Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Today it's my birthday--I'm officially 58 years old and frankly, I don't know what to make of it.

I've never been one to make much of a fuss about my birthday. It's true I am uncomfortable being the center of attention. At the same time, it's never helped having a birthday on a big time holiday, especially six days after Christmas. I often think how hard it must have been for our parents during this time. Lisa has a birthday one week before Christmas, six children to buy gifts for, and then me as an afterthought. I'm okay with that.

As a young person I know I couldn't imagine myself at this age, now I'm just grateful I've made it this far! Aside from my one spell of illness I've been remarkably healthy during my life. Nothing really. Furthermore, I inherited enough of my mother's genes to keep my hair dark and my body slim. All subject to change at any minute though!! I've definitely noticed in the last year or two, changes in my appearance which threaten to steamroll. My face is becoming more lined and sometimes when I glance in the mirror I don't like what I see. As I well know, this is to be expected but I can't say that I like it very much.

My father died when he was 64, my mother when she was 78. Her mother died much younger, in fact, I think she was around my age when she was found dead alone in her apartment. So, it is anybodies guess how much longer I'll be around. I hope it's a while for my husband and children's sake!

Speaking of children, while Jonathan was here I was messing around with the grainy black and white setting on my Olympus. He kindly let me take his photograph.
He's looking more and more like his dad! The flight back to Austin was thankfully uneventful, arriving early enough in the day so they could settle in.

Ten years ago no one could have convinced me that we would have a dog. While the children were growing up I was a mean mom, refusing to let a dog in the house. Cats were fine because they require so little, dogs on the other hand, are much needier. Unless you have a perfect dog named Baxter! Bruce loves this little dog like nobodies business.
You can so see it on his face! I'm so grateful as well to have shared my life with such an extraordinary man. Clicking with someone is the greatest thing on earth! People are always shocked when they learn we've been together since we were 13.  For my birthday he's booked us a room and dinner at the JWMarriott. Actually dinner reservations are at Norman's at the Ritz Carlton on the same property. Woohoo! Three years ago we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary there.
You can totally tell a person's age from their hands!!! Still, I love this photo taken while we were there. Maybe I should do one again today...

When I think of things I'm grateful for, one of them is having folks say they feel comfortable in our home. On game day, Jonathan's friends visited for a bit before they all headed to the stadium. Both of the young men remarked on how warm and welcoming the house is. Score! Then, yesterday a youngish man who works with Bruce came by to do a little business. Walking into the backyard he said with enthusiasm, "Wow, this is like a tropical paradise!" Score! It's nice for people to think your house is pretty, it's even nicer for them to think it's comfortable. While we were still young we made a pact never to be house poor. The ensuing years brought more money however, we kept our word and never succumbed to "keeping up with the other Darden employees." Our little house is just perfect.

This morning Bruce is fishing. Waking up in the dark, he took the kayak down to the lake just before sunrise. I do so hope when he returns that fish were caught and released. I've never understood the lure of fishing (yikes, what a pun!); I just don't have the patience which is why I'm a pretty terrible nature photographer. That said, I love to watch nature. I've asked Bruce to go to Gatorland today before we check into the hotel at 3. He thinks I'm crazy, and he's probably right!

Matt wrapped all his gifts while here including my birthday present which I opened not long ago. I laughed. He knows what a big fan I am of Mobstr.
So, where is the gift and who is Mobstr? See that big white canvas with some letters in the middle. That's Mobstr--a very clever street artist. HUH? If you click on the link provided you can see more of his work. After our return from London I tracked him down, sending him an email congratulating him on his provocative art. He wrote back thanking me which was cool and now I have a signed original!! Most everything he does makes me chuckle. The blank white canvas reminds me of an earlier trip Bruce and I took to London. We saw a play called "Art" with George Segal; the plot, if you can call it that, revolves around the meaning of modern art. Check the link!

It's hard to imagine that in just 16 hours, 2011 will be a thing of the past. It seems like it wasn't all that long ago I was getting used to writing it on correspondence. They say the older you get the faster time progresses and I'm definitely confirming that notion!

Happy 2012 my gentle readers,
Gail

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Keeping it Fresh

Just as last year about this time I decided to change out my entire inventory, I'm trying to think of ways to keep Out & About Photography fresh in the new year. Changing the blog header is easy--changing the way I do business, not so much.

Working on my website is a good start. Jonathan helped me re-design it a bit, mostly just color changes, however, now I need to be more consistent about having what I'm currently selling on the site. I'm working on that. One thing we discovered is that there was a downloadable feature which made me freak out just a bit. Perhaps that's why I don't get much feedback--people were downloading what they liked? NO MORE! Turned off! When Jen gave Lisa some coasters using one of my photographs posted on facebook, I discovered first hand how easy it can be done. Precisely why I NEVER post pictures on this blog, facebook, or flickr that I think are good enough to sell. What you see is the documentary stuff, unlike what I actually sell. After nearly five years I have a slight, and I mean slight, notion of what folks might want. Wall art. I take no offense whatsoever when they decide to buy something from me that will look "nice" over their couch. Bring it on!!!

So, there's still work to be done on the site which I'll work on more thoroughly after Jonathan and Alissa depart tomorrow. Actually, they are tailgating as I type. Dan drove over from Boca Raton and Mike came down from Tallahassee to cheer on the Seminoles together. They all met while attending FSU nearly nine years ago. My how time flies and all that. Bruce is working from home, while I did laundry.

Yesterday we made a second trip to Florida Mall. Remember how packed I said it was? Here's what it looked like in the food court area:
Crazy huh? The economy is bad? These folks don't know that. Alissa needed to exchange a purse she bought as well as get a new phone. The sad news is that during their fun outing to Universal, her phone was drenched from one of the rides. Even after an overnight stay in a bed of rice the water ruined the insides of her former phone. As I type we are waiting on the FedEx truck to deliver her new white iPhone. Please hurry up!

Afterwards we drove down to the Church Street Exchange building to take a look at the space Dana wants me to occupy for a gallery. Still pondering that.
Walking just across the street I wanted to show Jonathan our new arena which is pretty spectacular. During construction I frequently sent him photos of the work in progress. In case you're wondering, Jonathan is a sports nut--loves them all. The Orlando Magic  began playing in 1989, the year Jonathan was 6. My goodness that's hard to imagine. Bruce and I, courtesy of his then employer, went to the very first exhibition game against the Detroit Pistons, who I believe were the reigning NBA champs. David is convinced that my ticket stub could bring in some cash. No trip to the area would be complete without a look-see in the store.
The crowd shot above, as well as this one of Jonathan are two of my better attempts at phoneography.  He is holding a new hat which, of course, was on sale. That's my boy!

Because Angela had her arrival time wrong when she called for an airport pick up, we were just getting back into the car downtown. They decided to take a cab rather than wait for me to go home and change cars. This allowed us to head over for our final mission of the day--seeing the peacocks. The first street only one was in sight, puzzling me, but not for long. As we rounded the corner, it looked like the food court at Florida Mall. Gobs and gobs of peacocks! When we talked to a couple of little girls that were climbing a big tree in their front yard, they claimed there were 50 of them. I swear it looked like more!

Coming home I grabbed my Panasonic to try and get some Christmas lights, instead a FANTASTIC sunset began and I'm letting you in on it!
Superb! Plus, I knew it meant excellent weather for the game this evening. The old red sky at night.....

I fixed two dinners, one vegetarian, one not. That new grill pan is also superb--the pork chop I fixed for Jonathan was picture perfect! They went out to meet Mike and Dan following dinner, I, on the other hand, took out all the Christmas garbage for today's pick up, heading to bed soon thereafter. We're having our first little cold snap and those covers felt good!

Speaking of night shots, I may have mentioned Bruce went to Lake Eola with me while I set up the tripod for another attempt at the fountain, skyline, etc. Arriving before sunset is the key. The tripod is a must because some of the exposures were 40 seconds long. I'm feeling pretty happy with this:
Still not perfect but getting closer. Perhaps in the 2012 I can work harder on understanding how the camera works?

I showed you the little bundle of Liberty fabrics which did them no justice. These prints are so charming...
I'm not sure what form they'll take;  another project for the new year.

Finally, earlier today Bruce closed out the books for 2011. Down. The worst in the last few years. That said, if not for the rain out at Winter Park, more than likely that would not have been the case. I mourned at the time and I'm mourning a little again. That show accounted for 20% (I think that's right) in 2010. Sad. Don't feel bad for me though, I'm still doing good, just hoping I can do better in 2012! I'm open to suggestions..

Incredibly grateful,
Gail

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Giving and Receiving

I can still remember Christmas of 2006 which I'm sure surprises most Camera Crazy readers. 2006? Really Gail? With your memory?

 I've long thought that there is an art to both giving and receiving gifts. The art of giving takes time, which some people obviously have more of than others. The art of receiving takes genuine appreciation for the thought that went into a gift. When I opened my Panasonic Lumix DMC FX3 on Christmas 2006, my first words were, "Honey--this cost more than $50!" Not, how sweet and thoughtful of you Bruce; a much more appropriate reaction. He thought and thought about what kind of gift he could give me that would take my mind off my illness. Never, could either of us have imagined it would change my life. Make that our lives!

Because I have more spare time than most, I spent much time this year thinking of gifts that I hoped would delight the recipients. My shopping began in July and continued up until a few days before Christmas. For the most part, I think I succeeded, or at least I hope so. Jonathan was super surprised when he opened a Coach box that held anything but a Coach product.
Jonathan loves the movies, or films as the hipsters say. He and Alissa especially love seeing them at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Pondering what would be a good gift, it occurred to me that, although I'm not much of a gift card person, it could be a much appreciated present. I dare say the gift was a hit.

Pictured below is a little collage of gifts, mostly for me, one for Bruce.
Jonathan could not wait until my birthday, insisting I open his gift early, as in a six days early! You guessed it--the lens travel mug. Incredible likeness! He told me when he found it he was freaking out with happiness.

 On the bottom left are gifts from Matt and Tom. Liberty fabric baby! Matt knew that I regretted only spending a few minutes in Liberty during our visit so he sent a little piece, or make that pieces home instead. Street Art book and the short stories by Carol Shields will be getting a workout soon. I've read one of her novels in the past and can't wait to dig into this collection from Tom. Thoughtful gifts both. The chocolates Tom sent from Harvey Nichols are absolutely gorgeous in person, scrumptious in taste, and not easily photographed, although I'll keep trying because I know someone in the audience would love seeing them. Tasting might be more welcome but I'm not sharing.

The top right photo is a gift for Mr. Bruce from me. He loves small, personal things and this definitely fits the bill. His own little handmade chips and salsa dish. Anne Marie, one of the ladies I see each year at the Darden Art Fair makes them.

The bottom right is a gorgeous cast iron grill pan from Mr. Bill. Rarely have I received a "gift" from Bill. He's a gift card kind of guy, passing them out like candy on Christmas day. For years I've been encouraging him to give Christmas gifts more thought and he responds that people love gift cards. And they do. But part of the excitement for me is hoping that I've made a thoughtful choice. Something that a person might hang onto for years, thinking fondly of me when they use it. I know I'll be doing just that for many, many years while using this beautiful pan.

Monday evening, while Jonathan and Alissa were visiting Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Bruce and I went to Steve and Kirsten's after Christmas party. It's a terrific party every year and how brilliant of them to think of holding a gathering the day after Christmas. There's so much competition for guest beforehand, after, not so much. As such, there's a big crowd relaxing and enjoying the fantastic food. Oh my, are they quite the hosts! Actually, they share the hosting duties with Kirsten's sister Bea, moving the party between houses each year. Bea lives just down Delaney Avenue which made it all the better for us.
I loved these green bottles on the windowsill. Although much of the house is renovated they have not removed all the charm of a small bungalow.
All the doors and windows were wide open allowing for movement of both air and bodies.
The weather couldn't have been better actually, cool enough for sleeves but not so much that the house couldn't be kept open.

Baxter was happy to see us upon our return, even happier to get into his little chair/bed with the new hedgehog gift from J & A.
Bruce took off for Maryland yesterday morning for just two days; hopefully, if all goes well today he'll come home later tonight. I decided to head downtown for a little photowalk while the young folks were sleeping off their long day at Universal.

I read in our paper the other day that Orlando is the number ONE tourist destination this holiday season. Mostly those folks spend time at the theme parks or shopping. Apparently our outlet malls are nearly as popular! At any rate, what they see is not really the Orlando I know.
This is the Orlando I know, full of contradictions. While people the world over visit the aforementioned places, residents are out enjoying Lake Eola, sharing the park with homeless folks, of which, sadly there are plenty this time of year. Coming down from the North to escape the winter I guess they qualify as tourists as well, just not the spending kind.

There were plenty of the spending kind at Florida Mall yesterday afternoon during our shopping expedition to H & M. Alissa needed her H&M fix. After loving that store in Chicago, it's one of the few things she misses now that they live in Austin. The crowds were so thick, and with the mix of people, I thought of walking down some of the streets in central London this summer.

Later on we met Ha for dinner at a new, or at least new to me, Italian restaurant in Winter Park, Armandos. The place was bustling with diners enjoying what turned out to be delicious food. All that was lacking was the service--crazy and unorganized to say the least.
The happy couple! Jonathan is sporting one of his Christmas gifts, while Alissa is wearing her new sweater from H&M in the Texas Longhorn color.

Which brings me to the end of this post, or at least almost the end. Just like the cinema gift card, when I thought of a MINI t-shirt for Jonathan I was happy. Seriously couldn't wait for him to open it.

Perhaps you gave or received a life changing gift this Christmas? Or maybe not. Or maybe, you just don't know it yet......

Gail

Monday, December 26, 2011

Every Picture Tells a Story

As such, I'm including a bunch of stories. Seems to me that loads of folks like their birthdays, ranking it as one of the biggest days of the years. I'm not one of those folks. I do, on the other hand, love everything about Christmas. Biggest day of the year for me.

I went ahead and did the Winter Garden market on Christmas Eve, mostly because I knew that I wouldn't be missed for much of the day. Jonathan, Alissa and Bruce went to the movies again, seeing Sherlock Holmes. As you can imagine, aside from a few rushes of folks here and there, mostly the market was quiet. My sales though were better than the last few weeks. While there I saw this funny t-shirt on a man who graciously allowed me to photograph him.
Cute, huh?

My plan was to have a little family get together before the big, gigantic extended family meet up on Christmas afternoon at Lisa and Danny's house. While thinking aloud about what I might cook, Bruce came up with the menu. Roast pork and potatoes, asparagus and waldorf salad. Perfect. Will do.
After dinner, stockings were passed out and hopefully enjoyed. Note the tablecloth which never really got made. My intentions were good but as anyone who has ever sewn will see in a heartbeat, the selvage is showing! After Dave, Bill and Michelle left, Bruce and I hit the sack while Jonathan and Alissa finished up their wrapping chores.

Christmas morning, while I was in the shower, Matt called via FaceTime from Melton Mowbray where he's spending the holidays with Tom's family. Duh! I have no photograph of that! And people have the nerve to say I'm always taking photographs! Once Jonathan woke up we used his iPad so Matt could watch while we opened the gifts he left for us while here for Thanksgiving. Very 2011! More about gifts tomorrow, otherwise this post will go on forever.

We may have been making too much noise which woke Alissa. As is our custom, those who wake up last, open the first gifts. Surely I've written about this before, and if so, bear with me. Someone smarter than I shared that strategy when the children were young and we've kept it going all these many years later. This year, as has been the case for a number of years, Bruce and I have a $50 limit for the gifts we give each other, thus freeing up more money for our loved ones gifts. Bruce did a beautiful job wrapping all the gifts he found for me.
He is our bow king for sure!

Jon and Alissa even brought Baxter gifts.
I needn't tell you he wore his new little Santa hat just long enough for a picture! He's cleaning up the crumbs from one of his treats which came from the "Groovy Dog Bakery" in Austin. Indeed, Baxter is a pretty groovy dog. Alissa had fun chasing hin around the living room while he had his stuffed toy, pictured on the left, in his mouth. Gifts for all!

After a nice breakfast, Jonathan was lounging on the couch, doing what many young people do--play with their phone, whether it be texting or watching videos!
Later on, Bill arrived, unwrapping his gifts while we all watched. Afterwards I asked him if he would play the acoustic guitar which has been here in one room or another ever since he left home seven years ago. We tend to forget just how good he is when we don't hear him play for awhile. It was a real treat.

Finally David and Michelle came over. We couldn't wait to give Dave his big gift which Bruce wrapped up nicely the day before.
He was, or at least it seemed to us, completely stymied.
Initially Michelle was a little dismayed wondering where the new safe was going to go, however, today after Bruce, Dave and Bill set it up, she seems a little less unhappy with us. She was definitely happy with the apron I made for her.
She's reading the card I included which told her that the rick rack came from Bruce's mom's sewing basket. Something along the lines that three Mrs. Peck's will have their hand on this apron.

Piling into two cars we made our way to Lisa's house. Good grief, what a crowd!!! 28 was the final count! Don't ask me why but I didn't check the battery life on my Olympus before we left. Once there I did a little photoshoot with my niece Lib's daughters. More simply, Maureen's granddaughters who have grown up considerably since I saw them several years ago. There was just something about Hannah's look which made me want to take more and more photographs. Today she turns 15.
Her little sister Lucy is a sweet quirky little girl who claims to want to go into comedic acting when she grows up. Her long, brown, wavy hair and funny little outfit were perfect for a photo shoot out on the back lawn.
Obviously I was running my battery down all the while! Michelle gave David a remote controlled helicopter which was quite the marvel. Rich, Spencer and Maureen are all caught looking up while it floated skyward.
I am plum crazy for this picture of three generations!

Lib, Jen and Michelle were also out back enjoying their drinks in the incredibly mild weather.
Unlike me, Lisa is quite the table decorator. It was so darn pretty everyone was afraid to use it.
Feeding that big a group is quite a challenge, however she and Danny made it happen.
Because of the battery situation I've no pictures of anyone else but let me tell you it was a full house! Just as my battery gave up it's life I took this picture of Jonathan and Spencer who is so darn cute, no one can keep their hands off of him!
Although I took a few with my phone, it's just not the same as using a prime lens.

We made an early exit so that Jonathan and Alissa could meet up with Jonathan's best friend for years, Ryan and his wife Stacey. According to Bill, things got way livelier after our departure.

Here's hoping you had a lovely time making memories,
Gail

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Break

It's been far too long since I took a road trip. After the constant business which is Christmas, I finally got the heck out of here for a few hours. You've been there with me before, but humor me please as we head to Sanford once again.

There's something so soothing about a downtown in a little city. Our downtown is primarily bars and banks with a smattering of retail in between. Smattering might be going too far. There's just nothing charming about Orange Avenue. Are their advantages to living in the city? You bet! But, if you're looking for small businesses, brick facades and streets, you must head outside of Orlando.

I'd been hearing that their were art galleries like crazy in Sanford and my sources were correct. Good stuff. Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery, includes, if I recall correctly, eight studios for working artists.
The spaces were all very attractive with the brick walls. At the time of my visit no one was working. Perhaps this artist had just stepped out to lunch:
After my stop there it was time for some lunch. Let me just say that there were a myriad of choices beckoning. The sidewalk tables were brimming with customers at multiple restaurants. The weather has been so beautiful, it's no wonder everyone was eating outside!

Choosing a tiny little space just off 1st Street, I walked right in and felt comfortable immediately.
The woman at the counter, about my age, was very cordial which anymore is not always the case. The special of the day was a Reuben, so that's what I went with, but not before she assured me it would be grilled. When I order a Reuben sandwich I'm thinking corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing served on grilled rye bread.  Apparently not everyone thinks like I do because I've ordered some where the cook used some creative license.
Aha! I told you it was tiny! As I was deciding what to order, an older, white haired gentleman, getting up slowly from his stool, wished the ladies a Merry Christmas after expressing his concern about where he was going to eat lunch for the next few days. (see photo above). Now, that's a small town for you.

While eating my delicious sandwich, which was not a behemoth, much to my delight, I amused myself by reading a 1996 edition of National Geographic. Expressing my surprise to find it set out as if it were new, the owner told me the used book store folks across the plaza gave them to her. After reading the article about Gibraltar, it piqued my curiosity as to what's going on there now, some 15 years later.
I roamed around the few blocks, seeing what I could see. I don't know why but I'm always surprised to find a place like this:
I'm never surprised to find street art wherever I go:
I'm still puzzling over that WWDY?  Speaking of street art, I was delighted to find this photo of Stik in action over on Google+. You may recall he is one of my favorite artists working in London, a far cry from Sanford!

I don't know if there is a largish German population in the area but enough so that the Magnolia Square Market has a big presence. Not only do they have a deli with meats, but a bakery as well. I wished I'd had the appetite to try one of these little coconut beauties!
Two different sides make up this market, one for the food and one for the beer, including all the supplies one would need to become a home brewer.
Seems pretty reasonable to me if one liked beer.  As well, the Willow Tree Cafe was hopping, even at 2 :00 on a Wednesday afternoon. A recognizance mission was part of the impetus for my trip--one of these weekends it seems like a nice place for Bruce and I to spend some time.

After roaming through several antique shops and another gallery my watch told me it was time to head home. I'm glad I paid attention to said watch because my traffic was smooth sailing, all 25 miles home. Any later and it could have gotten ugly.

Before I left Sanford altogether, I made one last stop on the lakefront. What lake you ask? Lake Monroe, which according to this article is the seventh largest lake in Central Florida. I was thinking about all our lakes, so, so many of them. When walking Baxter each day, I see three lakes, two of which are pretty good sized. Living in Central Florida, you tend to forget that there are many, many places which have very little or no fresh water bodies. I'd sure miss them if I were to move. I remember all those years ago when we moved to Melbourne, let's see, I was about 15; although the ocean was there, lakes were not to be found. Something about the light sparkling on water makes me happy.
So, where there is water, there are birds, in this case ducks. All manner of birds. If you are a bit squeamish you may want to skip the next photo of an osprey eating something, of which I can't be sure. I used my longest zoom but still it was pretty far into the water resulting in a less than stellar shot. That said, it gives you a notion about how large these raptors can be.
According to this article, the wing span can reach 71 inches!!! Furthermore, the article says they eat fish so that must be what this is. It's a BIG fish, that's for sure.

Any minute I should be hearing from Bruce and it won't be one minute too soon! Shoot, I just went ahead and called his number, hoping his plane was on time. I heard, "the mailbox belonging to Bruce is full." I know what he'll be doing later on.

Well, I hope you enjoyed our little visit to Sanford. Perhaps you feel inspired to go see it for yourself.

He's HOME!!

Christmas is Coming!

As if I needed to tell you that. Around these parts things are coming together very nicely. I've even received an early Christmas present from Apple. They may have given me the run-around regarding the purchase of AppleCare+, however, when it comes to making up, they know what they are doing. Multiple emails came for tracking the gift and HERE it is, with photos to prove it.
Fed Ex delivered it Monday afternoon while I was making cookies which you'll be seeing soon enough. Pretty glamorous on the outside--the inside is as well:

I'm not a naturally bling type of girl but I'm making an exception in this case (no pun intended.) Love it! I've yet to use it because as you already know I've been getting ready for Christmas. Jonathan and Alissa are set to arrive on Thursday evening around midnight. He offered to get a cab but I told him we were tough; he'd have a ride. Maybe I should make that Bruce is tough because undoubtedly he'll be the chauffeur.
Thursday is a big flying day for not only Jonathan and Alissa, but Bruce will be flying, as will Matt and Angela. I'm set to take them to the airport around 4 for their flight to Seattle to see his parents. She's offered Jonathan her guest bedroom in case they aren't happy with the smaller room they've now been assigned to at our house. Over the weekend Bruce put up the folding bed, which from all accounts is pretty comfortable. We'll see if they want to sleep at the Hotel Stromberg.

The gingerbread. For over thirty years I've been using the same recipe from Bruce's mom. His mom made a wide variety of cookies at Christmas, some of which I've never mastered. It's funny that I can hardly recall Christmas cookies from my childhood with the exception of Russian Tea Cakes and Buckeyes. RTC are so scrumptious but with so few folks around the house these days, I rarely make them. BUT, I always make gingerbread. This year it rolled out like a charm. Instead of that silly snowflake cutter I made a bunch of hearts, because, after all, isn't that what Christmas is all about? Love, my friends.
Naturally, I made some gingerbread men or in this house I like to think of them as boys. Using the new frosting idea also worked like a charm.
They really aren't all that pretty because I'm not much of a cookie decorator, however, they taste great which is what's most important. Isn't it? Angela hosted a cookie party on Saturday for her friend Stephanie. The ladies all brought cookies with tasting and judging following. Apparently, the pecan tarts won. The plate of leftovers Angela brought over did not have any tarts because they were all gone so I can't say. I will say that most of the ones on the plate were pretty mediocre.  Herb and Corrine received this little treat box from me yesterday afternoon. Sugar cookies and gingerbread.
You may have guessed that it's a Martha Stewart product which I picked up at Marshalls. Speaking of Marshalls, Nancy has gone and got herself a job at a Marshalls in Memphis. I'm quickly learning how the place runs. She's getting along just fine despite being reprimanded for being a perfectionist!

After my cookie baking marathon I decided that you might like to see an Orlando tradition. Heading out into the dark (rarely do I go anywhere at night!), I drove downtown, parking on Rosalind under some large street lamps. This article explains in depth about how one man kept this 1950's tradition alive.
Yes, it is the famous, or at least to me, Christmas star, hung over the very center of Orlando, the corner of Orange Avenue and Central. Taking my tripod with me, I set up a long exposure which explains the red streaks from passing cars just above the street. I am really a complete moron when it comes to this type of photography. I just keep trying.  The lit building in the background is the SunTrust building, the bank which David works for. Actually, of all my children, he's held pretty much the same job for the longest period of time. While still a student at Valencia Community College, his then girlfriend suggested he get a job at SunTrust as what was then called a "peak time" teller. This must have been at least ten years ago. Working mostly on Mondays and Fridays he did just that. He's been there ever since, working his way up, after earning his degree in Economics, to be the youngest stock broker (for lack of a better term) they had ever hired. These days he works in Wealth Management; he is a complete whiz when it comes to all things financial.

So, another major Orlando icon is our fountain. Because, as mentioned above, I so rarely go out at night, I'd only seen the refurbished Lake Eola fountain once or twice before. Driving the few blocks to the lake, I set up once again, adjacent to the City Christmas tree.
The fountain glowed red and green which I assumed was set that way for Christmas. I assumed wrong. Getting closer to the lake, I was absolutely amazed when the fountain began going ballistic with color. I snapped away, or at least as quickly as a one minute exposure will allow one to do so.
Hot pink shooting way into the air, followed by a multi-colored effect which bounced around the bottom. Hard to describe.
Unfortunately, because of the long exposure and then some in-camera processing time, every time it would shoot up in the air, the camera would be processing. This, I must try again on maybe the Robinson side of the street because it was pretty fun. There were lots of folks out running, walking their dogs and enjoying the light show.

Yesterday was my wrapping marathon. As in about four straight hours. Although many of the gifts were purchased in mid-summer,  they were stored in my office closet waiting to be wrapped. Note to self--wrap when you purchase! Before I really got into it, the cardinals were driving me crazy with their chirping. To date, I've yet to get a really good cardinal picture. Because it is still so warm, I had the front door open with a clear shot looking at the Nuttery.  Mr. Cardinal is a fast one! Still not a great shot ,but one thing it shows is my new plan. Mixing sunflower and safflower seeds in hopes that the birds will be happy and the squirrels won't.
Mrs. Cardinal was hanging around the other feeder, taking refuge in the new oak tree. I shot her through the window but then decided to sneak outdoors and see if I could get something better.
I love that sparkle in her eye! As I kept standing there hoping she'd get out a bit from the leaves, she flew away.
It's really surprising how red she is underneath isn't it? Too bad I wasn't focused on her but I thought showing you the red was worthwhile. Are you bored yet? Actually, the funny thing is that this morning I've not heard any birds, whereas yesterday it was a bird fest around here. Gotta get them while you can.

Finally, speaking of oak leaves, the street sweeper came the other day making me a happy girl. Between our big oak and our neighbor's seven gigantic oak trees, things get very, very messy this time of the year.

Christmas is indeed coming; only four more days. Wonder what Santa will bring?

Off to the grocery store,
Gail

You Just Never Know