Sunday, August 24, 2014

New beginnings

School starts tomorrow, marking the culmination of half of everything we worked for this summer. The other half was spent closing out the old year. So it’s back to the beginning of another year, back to wearing proper attire and actual jewelry, back to 2-day weekends, and back to being interrupted several hundred times during the day.

Maybe if I looked at it in a different light, the interrupting thing wouldn’t be so hard. Right? It will be good to see all my co-workers again and all the children. It should be a good week. Let’s hope ~


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I got my chores done on Saturday and then went outside to take some photos. Caught this little hummingbird resting for a few seconds on the little swing I set up in the bush for them. I never see them sitting in the swing and if I do, they depart as quickly as they come.

However, while on the phone with my sister-in-law over the weekend, there were several of them hovering around said swing and they were even taking turns sitting on it. And there I was without the camera. D-oh!!


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The flowers are pretty much on the wane, but these petunias on the back patio still look pretty.


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I was thinking of taking down the wire my husband rigged up several years ago to squirrel-proof the bird feeders. I am going to take it down, I’ve decided. Just not today.

I should have taken a photo of my car. I washed it by hand rather than taking it to the car wash, then vacuumed it, washed all the rubber mats, cleaned the windows and the trim. I was thinking of waxing it too, but I needed a nap after all that work.

No, I’m kidding. But I sure was tired.


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My beautiful boy, George.


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I did not just call him Boy George.


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Until next time, my friends.

Thanks always, for your visits.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

New fall movies

It’s no secret how much I love good cinematic escape. Today I stumbled on a link that took me to so many movies that are coming out between Sept. and Christmas. I’ve posted a few here but seriously – you need to visit the link below. Some of them look fantastic.

30 Fantastic Movies You Can’t Miss This Fall


The Theory of Everything

The story of Stephen Hawking. It’s a love story, which isn’t really my cup of tea, but it looks extremely interesting. In theaters Nov. 7.


Inherent Vice

I really need to read the book because I might not be able to wait until December 12 to see this movie. I love a good detective flick and this one takes place in during the psychodelic 60’s in California. I hope the soundtrack is groovy.


The Judge

Robert Downey, Jr. as a hotshot lawyer and Robert Duvall as his estrange father, a judge who has been accused of murder. Count me in. Release date is Oct. 10.


The Skeleton Twins

I love Kristen Wiig and she stars here with her old Saturday Night Live co-star, Bill Hader. They play twins who haven’t seen each other for ten years and initial reviews have deemed their performances to be knockouts. In theaters Sept. 12.


St. Vincent

Bill Murray at his curmudgeonly best. In theaters Oct. 24.


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Hope you liked ~

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Weekend bliss

It was an absolutely beautiful weekend. I met my brother, Pete, and his family down at the Jersey Shore where they have their RV campsite. They also invited our other brother, Steve, who is Pete’s twin. We had a wonderful time.

On Friday, we went crabbing near Sea Isle City and most of the photos in this post were taken there.


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Across the roadway, herons and egrets were out in full force. It was just beautiful.

Wish I had a longer lens, though.


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Back at the campsite . . .

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My niece is laughing because her younger brother came over to lie down in the hammock with her and within moments was sound asleep. He was probably exhausted from all the fun he’s been having. I just thought it was a cute photo and sincerely hope he isn’t embarrassed by it.


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It was well worth the trip just to see my brothers laughing, fishing, and having a good time. I’m so glad Pete and his wife (hi, Patty) invited us!


Until later, my friends . . .

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Weekend plans

It’s Thursday evening and I’m watching the news. I just took a pan of brownies out of the oven and put a load of laundry into the dryer. I’m trying to get a lot of things done because I’ll be gone for most of the weekend. The brownies are one of my specialties (because I frost them with homemade chocolate icing, and sprinkles). They’re a treat for my niece and nephew. I’m going on an adventure and leaving early in the morning. My brother, Pete, has invited his twin brother and his big sister (that would be me) to come visit him and his family at their campsite on the Jersey Shore for the weekend.

It’s luxury camping complete with air conditioning ~

I secretly call my brothers Giggles and Chuckles. You may remember me writing about Steve several years ago when he was diagnosed with leukemia. It was a sad time for our family, and a horrible one for Steve, but he is doing quite well right now, in part to his twin brother, Pete. It was Pete who donated his bone marrow so that Steve might live.

I don’t think I’ve told you lately how much I love my family. After my husband’s funeral last year, my brother Steve told me something that made me feel so good. He said he was ready to give up and it was the day that my husband and I came to visit him in the hospital in Philadelphia (in 2010) for the first time. He was pretending to us that he was doing ok and we stayed for some time until he began to drift off. I had already left the room and my husband told me he’d be along shortly. He talked to my brother, encouraging him and telling him to keep fighting. I had no idea my brother was that low, but my husband knew. He reminded Steve of everything he had to live for and all of the people who loved him. My brother told me it was a turning point for him. He knew of my husband’s battle with brain cancer and he was still going strong. I guess it gave him hope.


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This guy is going to miss me this weekend. They told me I could bring him but I think he’ll have a less stressful time staying home with my son.


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Taken on a sunny day earlier this week.

Two edits here, color and black & white.


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I like ‘em both.



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And then there’s Miss Blackie. She had a serious eye issue that began in late March when she scratched her cornea and it became infected. My son and I gave her rounds and rounds of eye drops for 2 1/2 months. Sometimes as many as 10 drops a day.

The vet was actually shocked when she went for her final checkup. It appears that her eye was saved. It’s not exactly like the other eye and it probably never will be. I’m not even sure she can see out of it, but it looks healthy and she seems content and in good health again.

But wow. Was it ever a struggle!


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Two edits here too.


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And I think I like the b&w better.


And now for something different ~


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Thanks for stopping by.

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ps – my sister Ginny

took this photo of me in Maine.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hummingbird overload

It’s mid-afternoon on a rather warm Sunday in Maryland. Actually, the weather is pretty great for an August day so I’m not complaining. We have been blessed with unseasonably mild summer temperatures so far this summer and for that, I am very grateful.

On my time off from work, I have been able to sit outside on the back patio, under an umbrella, and set myself up for some hummingbird photography. I have two feeders, a little bird bath, and lots of perching opportunity: a hummingbird swing, and a bush full of tiny little limbs for them to stop and sit a spell. And by that, I mean stopping for just a few seconds until they’re off and flying again.

Suckers are fast, I tellya. Here are some of my favorite shots of the past week . . .


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I shoot in all sorts of light. My favorite is the early morning, especially after a rain. That way, the sunlight glistens on the droplets, making for some excellent bokeh.



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I freely admit that I do cheat during editing and add some bokeh of my own at times. Actually, it’s not cheating. It’s called editing. So there.



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It’s pretty.



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I figured that since I enjoy bird photography so much, it would be worth it to invest in a few props. So I bought two new hummingbird feeders this summer. Got them here, at Duncraft:

Duncraft Hummingbird Feeders

The ones I have are called ‘antique hummingbird feeders’ and I see they’re still on sale.


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After posting some of these on my FB page, a reader identified one as a female rufous hummingbird. I believe the ones in this post are ruby-throated hummingbirds, both adult and immature males and females. Rufous hummingbirds have more of an orange cast, I believe.


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Regardless, they aren’t the easiest to photograph. But I like the challenge.

The one above is my least favorite of the bunch. I shot it this morning using the auto dial (sport mode). Many of the others in this post were shot on manual, dialing up the shutter speed (and the ISO) to get the wing spreads.


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My Nikon D7000 doesn’t autofocus that well on the manual mode. Or maybe I’m just not doing it right.


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Of course, it’s much easier when they stay still!

For a half a second . . .


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One of my favorites.



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By early fall, they’ll be gone . . . off to Central America. And I read that many of them will cross the entire Gulf of Mexico in a single flight.

This is something I find astounding.


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And this is the adult male ruby-throated hummingbird.


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See how they like sitting on the teeniest of branches?

I’ll tell you what this bush is. Several years ago, I bought some pussy willow branches at the grocery store. It was early spring and I brought them home and put them in a vase. After they had served their purpose as a decorative piece, my husband took them outside and planted them in a big pot. He did the same thing the following year with another bunch I had brought home.

I now have a big pussy willow bush that grows in a very large pot on the back patio. It affords some great perching opportunities for the very smallest of the birds who come to visit the property.

Thanks for stopping by today. Hoping that your week to come is pleasant!

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Monday, August 4, 2014

An update on the hawks

Do you remember last week when I wrote that I had heard a hawk that kept on screeching? I had thought that since it was acting kind of strange, and it had landed along the fence line, that maybe it was my husband who was trying to tell me to come take pictures of the bluebirds. It was kind of a kooky theory, but that’s me sometimes.

There are two hawks, possibly three, and from what I’ve read and learned, they are fledglings. I believe their parents may still be feeding them because from what I’ve observed, they really don’t know how to hunt yet.

They fly from tree to tree around the property and screech. All day long.


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I believe they are Cooper’s Hawks. They are a little larger than the Sharp-Shinned Hawk and their tails are more round. I saw one of them in the dogwood tree while talking to my sister on the phone yesterday. I told her to hold on, I’d be right back. Then I grabbed the camera that happened to be sitting right there, and snapped the photo you see above.

You don’t hunt at the top of the dogwood tree with all the bird feeders down below and fully announce your position by screeching. So I know this bird is not hunting. He is calling out his location to his parents so that they can locate him for the next meal.

You birders out there ~ if I am mistaken, please let me know. I am trying to learn.


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I found another doing this in one of the tall trees on the front yard.

I read online that the parents will teach their little ones to hunt, and will continue to bring them food until they learn to do it on their own. The female is bigger and, accordingly, is able to catch bigger prey for their youngsters. I thought the birds were calling to each other, saying “here I am” but I believe they are screeching so that their parents know where to find them with dinner. And lunch and breakfast and every snack in-between because this goes on all day long.

Could be worse, though. Could be dirt bikes. Or children screaming. Horns blaring. Guns going off. I’ll take this sound.


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Another taken from the window – in the middle of a screech.


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And in flight.

Last week, I saw four of them all flying together. Now I am assuming it was the parents and the two fledglings. They were high up. Maybe it was flight lessons . . .


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I took this before I left for work early this morning.

He was back in the dogwood tree doing his thing.


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And then this afternoon before dinner, I heard them screeching in tandem and it seemed like it was coming from the same tree. This was different because they’re usually almost on opposite ends of the property. I am not sure if they are fighting each other or just tussling here. According to the Cornell Ornithology website, this aggression may be a way for them to hone their fighting skills. But if food is scarce, it may arise from competition for it.

They are still out there. Screeching. I’ll keep you posted . . .

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Quiet here on the hill

My 3-day weekend has been quite the quiet one so far, although Friday morning I was happily surprised with a visit from my sister, Char, who brought along her daughter and grand-daughter. Photos to come later ~

Speaking of quiet, I was weeding out on the patio yesterday and thinking that it was such a shame that the hummingbirds haven’t been coming around much this year. I figured it was due to the fact that my husband’s aloe plants didn’t bloom this year. I have tried to keep them alive and thriving like he did, but after transplanting some of them early this spring, they didn’t do so well and are only just coming back healthy and strong. As soon as I had the thought about the aloe plants, I heard the distinctive thrum of a tiny hummingbird.

So I stopped weeding immediately, went inside and washed my hands, and came back outside with the camera to wait.


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And was rewarded with this.

As far as I’m concerned, it was pure luck. I shot it on the auto dial (sport mode) of my Nikon D7000. I then edited it in Photoshop CS5 using my favorite new actions {freebies!} from Little Lusker and finished it off with {this} texture from Shadowhouse Creations.

I uploaded it to FB and hours later, was shocked to find more comments than ever from people telling me how much they loved it. So I uploaded it to my etsy sale site. Not that I hope to make any money from it . . . I just hadn’t been to my etsy site in a while and was glad I went. Only two of my photos were currently for sale. Ha!

Female Rufous Hummingbird on Etsy


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Here is another view, with her little red throat spot.

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This morning, I woke to a gray day and took my camera and my coffee outside on the patio and caught several other hummingbird photos after filling the little feeder.

I love this stuff.

I’m so terribly exciting, aren’t I?


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I bought {this sweet feeder} from Duncraft last year on an end-of-season sale. They have it available in red, clear, and blue as well.

It’s sometimes nice to have a pretty prop when you’re taking bird photos.

These are kind of cool, too:

Mini Blossom Stake Feeder


And then, the male Rufous Hummingbird showed up.

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Hummingbirds move really fast so I was glad to get some photos of them at rest.


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All in all – quite a rewarding weekend, photographically speaking.


Although I think George is kind of bored with the sitting around . . .

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