Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Who Says No to an Adventure?

Around this time next year you may be reading in this space that we wish we'd said no to an adventure, but I sincerely hope that is not the case.

My last post left you in suspense, which was by design, however, now let me do some explaining. It must have been late November that Bruce's boss asked him if he would consider a move to Vancouver for a year to do some mentoring of the younger staff at the Earls headquarters. He was having no part of the idea, that is until his girlfriend of 50 years strong said, "why wouldn't we go?"

Big city--check.
Possibility of me seeing real snow--check.
Condo living--check.
Seasons--check.
Walkable and beautiful--check.
No grandchildren yet--check.

So you see, there are no reasons not to go. For a couple who have lived in Orlando pretty much all of their lives, what's not to like about the idea? Especially because the company plans for us to live in their condo on the 36th floor of the Woodward building in a super trendy part of Vancouver.

It has been nearly two years since my only visit to Vancouver, and should you care to learn more about that, I wrote about it here. Included in that post is a view of both the city from every direction, and the living area of the condo. I'm claiming the dining room table for my sewing machine which I'll need to keep me company while Bruce works at the office, about three blocks away.

It will be a huge adjustment, but at our age, how often will an adventure like this come along? I'll answer that question for you....not very often! So, after some deliberation, Bruce agreed to do it. Behind the scenes stuff is going on, like immigration papers, and although our son Bill is worried we won't return, we most certainly will because we can't afford to live there on our own! Plus, I'm a sunshine girl, and in spite of the sunny photographs you will see if you read the other blog post, there is a bunch of gray and gloomy weather there in the winter. Thus, the first paragraph.

Furthermore, we will miss Baxter who we plan on leaving in Orlando. He will be 14 by the time we move in late July, not to mention that there is a no pets policy. Currently we are seeking someone to take care of our little doggie during our absence, expenses paid, of course.  And we will miss our twins and their girls, but the truth is, they've had full access to their parents for 37 years which is way more than either Bruce or I did.

Now that you are up to speed, let us talk about the here and now. We will miss our friends, some of whom are super excited for us, and some of whom are envious, which seems pretty natural to me. One of whom is excited is Angela ,who most of you will remember is our former neighbor who lost her young husband to brain cancer about a year and half ago. We met for lunch at Hillstones Friday and when I told her the news she was freaking out!
Don't ask me why I did not go to the other side of the table while taking this photograph so I would not be shooting into the sun...duh! Her in-laws live in Seattle, so she already has plans to meet up when she is out West visiting them. In fact, that is pretty much everyone's reaction--when can we come visit? I'll keep you posted on that one.

Then too, Bill and Roxanne had the same reaction....can we bring the kids as well? Because never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be living in that condo, I took no photographs of the bedrooms. and my memory is sketchy at best. so I suppose we'll have to just wait and see how many visitors we can accommodate. It must have been Thursday last week that Bill called Bruce asking if we wanted to go to an Elvis tribute show at the Plaza Theater. I said to Bruce when he told me he'd accepted , "you can't say no to Bill, can you?" Well, it was fun, despite my skepticism. We sat in the balcony which afforded a great view of the whole proceedings.
He did songs from the various stages of Elvis's career including his movie career. Who knew that Elvis appeared in 17 movies? Not me. There were two numbers when he invited anyone to come close to the stage while he gave out scarves, and Hawaiian leis. Oh my! He even had takers. Plus there kisses on the cheek! Once the show was complete he invited anyone to come to a table for photos and autographs, and there was a line, if you can imagine.
I could not help thinking about that poor young woman who was shot at the Plaza during her autograph session. It is absolutely unreal remembering that it was the same weekend as the Pulse shooting. :(

Here's a heartwarming photograph of Glenn's boss, Robert, and his daughter, from a surrogate mother. He and his husband have a little boy on the way as well.
While having lunch with Angela Friday, I noticed a new restaurant across the street, Bulla, which we tried Sunday following church. Turns out it is Spanish. Olives! Manchego cheese board! Tomato bread! Cranberry Mimosa for the win!
During the holidays I mentioned learning to make some new things, however, my memory is sketchy on whether I actually told you what some of those things were. Please forgive me if you already know about the zipper pouches. Angela turns 50 this week, crazy hard for me to believe, but it is true. I had a little gift bag all set to take on Friday that I promptly forgot. Turning that into a good thing, I spent some time Sunday afternoon making this for her.
Having grown up in England with Liberty fabric, I know she will be pleased. Several years ago Matt gave me some Liberty that I've now learned are in quilting sizes, something I was clueless about two years ago when I knew none of the current quilting lingo.  As well, the yellow stripe is some of my remaining estate sale fabric from a few years ago. You know, the one where I purchased about twenty different fabrics, up to four yards each for $20. Have I told you that fabric is around $13 per yard now? That was a lucky day for me, that's for sure.

Because Cathy was not feeling well, our usual Sunday evening get together was cancelled, so in lieu of going there, I convinced Bruce to play some Canasta, something we've not done for quite some time. Using our 1950 set, bought at an estate sale, his hand is pictured on the bottom left.
That's right...he beat the pants off of me Sunday night, however, last night I was reigning supreme when we had to call it quits because of an early flight for Bruce this morning. Yup, taking the 6AM flight to Dallas.

It is slightly crazy, and not just a little scary, thinking of moving, but we plan to dive right in to take advantage of our unexpected adventure.
yours truly,

Gail

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Photographing Birds

Here's the deal...I heard from two folks about my birds. That's right, only two chimed in and both were gung-ho on bird photography, so because the rest of you remained silent on the subject, birds it is!

Because I was up so early when Bruce left, I could not resist heading over to Greenwood just before sunrise. As the title implies, there will be a few tips on the subject of photographing birds, the first of which is to go where you know they hang out! Simple, but equally as important as the ones below.

Then too,  there is good reason for the saying, "the early bird gets the worm," because that is tip number two. Go early if you hope to see the most bird activity. As such when I pulled up, I was very delighted to find one of the eagles perched in the opposite pine tree, likely scanning the ground from on high for food, after all, there are eaglets to feed!
The sun had barely cracked the horizon so the above shot could have been improved with better light, however, it is the first time I've actually had some action, minimal as it is, it is not just staring for a change! That's tip number three...try to photograph something out of the ordinary if at all possible. More often than not it is not possible, but when you can, it really ups the "wow" factor quite a bit.

Across the section, I saw eagle number two, only in silhouette, again due to the light, but you are able to see the eaglet standing up so that is a bonus.
Number four tip is the golden hour rule, one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunrise, according to most professionals, is the very best time to shoot photographs. Explained in more detail here. Because I love to take photographs any old time, obviously I don't follow it to the letter, but as you will soon see, it can do wonders for your photographs, not just of birds but pretty much everything.

Naturally I had to go owl hunting while I was there; while walking to that section I came across the most unusual grave marker that I thought you might find interesting as well.
Have you ever seen anything like it before? Of course, most of you don't hang out much in cemeteries so probably not! I've yet to see the owl in the cavity again but most of the time when I visit I can at least spot one of them. How about you? Do you see it?
I actually took some closeups, however, you've seen that kind of photograph before so I thought I might give you a little perspective as well as show off the gorgeous tree branches that hang nearly to the ground. By now, as evidenced by the sunlight on the tree, the sun was beginning to shine. Time to get moving. And where to, you ask? Well the other day I met some ladies who love birds, perhaps even more than I do and one of them told me they were on the hunt for Wood ducks. Clueless, or so I thought, she told me they were in the little lake adjacent to the cemetery. Let's do it!!

By now the light was lovely, causing beautiful reflections from the waning Cypress trees to reflect so beautifully in the water that, lo and behold, had some wood ducks swimming around.
Really, just beautiful in person. A little later I will show you a close up of a Wood duck, but for now, let's take a walk around the lake and see what we can see.

Adjacent to the sidewalk circling the lake, I glimpsed a Red Shouldered Hawk on the ground, that once I came into view, flew up into one of the many, mostly bare Cypress trees that fill the park this time of year.
The above looks a little dull doesn't it? That is because that gold light was, for the moment, absent due to some cloud cover. As to tip number five, use cloud cover to your advantage during the middle of the day. Helps so much with harsh shadows! Are you counting the number of birds I'd seen in such a short time span? That would be five so far. Keep reading....
Mallards ducks are not nearly as flashy as Wood ducks, but they still have their charms. While selling photography for so many years, I learned that there are folks who are crazy for certain birds, insects, mammals. You know the type...

Good grief, coming up the steep bank back to the sidewalk, another bird! You probably already know it, but for those who don't quite share my bird enthusiasm, it is a Great Blue Heron.
Just chilling on one foot as they are prone to do! Here's another tip: the moment you spot a bird, take a photograph for posterity before it flies away, because that is something else birds are prone to do, fly away just when you put your eye to the camera! As for composition, that first shot is probably not the best, however, if the bird does stay still, move around it, get closer, find a way to really make the shot interesting to someone who has seen a million photographs and is looking for something new. Aren't we all? When I first began taking photographs like a maniac, I was mostly thrilled that I had either seen it, or actually got a clear shot of whatever the subject might be. Bruce seemed to think I was better than average, and encouraged me to keep practicing and ultimately selling. I learned most of what I'm passing on from trial and error, having never taken a photography class before. While that is not entirely true, it might as well be. During my last semester at Valencia I took a class called, "Art with a Camera" which seemed to be right up my alley. Not so fast....all technical stuff that I did not understand for one minute! I was thinking it would be about composition with a name like that, alas, it was not, and that was the end of my professional training. :)

Blocks away is Lake Davis which generally has any number of birds hanging around, as well as photographers at that time of the day.
Get a look at that lens!! I've lost count of the tips, but here's another one: use what you've got and feel comfortable using. Never in a million years would I want to walk around with a tripod, or back pack, while carrying a gigantic camera. Just not me. I know it irritated folks that I was blessed with success when my focus was on photography, (no pun intended) because I never succumbed to the notion that bigger is better. Using equipment that was at the lower end, that always worked for me. Expensive equipment can help, but it is always the brain behind any equipment that takes an interesting photograph.

Because I knew that fellow was looking for birds I told him to go the few blocks over to Greenwood and man, he jumped in his car as fast as he could! When I mentioned Wood ducks he was thrilled. Go figure?

Shoreside at Lake Davis, there were quite a group of these birds which with some searching I've discovered are American Coots. Pretty sure my first time seeing them.
I learned early on that if you include something in the foreground, like this tree, your photograph will be better, mostly because it creates better dimension in your shot. I included the shoreline as well because it does show how far the water has receded during our dry winter. All of the visible sand will be covered up once the summer rains return. While it is not always possible to use this rule, when it is, do it!

A female Anhinga drying its wings, a fairly common sight, but because it was one more bird I saw I'm including it in this post.
Leaving the house before sunrise, I never expected to see so many birds but believe me, I was grateful. Yup, there's more!
Over at Lake Cherokee, where last week I saw the Wood Storks, although I dislike this type of duck, who can resist ducklings? Not this girl! So, I took any number of shots of these ducklings from the moment I saw them on the sidewalk by the lake, but ultimately, this is my favorite because it has movement. I do wish, however, that stick in the foreground was not there; that's taking the foreground rule to the extreme! Movement is good if you can get it.

Spotting this Heron, a type I cannot identify, my heart was sad...
I watched it drag that wing through the reeds...:(
And then my battery died! That's a big tip...if you plan to take a bunch of photographs, have a spare battery with you! Of course I never expected to find so much to photograph when I left the house, but I should have had a spare nonetheless!

Once home, I charged the battery and was still wanting more...so I went to the peacock neighborhood near our home. I don't know what was going on because during my last visit I saw probably 60 peacocks roaming around. Yup, I counted. This time, however, I saw only about 15. In any case, here's a demonstration of that shoot first, then get busy with composing what you really want.
Not a thing wrong with the shot above, in fact, I personally find it very interesting, however, walking closer I began moving around, trying to use the afternoon light to my advantage, as well as isolating the peacock so it seemed as if it were in the wild rather than a neighborhood off Conway Road! And here you go..
Mission accomplished!

Last week when I shared an owl photograph on both this blog, and facebook, a friend shared it, and that led to a sale to a woman in Michigan. I picked it up yesterday from my faithful printers, and this morning I took it to the post office.
It was kind of fun seeing a print once again. Of course I had my camera so made another quick run over to Lake Cherokee, and lo and behold, Wood ducks were posing for me on a fence!
Thus proving my earlier point about finding something a little out of the ordinary...

Hope you can use some of these tips yourselves and that you enjoyed our little, well who am I kidding, massive bird fest?

yours truly,

Gail

p.s. Just checking who has actually read this far....WE ARE MOVING TO VANCOUVER FOR A YEAR!! Details to follow....

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Half Century of Sewing

Happy Valentines Day my friends! Mr. Peck is out of town today which is fine by me because, truth be told, every day is Valentines Day around here. Aren't we the lucky ones?
So too was I amazingly blessed to see the full moon rising on Saturday night! Did you see it? Absolutely stunning, although this picture does not do it one bit of justice.
That is the actual color dear ones; looks more like the sun, doesn't it? I would have most certainly missed it had it not been for a little volunteer project we did with Bill and Roxanne, along with other members of his Kiwanis club, at the Ronald McDonald house adjacent to Arnold Palmer Hospital. Service clubs, as well as other charitable groups, prepare the evening meal for the residents that stay there while their children are in the hospital. Roxanne struck up a conversation with a young woman seated at the table behind ours, and the sad/happy story she heard is one of probably many in that room. She delivered twins at 26 weeks, a boy and a girl, and, sadly the boy died after five days. Yikes! On the positive side the little girl now weighs 5 pounds at 37 weeks old. She lives near Daytona Beach and spends every night at the house while her husband makes the trip over on his days off from work as a firefighter. Catherine, Bill and Roxanne's daughter, is one of those angels who is a nurse in the NeoNatal Intensive Care unit at the hospital. The stories she must have to tell. :(

The inside looks like a small hotel except it has a large kitchen where meals are prepared.
Bar-b-que chicken, baked beans, coleslaw and potato salad await those who did not make it when we were there.

Sunday could not have been one minute more perfect, beginning with a genuine MINI sighting just off Park Avenue!!
I begged Bruce to pull over so I could get both a better look, and a photograph of the tiny car, which he did, hoping we would not be late for church because of my annoying habit of asking him to pull over! I did get a closer look, but really, this one shows just how tiny a real MINI is! Darling, is what I have to say about it.

Adding to the great start to our day, we sang one of my most favorite hymns in church...Be Thou My Vision Lord. I absolutely love that hymn--children take note--have it played at my funeral!

After lunch at Earls, I worked on my hand quilting while watching Jordan Spieth win at Pebble Beach, both a prestigious tournament, and a gorgeous golf course on Monterey Peninsula. We were there once, long, long ago. Bruce's Mom and Dad moved to California more than 40 years ago (how can that be?), and paid for us, as well as Judy and Cris, to come out for a visit. We drove the Pacific Coast Highway from Southern California to Big Sur. Although it was crazy beautiful, little Missy here was newly pregnant with Matthew. Previously I had not had morning sickness , however, those crazy winding roads were quite the challenge for me! Then, by golly, Adele won all sorts of awards at the Grammys! See what I mean? Perfect!

I've yet to start on a new quilting project, however that does not mean I'm not thinking about quilts all of the time. The Sew Day I attended last week was held at the Maitland Public Library where they have the cutest little used book store where I picked up this beauty for $2.00.
Filled with extraordinary quilts, I am reading every word! Speaking of reading, I finished  my Christmas books and both were excellent. I mean seriously good. If you are a fan of Ann Patchett be sure and read Commonwealth. The link I've included is not one I've seen yet--now I'm anxious to read it myself.

Are you ready for some birds? Please don't be sick of bird photos, okay?

I pulled my bike over to once again photograph the neighbor's Peach tree in bloom. I know you've seen it before, but it is a rite of spring my friends. Just as I did, a Mockingbird flew into the tree!
Nice, huh?

It has been a while since I rode down Lake Margaret to Bumby, and now I am glad that I did so yesterday. The retention pond behind our old church had some nice action.
The heron took off and then these guys did as well, stopping to have a little hullabaloo before landing.
What about that tile Gail? Did you forget? Why, no, I did not. Pam came over yesterday afternoon and I was telling her how the dress I was making was beating my butt. Nearly everything had to be done more than once because, a. I did not read the instructions, or b. I'm just not the seamstress I once was. While chatting, I realized that I have been sewing for 50 years now, a good many of those years included daily sewing. Learning at Howard Junior High school, my teacher claimed I would never learn to sew, but I proved her wrong, didn't I? As they say, necessity is the mother of invention; if we wanted clothes the cheapest, most expedient method was making them, and so I did. Of course, these days, why would you when you can buy a lovely dress like this one for very little money?
Stubborn, I guess.

The collar gave me fits, the little cap sleeves look a bit like epaulets, but what did go very right was the invisible zipper application using my new presser foot Bruce gave me for Christmas. That was so helpful! Here it is...
I started to type, at least it fits, but that too was a problem. It fits now, after I inserted the band around the waist to lengthen the bodice! At any rate, practice is good, and so I continue...

The dress above is a new pattern made to look retro. Here is a pattern I bought at an estate sale that actually is retro, as in the year I learned to sew!
I was all set to go for it when I discovered not only were the instructions missing, so was the side bodice piece. The instructions weren't the problem, the missing piece sure was though. Hmmmm.....should I jettison the idea, or find a solution? The latter was my go-to. Finding a pattern with a very similar piece I did some minor adjusting and we are get to go. One thing I did want to show you is the old pattern pieces that were made so well. I suspect none of the patterns made today will ever last fifty years. But then again, perhaps no one will be sewing then?
Of course, you don't know what modern patterns look like, so probably of no interest to you anyway!

Because Bruce left for the airport super early, I got up early enough to go out on a bird safari this morning...stay tuned!

yours truly,

Gail

p.s. The moon shot was yet another example of--PULL OVER PLEASE!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Since Last We Met

Isn't it great to be alive and healthy? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we lived each day in celebration of that rather than dissatisfaction with things? Let's do more of the former, shall we?

That is why this blog is a celebration of the everyday, nothing too extraordinary, just living life to the fullest, or at least to the best of my ability!

Let us start this post with some nature appreciation, beginning with these amazing blooms from Pam's garden. She'll scold me, (not really) for not remembering the name of this beauty.
Seriously, aren't these something? I didn't notice the text she sent me before picking her up on Wednesday night to join Irene and one of her Toronto friends, Halya, for dinner out at the Strand. She said, don't forget your camera so you can photograph this amazing sight. Well, I did have my camera, just not the time, so I went back over the next day to see it all its' glory. Because of the warm winter this tree is blooming like never before.
Exuberant comes to mind...not sure why, but it does.

Arriving at Lynn's darling house on a small lake,
the sun was just going down, making for a lovely view. It was actually warm as can be which was just fine by Halya! Lynn's patio looks as if it should be in a magazine, doesn't it?
You might note the open door...hot as can be it was! During dinner there was lively conversation and good food for all. Halya, seated on the back right, was set to drive to Sarasota in the morning, hoping to bask in the sun while lying on the snow white shores of Siesta Key.
Around our yard the Nandina plants are sporting loads of berry bunches. Inedible, of course, but oh so pretty!
And, drum roll please...the first blooms on our Tabebuia tree...
Seriously blue sky isn't it? What a great winter for Irene to move here from Portland..nothing but blue, sunny skies this year! Wonder of wonders, also set against a crazy blue sky, I saw not one, but two eagles in "our nest," as in the one within biking distance. I spoke with the homeowner who tells me that these days they are so accustomed to seeing them, and hearing them, I might add, that he takes them for granted. I met him last year when they were just buying the house, and apparently, the renovations are ongoing. His adorable sons were featured in this space a few weeks ago.
Although I've done pretty well at staying away from Greenwood, I just had to make a quick visit the other day, and did not see our owl, however, I did see a bird, sadly from afar, that I've never photographed before. An American Kestrel is sitting on this branch, believe it or not!
Friday night we were thrilled to accept Bill and Roxanne's invitation to accompany them to the Dr. Phillips Center to see "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder." Although I'd been in there before, just to see the facility, I'd yet to actually go there for fun, nor had Bruce. Roxanne looked quite glamorous in her elderly Mother's mink that she wore in her honor. Although she is still living, she is on the wane.
There are some beautiful views to be had from the private area they are part of..remember this green space when it was completely covered in Pulse memorials?
As you can see, City Hall is still sporting the rainbow colors! It is so rare that we go out much at night anymore, both of us hate night driving, that I sometimes forget out lovely the city looks lit up.
Of course, the blue sculpture in the foreground was once the most hated piece of public art in town, however, the LED lights are giving people a new appreciation for it. We'd just left the Citrus Club, which is so nice, and what just occurred to me is how the connections between people and places are so amazing. Most of you know our son Matthew lives, loves, and works in London, but what you don't know is that journey began nearly 25 years in the same building that houses the Citrus Club, when he worked as a 16 year old for a prominent local law firm. That led to some connections over the years and now he is working for a prominent world wide law firm. (Condensed version!)

I was just relating Matt's story today while attending a "Celebration of Life" for our dearly beloved friend Betty who passed away at the ripe old age of 96 back in December. She asked for a potluck, and what Betty wanted, Betty got! Oh the desserts! Always great at church functions.
Actually, I took this early on...the table was laden with goodies about 15 minutes later. It was like old home week for me because so many of our old church friends that I hadn't seen in ages were there. Of course, some I needed help with on their names...too bad Bruce wasn't able to attend because between the two of us we would have been bound to remember everyone. I was delighted that they used the photograph shown in this 2012 blog post for the cover of the program.

Here's one way to display family photographs...too bad so many did not have the years on them.
Imagine that she lived through the Depression, WWII, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, and everything since, and yet, she still remained such a positive person, which is how I would love to be remembered.

How about you?

yours truly,

Gail

p.s. This is a big p.s. friends....Fallon passed her nursing exam this week!! Oh happy day!