Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happiness is not a faraway thing

School began today and the office was all abuzz with teachers, students, and parents. Everything we’ve been working for all summer – the closing of one year, and the beginning of another – has come to fruition.

Some of our families (and teachers) are still without power, which makes me feel even more blessed that the manor house was only out for just over a day.

One of the teachers laughed as she told me this afternoon that I had no right to be this happy at the end of such a busy day. And I wondered, “do I seem THAT happy?”


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"People always think that happiness is a faraway thing . . . something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains - a cup of strong hot coffee when you're blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you're alone - just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness."

Betty Smith (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn)


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After school, I went to the local Kohl’s and splurged on a new handbag. I needed one and have been putting it off for awhile now. It’s not the most wonderful brand (Relic), and the selection wasn’t as grand as Macy’s (one of my favorite stores) but I’m happy with it. And it was on sale.

It’s the little things that all add up.


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The national news has just come on and the remnants of the hurricane are still being felt with stories that broke my heart listening to them. 3 million people on the east coast are still without power, the map of the Outer Banks in North Carolina has been changed, rivers are raging in New Hampshire and Vermont, leaving people stranded in towns and in New Jersey, 600 boat rescues in Patterson, Manville, and local communities were reported today.

With tears in his eyes, a resident in Manville, NJ simply said, “It’s tough, but life goes on.”

My heart breaks for all of them and I hope that someday soon, they will have the small things that when added up, will cause happiness.

Until tomorrow, my friends . . .

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ps – the morning glories are vintage august 2009 and were taken along the fence line of my husband’s garden.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

In the path of the storm

Well, I was expecting Hurricane Irene to leave a lot more damage here in Maryland at the manor house on the hill. And I’m so glad that it didn’t. The storm passed right over us and I’m happy to announce that the power is back on and the internet is finally back up.

We lost power for just over 26 hours and it’s eerie you know, when there’s no power and you live in a place that’s just a little isolated. We had no way of knowing anything about storm damage to our local area, or to anywhere other than the texts I got from people I know. And aside from just a few fixable problems, all is well here at our place. We had several large branches that fell from the big black walnut trees in the west yard, as well as the gutter system that was ripped from the roof of the east side of the house. So no real worries.

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Staking the garden helped too.

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As I’m writing this, all this damage has been cleaned up by my husband.

And it’s still raining, but gently. A bit windy, too with some good gusting every now and then.

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My husband likes to keep busy.

I offered to help clean up the mess, but he probably knew that my heart wasn’t really in it.

I would have gladly helped, and gotten out of my pajamas, though.

Ok, maybe not gladly, but I would have.

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When there’s no power, and things seem a little eerie, there’s nothing more comforting than a hot cup of coffee. I like mine with a dollop of half & half. And I appreciated this cup more than I normally would because of the effort that went into it. In the mudroom, my husband had the little propane camping stove set up. So I had coffee ready for me when I got up.

To help keep the frig cool, he used gallon-sized water jugs that he’d frozen earlier in the week. Three of them stayed in the freezer and the other three went into the frig.

I love living with a former boy scout in times like this.

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Another thing we get out during storms is our collection of lanterns. Candles are nice and all, but we both prefer the Uco Candelier. We have several of them and they really light up a room. We also keep a good supply of the candles needed to fill them. You insert three of them into spring-loaded tubes and as they burn, they stay at the same height in the glass window. You can get them at a number of places, but I believe Campmor has the best price right now.

Uco Candelier at Campmor

We’ve had some of our Candeliers for more than 10 years. And hey, you can even boil a small pot of water on the top of ‘em.

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I sure wish I could have directed some of this rain over to the areas that really need it badly. I just hope that those of you who were in the path of this storm are all ok.
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

The calm before the you know what

I was surprised at the number of e-mails and comments I’ve had from so many of you asking if we were prepared for the coming hurricane, so I thought I’d do a quick post to let you know that we are. Prepared, that is.

And thank you for you concern ~

My husband, a former boy scout, has been making preparations for days. (One of them was buying some batteries – well before they sold out). Hurricane Irene has been downgraded to a category 1 storm but it’s still packing a lot of punch (and media hype) and its swath is nearly 700 miles wide. As I write this (around 10 AM Saturday), the skies are overcast and about an hour ago, the wind has began to pick up.

We’re concerned with the amount of rainfall and the high winds because the ground here is already pretty saturated. You can tell just by how green the grass looks.

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I took this shot from one of the windows on the 3rd floor. My husband is airing out the Element because I took all the recyclables and a couple of bags of trash to the dump. The scent was quite pungent while driving the 15-minute journey to our local landfill.

He packs the car and I drive to the landfill.

We’re quite the team, don’t you think?

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Looking southeast from the same window.

One of the tracks that was forecast yesterday had the eye of the storm moving right up the Chesapeake Bay which would have it going directly over the manor house on the hill here. Who knows what will happen, though.

I don’t plan on stressing over it.

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This gives you some idea of how saturated our earth is here. We’ve got mushrooms sprouting up under many of the trees.

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When we lived in Pennsylvania a few years ago, near the Mushroom Capital of the World, I took lots of macro shots of the magical fungi. Here are some of my favorites:

I love mushroom macros

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And here’s a few I took under the hickory tree in the front yard this morning.

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Back to the preparedness . . . my husband even has the garden staked down. I just can’t believe the wall of morning glories he has here.

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And so, to all my friends and readers along the eastern seaboard and inland ~ stay safe, stay smart. And I’ll see you soon. One nice thing is that the weather next week looks like it’s going to be fabulous!
Until later, my friends . . .

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

How I processed that photo

I received several comments from readers asking how I processed one of the photos from a recent post. It was the picture of the New York City street scene – the one with the blur.

This is a fake tilt-shift action called Teeny Tiny World and I got it free from the CoffeeShop Blog. If you use Photoshop or PSE, the CoffeeShop is a great place to download some cool actions. An action is a one-click way to edit your photos and zips through lots of little edits to achieve an effect. After the action runs, you may want to use the opacity slider to change the degree to which the action has been applied.


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I love using Teeny Tiny World when there are cars and buildings involved. The SOOC (Straight Out of Camera) version was pretty boring, as far as I was concerned.


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SOOC (original)


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Edited version

There are two actions included in the download and this one was made using the Custom version which I used in both of the photos below.

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Philadelphia, March 2011.


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New York City, 2008.

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Try it. It’s fun ~

The CoffeeShop Free Teeny Tiny World Action

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And now to those of you along the eastern seaboard in the path of Hurricane Irene ~ be safe and be smart. This is looking like it’s going to be big.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So where were you when it hit?

For everyone in the country from Massachusetts to South Carolina and to as far west as Chicago, where were you when the earthquake hit today?

I have never before felt anything like this and like millions of other Americans early this afternoon, I was shocked that it happened and that it registered 5.8. I was at school at the time and had just come off the elevator, which I rarely ever ride. The stairwells were being waxed though, so rather than walk halfway around the school for an open stairwell, I made a quick trip to the 3rd floor using the elevator.

As soon I sat back down at my desk, everything began to move and I suddenly began to get feel nauseous. It only lasted for about 30-40 seconds and then the phoning and checking of the internet began and within moments, we all began to realize how far spread the quake really was.

Luckily, my husband managed to call me before the cell phones became overloaded and quit. He told me he’d managed to stop a mirror from crashing to the floor and he said that George seemed pretty unconcerned (versus how he is during thunderstorms).

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But enough of all that. When I came home, my husband told me that he’d finally figured out a way to really foil the squirrels.

What? This isn’t Big News?!


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Please note for the record that this is the 3rd or 4th time that my husband has told me that he’s finally figured out how to foil the little varmints that torment him and George so. One example is the wire you see above. For a couple of weeks, this wire prevented the squirrels from getting at the feeders but it didn’t take too long before they became experts in the art of trapeze.

Please don’t judge me for my hillbilly backyard. It may look quite a fright, but we do get a ton of bird traffic here – especially all sorts of woodpeckers who love the branches my husband has installed on a post. They help to hold up the wire, dontchaknow.

Have you noticed the lobster buoys yet?


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Because the buoys are what is now deterring the squirrels.


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It works when you hang the feeders from them.


So, let’s see how long this keeps them away. Meanwhile, the cat has joined the action to keep them at bay and she’s even better at it than the dog.


Until next time, my friends . . .

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day trip to NYC

You know, I’ve always considered myself a somewhat boring person yet looking back on the pages of this blog – especially the ones I’ve written this summer, it seems like I’m the constant traveller.

I’m really not, you know.

But here I go again.

On Sunday, I got up super early and was on the road at 6, headed to New York City to meet friends that were coming in from both CT and Philadelphia. I met my friend, Daryl, and we headed out for breakfast at Zabar’s.


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We picked up bagels with lox and cream cheese and some really good coffee at the restaurant on her corner.


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Then we walked around a little bit before the others arrived.


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It was still quite early, and I saw this city worker watering the plants in the median. I didn’t know they did that. I thought it was pretty interesting.


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Daryl and I also took a short walk in Riverside Park, which is across the street from where she lives. She also lent me her kit lens to use for the day, the 18-105mm. We both have similar Nikon cameras. 


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Standing in the park and looking west across the Hudson River, toward New Jersey.


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The others began arriving. There’s Reena (on the left), who I met for the first time today, and my pals Lauren and Daryl. Hiding behind Lauren is Ann.

Lauren wouldn’t turn around.

She bad.


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We went to a flea market with lots of cool stuff.


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There was so much to look at while we were browsing and killing time while we waited for our table reservation at a nearby restaurant.


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Columbus and 81st. There’s Ann!

Reena and I could be sisters.


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We walked along, admiring the homes in the Upper West Side.


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The plants at this place were stunning. And there are actually grapes on that vine. Maybe you can click to embiggen.


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It was a nice day but we were beginning to get pretty steamy with the heat. I believe we were all wishing that the AC would be on full blast at the restaurant.


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And it was.


More on NYC coming up this week.

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I want to thank you for your comments the other day. I’m still reading them and enjoying your answers to the travelling questions. I’m going to remember that I’m doing this blog for me and there’s no pressure except what I put on myself. Sometimes I do wonder if it’s worth it, but then I get over it because I know it is. I may cut back a bit but I’m not going anywhere yet.

Until then, my friends . . .

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Where is my voice

I've awoken to a fog so thick that I can barely see the trees at the edge of the property. The dog somehow knows when I'm awake because he scratches at the front door until I answer, and letting him in, I see that he's soaking wet from the moisture in the air and the dew on the ground.


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This morning will be spent cleaning. I haven’t done this for weeks except for the occasional vacuum or sweeping and I can no longer stand the mess. If you came here, you’d ask, “what mess – what are you talking about?” And then you would look closer and see the dust and the dog fur and the soap scum. And I’ll stop now.

I hope I don’t sound depressed. I’m not.

It’s just that I’ve been writing this blog on a near-daily basis since the end of 2007 and am wondering, as I do sometimes, if it’s worth it to keep going. If you blog, don’t even tell me that you haven’t thought this yourself. I haven’t cultivated ‘friends’ like so many other serious bloggers do, mainly because I simply don’t have the time.

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And now, a few questions for you, because inquiring minds need to know on this quiet, fog-enshrouded Saturday morning . . .

1. What is your favorite way to travel (train, plane, automobile . . .)?

2. Who is your favorite person to travel with?

3. What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?

See you in the comments, my friends . . .

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet

I don’t know where these songs come from sometimes – these tunes that appear magically in my head, especially when I have a visual prompt.

I’d been looking at photos I’d taken earlier this month, and believe me there aren’t many. I’m usually a picture-takin’ fool, but I’ve been going through a dry patch lately.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.


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And then I came across this particular picture. I remember that I happened to have the macro lens on the camera when I captured this toad in our backyard a couple of weeks ago. We’d had no rain to speak of and the grass had turned brown and crispy. (It’s quite nice right now after all the rain last week, however).

And anyway, I thought Mr. Toad here looked down and dirty but still willin’. And then this song started playing in my brain. I haven’t thought of this song in about 40 years and I guess I’m really showing my age here. I believe I was in high school when I first heard it.

Please don’t judge me about the reference to drugs. * gasp *




I been warped by the rain, driven by the snow
I'm drunk and dirty don't ya know, and I'm still, willin'
Out on the road late at night, Seen my pretty Alice in every head light
Alice, Dallas Alice

I've been from Tuscon to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn't get weighed
And if you give me: weed, whites, and wine
And you show me a sign
I'll be willin', to be movin'

Little Feat – Willin’

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Radar Love

We drove to visit friends in Mississippi last week. We always drive rather than fly and it’s really not a bad trip to make. There are absolutely no tolls, unlike our jaunts to Maine where it gets a little costly.

The trip takes a total of 16 1/2 hours and we break it up in two days. Some scenes from the road are what I’m sharing here today.


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Atlanta, Georgia. One of the few photos I took on the way there. This is one of my favorite cities to drive past because it feels as if you’re driving right through it.


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Heading home – Alabama in the early morning on Rte. 65 N, coming up on the bridge that spans the Mobile River.


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A friend told me once that the locals call it the Dolly Parton Bridge.


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“My biggest wish is for a new toy just like Bella has.”

I’m sure he was thinking that.


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Sunrise in Greensboro, North Carolina.


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Later that morning, it began to pour. It rained buckets for what seemed like hours and then it tapered off when we hit Richmond.


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Richmond, Virginia.


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You can see the top of old Main Street Station along I-95 in Richmond.

A better photo is here.

Main Street Station, Richmond


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When we drive, my husband is in charge of the music. I can put on whatever I want, but it’s easier to just let him do his thing. He likes finding local radio stations and all I can say is that it’s a good thing that we have similar tastes.

There is nothing worse than getting in an argument in a car on a long road trip.Well, of course there are worse things, but you get my drift.

On the trip home, we listened to classic rock which is something I rarely ever do. Out od sheer boredom, I made a list of some of the music I listened to from state to state as we headed north for home.

Radar Love – Golden Earring; Skateaway – Dire Straits; Freebird – Lynyrd Skynyrd; Peaceful Easy Feeling – Eagles; Landslide – Fleetwood Mac; Cumberland Blues – The Grateful Dead; Fortunate Fool – Jack Johnson; Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash; In My Life – The Beatles; My Sharona – The Knack.

We also really like listening to ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me’ on NPR.

Not that you really needed to know all this information.


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Finally, we come to Baltimore, Maryland and we’re nearly home.

Unfortunately, right after I took this photo we got stuck in a massive traffic jam on I-95. We ventured off after about a half hour where we travelled a single mile, taking Rte. 40 only to get a few miles down that road when we got stuck in more traffic due to the highway being flooded. Someone told us about a back route to get around the flooding and that saved us even more waiting.


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For the record, I’d like to state that George is the best dog ever when it comes to travelling.


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Thank you so much for your comments and your friendship here on this site. I don’t say it enough but your support and your kindness is what keeps me going.

Until tomorrow, my friends . . .

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