crack of the bat and the cheers as the game ended. And as I turned away from the field, there rose a full autumn moon. Sigh…all is right with the world.

 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Power to the cup...


(A Weekly Top Shot entry)

Years (many years) ago, as a young person, I would often wonder what was so important or sacred or even cherished about that cup of coffee my mother (or any adult) would cherish every morning or after every meal.  What was the big deal?  What was the 'draw?'  I have to admit, that ritual...that early-morning, after-dinner cup of coffee was so revered, I came to almost view it with disdain.  Thinking back, one could almost consider this 'habit' equal to that iconic cigarette after 'whatever.'  Actually, revisiting my point of view at that time, you could equate this coffee addiction with a drug.  The whole thing drove me a little nuts...it was annoying.  What was so important  about that cup of coffee?
 

Saturday morning toolbox with wonderful coffee courtesy
of dear blogger friend, cracker jack photog, and safekeeper-of-children-on-busses
Marge Bloom.  Go visit her at The View From Right Here.

Fast forward (many years), as an adult, I've come to realize the significance of that cup of coffee.  It's a powerful thing...and I'm not talking about the power of caffeine.  I referring to the event itself...although it can't be denied, caffeine does a lot for many.  Personally, I'm primarily a decaf person (thank you Dr. T.) although I do sneak in the 'drug' on Saturday mornings and those other weekdays that warrant a kick start.
 
Perked...it had to be perked...NOT from a Mr. Coffee!
 
What's in that cup?  That cup of coffee, that 'event,' can draw conversation out and bind people together.  It can give you a warm feeling and comfort you with familiarity.  It can give you an excuse to meet people face-to-face, get you up and out of your desk chair and make you move.  This 'event,' this simple cup of coffee, is a powerful thing.  Who knew?!

5 minutes...only 5... and that 5 can seem like an eternity!
 
Needless to say, over the many years I've learned a thing or two about and from that disdained cup of coffee.
Most importantly, I've learned that mom was right.
 
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh...
 
And, by the way, it's a great excuse for eating a donut.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Shell game...

I recall, as a child, collecting shells on the beach. It was the ‘thing to do’ when you went ‘down the shore.’ For some reason I remember buckets of shells, not handfuls. And these shells were large and visible in the sand. And we used to paint them with rainbow colors…how wonderful that was!


There were times when the beach was so littered with shells, you had to hop and skip over areas to get to the water. This year I actually had trouble finding any shells; let alone shells of a respectable size. Why is that? Was it because I couldn’t see them? Yes, the eyesight is not what it was at the age of 10. Was it the location? It’s the Jersey shore! Was it my timing? I’ve looked it up online and it seems I’m not the only one who can’t figure this out but then there’s that CNN article listing the top 10 beaches for shelling; albeit from 2007.

And what about those wonderful stones that Diane Keaton collected in the movie ‘Something’s Gotta Give?’ Hmmmm, they had to be ‘planted’ there but I sure would like to have a jar of them…and one black one, of course.


 I do so hope the tide turns so we can fill a bucket and paint again!

She sells seashells by the seashore.