Friday, August 31, 2012

Sending good vibes

Hanging out at home this evening after a long first week back to school. For those of you who don’t know, I run the office of a K-12 private school in Maryland. Tonight I’m going to watch The Hunger Games which came today in my mailbox from Netflix and this weekend, after some long-overdue housekeeping chores, I plan on relaxing. I hope you can as well.

I can’t believe summer is nearly over, can you? I’m glad in a way, I really am. I am more a fan of Autumn (although Spring is pretty wonderful too). And lately, the weather has been more pleasant, those long dog days of August behind us for now.

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This was one of those perfect New England days in late summer where the spirit of autumn takes a first stealing flight, like a spy, through the ripening country-side, and, with feigned sympathy for those who droop with August heat, puts her cool cloak of bracing air about leaf and flower and human shoulders.  ~ Sarah Orne Jewett


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“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.”
Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting


I figure I’ve lost a decent amount of readers due to my sporadic posting of late. Long-time readers may remember that I used to post religiously on an almost-daily basis and although I’m sorry to see them go, at the same time I know that this is what works for me at this moment in my life. I think it’s wonderful to be able to write something every single day, but right now I’m more inclined to go with quality versus quantity.

Not that this is high quality or anything, but you know what I mean. At least, I hope you do. Sending good vibes to all of you on this long Labor Day Weekend ~

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A decent day

These little hummingbird photos were taken this morning by my husband, and shot with our old camera, the Nikon D80 and the 70-300mm Quantaray lens. I believe he went back and forth between different auto modes (sport, auto, landscape).

They are pretty much SOOC (Straight Out of Camera) and I love ‘em!

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Pay no attention to that big white blob in the background. It’s just the birdbath.

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He keeps the feeder filled daily with fresh liquid.

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And he says they come to the window when he’s sitting there on the computer and they look in on him. I think that’s pretty cute.

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School is going well, yet still super busy. Our son (the one who is living with us) is in between jobs at the moment and today began helping out in the maintenance department as a volunteer until things quiet down. I think he really enjoyed being there today, and everyone was so happy to see him. He graduated in 2005 and doesn’t often come back to visit, so some of his teachers haven’t seen him for years.

The nicest part of my day came when I was leaving, as my boss – our new Head of School – pulled me aside and told me that there was one thing she had to tell me. We’d been talking about her day and how her class went, and then she told me this story that she said I needed to hear. She told me it was the best part of her whole day. She was extremely busy, and was walking down the hallway after her class, and as she walked past the Alumni Room, she began to hear the most beautiful music floating in the air. She stopped at the door where it was coming from, and quietly peeked inside. And, to her surprise, there sat my son playing the piano. She went in and talked with him a little bit and was astounded to find that he was self-taught.

Shaun taught himself while waiting for me to get finished school every day. Both of my boys always rode with me to school, and their day ended at 3 unless they were playing sports. If they weren’t practicing or at a game, they had to wait around until 4 or 4:30 to go home with me, so Shaun would amuse himself by playing the piano in the Alumni Room. He plays by ear, and is really quite good. (Proud mama talking here).

It was a decent day. And what made it all the more better was seeing my son feeling good about himself and being appreciated for whatever help he could give.

Hope your week is going well ~

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Here’s a shout-out to my friend, Hilary, whose brain surgery today was a beautiful success. Rest easy, my friend. You are in good hands and we will be here when you get back.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

My slacks are ironed, my nails are polished, tomorrow’s lunch is set aside and I’m going to try to go to bed early and hope I don’t have bad dreams like I do every year before the first day of school. (I always worry that there will be a crowd of students in the office whose schedules are off, or some such nonsense). Some of our teachers have told me that they, too, have worrying dreams the night before school starts.

Our office is finally ready for opening day and I even hung a couple of my hummingbird prints that I had framed, the black & white ones I like so much. They make me happy (and I hope the children like them).

This weekend I was stung by a European working hornet, and those sure are big suckers. They’re camping out in the old lilac bush right by where I sit to take my photographs. They weren’t there the day before, and as I was setting up my little table and my chair, they came out to investigate me, then several of them began swarming above me – and I took off running toward the house - but not fast enough.

I was lucky to only get stung once. I’m sure they were defending their nest and my chair was pretty close to it. And today my arm is itching like crazy . . .

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We also bought a new car this weekend – a 2013 Subaru Outback. We kept the Honda Element because we do need a second car after all, but the Element is a 2003 and we figured it was about time. I am falling in love with the Subaru, but climbing into the Element this afternoon to run an errand felt like coming home to a dear old friend. It’s going to take a long time before the Subaru feels like that but I’m looking forward to getting to know it a lot better.

The accompanying photograph isn’t all that and a bag of chips, but I enjoyed playing with it while waiting for my nail polish to dry. I took it last weekend and thought it was sweet that the little chickadee was actually inside the old birdcage that’s hanging in the yard. I waited until he perched on the rail to take the photo.

Hope you all have a good week ahead ~ until tomorrow, then.

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As for the post title - gotta love Ali.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thank heavens for weekends

I took a lot of photos over the weekend, and tonight I spent some well-deserved idle time and edited several of them. Bring creative feels so good sometimes, doesn’t it?  And besides, it was nice to concentrate on something and get my mind off of life’s goings on.

There is something to be said for sitting outdoors on a beautiful day, and enjoying nature simply by listening and being still.

As I sat with my camera and my book, I could hear the call of a pileated woodpecker, followed by its noisy drilling into an old dead tree in the woods. I could hear the flutter of the wings of the birds who come to the feeders, then looked up when I heard the swishing of a larger bird as a turkey vulture flew overhead. When I sit quietly with my camera, or while reading, I forget about my cares. My movements are slow so as not to scare off the birds, and when I’m treated with good images as a result – it’s a win-win.

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There you are, you elusive little hummingbird.

This one might be my favorite.

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This little tiny hummingbird came right up to me and hovered for a moment, checking me out. (And maybe taking a little pee, to boot).

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Then it darted past me through the air and around the old lilac bush, then zigzagged over to the garden where it drank from several morning glories. Then off it went again, finally landing on a dead branch high up in the dogwood tree.

And that's when I snapped the photo above.

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This is for my sister, Ginny.


We’ve always called her Ginny, though.

Or Gin Gin.

Friday, August 24 is her 50th birthday.

This V’s for you, Miss V.

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I like this one too – the butterfly against the dark of the hedge.

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There’s a lot going on right now and I can’t begin to speak of it now. Some of it’s bad, but some of it is good – or it will be good when all is said and done.

Sorry to be so cryptic.

School is dizzyingly busy. If that’s not an adjective, or even a word, then it should be. I look forward to a day when things finally calm down. And until then, I’ll just take the calm of the weekends.

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Thank heavens for weekends.

: : :

So how are things going for you?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Things I never knew about Frederick Law Olmsted

As I mentioned the other day, I’ve been ensconced in a biography of Frederick Law Olmsted, known to many as the father of American landscape architecture. I purchased two books, both of which are listed below, and have finished one and just started the second. Some things I never knew:
  • He was a late bloomer.
  • His father helped to support him financially - well into his thirties.
  • He married his brother’s wife.
  • He was a surveyor, a clerk, a sailor, a writer, a farmer, the owner of a magazine, and a gold-mine operator – all before he became what would be his claim to fame – a landscape artist.
  • He was a self-taught landscape artist.
  • He had much sadness in his life and at times suffered greatly.
  • His namesake, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., was christened Henry.
  • A carriage accident in the early days of Central Park left Olmsted crippled for the remainder of his days.
  • And he was tough as nails.
OlmstedThe books I’m reading are:
Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted by Justin Martin 
A Clearing In The Distance by Witold Rybczynski

I have no idea what got me so riled up about FLO, but it could have occurred was when I was looking for vacation rentals in Maine, and remembered that the Olmsted family reportedly summered on Deer Isle. I had always thought the family had spent plenty of pleasant summers there on the Sunset side of the island . . .

Well, I was wrong about that. There is a house on Deer Isle that long ago was owned by the Olmsteds, but wife Mary purchased the property (46 acres) and had the house built in 1896 as a place to take her husband to convalesce who, in his old age, was suffering from depression or dementia, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t think he had any say in how the house was to be built or how the grounds were to be landscaped. The house was (and still is) called Felsted, and has appeared in two movies, Mel Gibson’s The Man Without a Face, and a movie called Finding Home. Olmsted lived there less than two years.

FLO was a late bloomer. When he was in his thirties, his father was still sending him an annual stipend, just so that he could survive. He married his brother’s wife, Mary Perkins, in 1859 after said (beloved) brother, John Hull Olmsted, passed away from tuberculosis. John left several children, all very young. FLO’s mother died at a young age, and he experienced much sorrow in his life. He was many things before he became the great man that we know him to be and everything that he did and everything he experienced helped to form the man that he would become. When the board of directors for Central Park was looking for a person to supervise workers to clear debris before the park could be built, Frederick Law Olmsted applied for the job after hearing about it from a person he’d just met. He knew he was terribly under-qualified to be the boss of so many men, but he desperately needed the work and it sounded interesting to him. And the rest, I guess, is history.

Frederick Law Olmsted went on to design landscapes for the Capitol building in Washington, DC to universities, parks, other schools, and some private residences (including Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in North Carolina). Olmsted was a visionary, a truly gifted genius when it came to design and future use of an area.

“I have all of my life been considering distant effects and always sacrificing immediate success and applause to that of the future.” ~Frederick Law Olmsted
“Genius is no more than a greater aptitude for patience.” ~George Louis Leclerc

Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (Rick) was christened Henry Perkins Olmsted. When the boy was about 6 or 7, his father changed his name as “a gift”. He hoped that someday his son would carry on the family name and the profession. And he did. Even after Rick died in 1957, Olmsted Associates continued to thrive until the year 2000.

I think it’s time to get off my soapbox now. But I also think you can tell I’m addicted. I love history, and there’s much of it in each of these books.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday morning

I felt a taste of fall this morning, a slight chill to the air that had me pulling up the coverlet on the bed to get warm in the wee hours of the night. Later, when I felt my husband wake up, I fell back to sleep listening to two owls as they spoke to each other back and forth, from one side of the property to the other.

I spent the weekend relaxing, reading, and snapping some images in the backyard. I can feel summer winding down.


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I have more photos to share with you later, but for now, here’s my tribute to the start of what I hope will be a good week.

What do you hope for?

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Oh, deer

Yesterday afternoon, I opened an e-mail from one of my sisters who asked if everything was ok because “you haven’t posted all week on your blog.” I hadn’t realized that – and I wrote her right away to allay her fears.

Regular readers of this blog know that when they haven’t heard from me for awhile, it’s likely that something’s wrong and it usually has something to do with my husband’s cancer. But honestly, I just haven’t had the inclination to write.

I’ve been working like a dog, staying longer hours and trying to get things ready for the school to start on the 27th. And I’ve been consumed with a biography I’ve been reading on someone I find fascinating – Frederick Law Olmsted.

Please don’t say, “who?” Not enough people in this country know who he is, and I think that’s a crying shame. I’ll write more on him later, but for now I give you what happened yesterday evening. No need to get excited because it’s really nothing much.


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These are three of the four deer who visit the grounds at the manor house on a regular basis. They come from the woods behind the barn at the north side of the property, taking the same route always. I was ensconced in my book, curled up on the loveseat, when I saw George get up from where he lay at my feet, go to the window and begin wagging his tail. My husband and I went over to see what had gotten him excited and saw the scene below.


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There was much frolicking and cavorting going on out there. Racing back and forth were the two young does and the spike buck as the buck with the crooked antler stood and watched. We watched from the window for a moment until I decided to get my camera.


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I snuck quietly around the back of the house and proceeded to get a few test images, realizing that the P mode wasn’t going to work for me in this light. So I set the camera to manual and fired off several shots.


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It was dusk, but I was able to better capture the beauty of these animals who visit here every night. In early to mid-summer, there are plenty of berries for them to eat along the edges of the woods here which is one of the reasons they take this route.


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The spikes are getting really big.

Here he is on July 4 when they were smaller.


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I love living here.


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And everything is ok. For now, at least – and that’s good enough for me.


Have a lovely Sunday, all ~

And thanks for coming by to visit. It’s always nice to see you here.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Don’t think twice, it’s alright

Hello. Not much to say today other than the fact that the weather is a little more bearable lately, and everything here is quiet and, well - kind of ok. A lot of things have been going on lately, none of which I feel inclined to complain blog about. So how’s about I just share these random shots with you, all of which were taken over the weekend.


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The red was so deep.



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The pink background was caused by the bricks of the patio in the afternoon sun.



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Part of my husband’s collection.



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I love these.


And a couple of Instagram shots:



I snapped this last week when I had arrived home from work one day. This is my favorite seat in our living room and it looks like someone wanted to play. I got the hint, George.

He had taken several of his toys out of his box and put them on my seat. At least, that’s the story my husband told me . . .



My husband, a man of few words, pointed to the dashboard Saturday morning as we were driving. I took out my cell phone and caught it. We were listening to 93.3 (WMMR, out of Philadelphia) and it was 9:33 a.m. Please try to control your excitement.



Let Miss Blackie demonstrate.

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See? This is how it’s done.


She might be pretty,


but this one’s kinda funny:


funny pictures owl morph senquence 51% complete

* snort *


And with that, I bid you adieu.


Hope you have a great week, all ~


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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sometimes I just prefer black & white

It’s been a relaxing weekend here at the manor house on the hill, and it’s been a beautiful one, as well. Today the weather was so nice that we turned off the air conditioning and I was able to sit outside in the shade among the birds and the little garden I’ve got under the dogwood tree and be comfortable.

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve been able to sit outside here.

I took some photographs and got into sort of a black & white mood with them all.

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I mean, this was ok (I guess) in color, but it wasn’t until I saw it in black & white that I realized how much I liked it. I even put it up on my etsy site for sale.

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Both photos processed using Kevin Kubota’s BW via Lab with Color action.

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I cut some of the smaller zinnias and put them into a little vase.

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The vase is about 3” high and was formerly an Agraria diffuser.

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Then I processed one of the shots using the Cappuccino action from Red Leaf Studios.

I like it fine.

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The deer that visit here daily.

That’s the spike buck from back in early July. He’s with the same doe.

I think.

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Our kitty, Miss Blackie.

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And what she was looking at when I took her portrait.

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And, of course, himself.

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Watching the wrap-up of the 30th Olympic Games before the Closing Ceremony begins. It’s been wonderful these past two weeks seeing all these great athletes, hasn’t it? Hometown boy, Michael Phelps, did not disappoint. And our women were phenomenal!

So many uplifting stories from these games.

: : :

Hope your weekend was a good one.

Thanks for stopping by and spending some time with me here ~

(It’s always nice having you visit).

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ps – you'll be proud of me: I even got some vacuuming done!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday morning

It’s early Saturday as I write this. I thought I was going to the county dump this morning, but my husband decided he’d do the job after his normal routine of getting the car completely packed with recycling and household trash. He does a grand job at this, and when his bit is done, it’s mine to take it to the dump and unload it all. After I let out a secret cheer at not having to go, I walked around the backyard a little bit with my camera and my cup of coffee, then came inside to savor the quiet.

Not that it isn’t always quiet here.

And right away, I thought, “I should be vacuuming!” You see, my husband can’t stand the sound of the vacuum. Don’t go thinking that it’s because of the brain surgeries he’s been through because it’s not, really. He’s always been this way. I’m not complaining about it, but it does make it rather difficult to complete the task when he’s in the house. It’s one of the reasons I bought a Miele (they have a quiet setting).

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I’m not vacuuming, though. I’m going to savor my coffee while I slowly wake up and enjoy the peace and quiet outside with George, the kitty, and the birds that come to the feeders.

It’s been a busy week at my job trying to get ready for school to start on the 27th, and I made a lot of progress, so this weekend, I'm just going to try and relax.

And maybe I'll even get some vacuuming done ~

See you later.

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The photo was taken earlier this month when the hostas were in bloom.