Saturday, June 27, 2015

Your Roving Reporter

For a multitude of reasons, people like their camera phones, whatever make they have. One, of course, is because they always have it with them when something remarkable occurs, and two, the phone cameras have a really fast lens allowing for quality photos in most lighting conditions.

I remember when I began selling photography that folks were amazed that I used a point and shoot, however, eight years later, most of the world is using a point and shoot in the guise of a mobile phone. And, what people have come to realize is, that it is not the camera so much, as it is the creativity and curiosity of the photographer. And a fast lens. A quick Google search reveals all sorts of new photo books and exhibitions like this article details. Imagine--the winning photos will be displayed on billboards around the world! Me, I'm not great with my phone, mostly because I can't hold it steady enough--I need a handle.

But what I have had for more than seven years is a Panasonic FZ8 that I loved like mad. A long zoom at the touch of a finger, and a very fast lens. Bonus points for easily fitting in my purse. However, for the last two years or so its' home has been a camera bag. Why so, you ask? The batteries were just plain worn out. And, once again, turning to our friend Google last year, I did not find a suitable replacement. Perhaps I overlooked said replacement because earlier this week I searched again, and lo and behold, I found more than I needed! With the magic of Amazon Prime, I am once again back in business! What probably prompted me was that crazy owl obsession of mine. I just knew I could get a shot of one easily with the Panasonic. The minute the battery was fully charged, you just know where I went!
Partly to see how it would turn out, and partly because I know that there is a learning curve again. Mostly keeping my hand steady when the lens is zoomed all the way out. That was pretty much my only struggle, and it explains why the head is so close to the top of the photo--learning curve!!

Now, when I want to photograph something a distance away, I feel pretty confidant I can get the shot. For the longest time I've wanted to get a shot of this for nostalgia purposes. Taken out the passenger window while I was stopped!
That neon sign has been there for as long as I can remember, and if it is anything like most things that have been around forever in Orlando, before long, it too will be gone.

Bruce is feeling top notch once again, much to my relief. I don't know what it is about the airport in DC, but he keeps bringing gifts home...for no reason except that he loves me. :) Seriously, it had been years since he came home with something (so much for the love excuse!), but in the last month and a half he's come home with a beautiful blouse and cute sandals, and on two occasions, a dress. Thursday night, after a weather delayed flight, he came in the door to find me reading in bed and within about a minute he's got his suitcase open and ta-da!
Cute as a button, and cotton too! So, I wore it on our date last night. Finally, the promised reporting. Oh wait, before that, here's a news flash...
See the above house. Coming soon to a television near you. This is going to crack you up. Stopping on my bike ride the other morning to visit, Cheryle asked if I'd seen this house. No, I had not. Well, it is on her street, and about a week ago, the windows were suddenly boarded up, and the front elevation looked as you see it. Film crews were around. Something was up, so she set her mind to find out. Apparently it is for a flip or flop type of show, and they will be working on it for three months. The part that will really get you is this: they boarded the windows, and used that crazy spray paint on the front to make it look worse than it really WAS!! That's television for you...

Okay, so I wanted to see the Orlando Eye, and while there, how about we eat at Yardhouse? The place was packed with only two seats adjacent to what Bruce called the "service bar." Ever wonder where your drinks are while seated at a restaurant?
Must have been twenty drinks waiting for the servers! I love watching bartenders, in case you are wondering why we just don't wait for a table. I find it very entertaining watching them juggle their duties. Anyway, it was all good, and before it got dark, I slipped out to take this shot. Unlike the previous four nights, the sun was shining with no stormy weather in sight!
I asked Travis, our bartender what happens during our very frequent lightening storms. He said it was good for their business because if lightening is spotted within twenty miles they have to stop the wheel. Bruce and talked about how we wonder if Merlin Entertainment had considered that obstacle? Now we've seen the Eye in Brighton, been on the one in London, and soon we will ride the Orlando version. Our plan is to buy the combo ticket for the Eye, the wax museum, and the aquarium. We may have to wait until later in the year because sunset seems like a good time, and what with the colossal storms of summer.....Well, you understand. We poked our head inside the complex, and here's Mr. Bruce and waxy Lady Gaga.
Once the sky darkened completely the wheel looks so neat. Or, so I think.
When was the last time you saw folks lying on the grass at a tourist attraction? Actually it is fake grass.

This morning, responding to a notice on fb for volunteers, I went downtown to help with an art installation at the Orange County Administration building. It has been a while since I was last there, so it came as a surprise that there are wonderful new sculptures on the lawn.
Have you seen them yet?
If you look closely, you might notice the man seated near the building. That red thing is CUP!!

Despite the heat, quite a number of the artists friends, and a few volunteers like myself, came out to put up colorful plastic bottles along the fence. Sounds crazy right? Anything but. COLOR bonanza!
Arriving a little early, I was fortunate enough to meet the artist, Dale Wayne, from Altamonte Springs, and she was only too happy to explain the process. Apparently, following a local display of Dale Chihuly's art glass, she was inspired to make her own version of his riot of colors. That is her on the left, pictured in the white blouse, figuring out the layout.
With all the help it wasn't long before all the panels were tie wrapped onto the railings.
How happy will it make people driving by? I suspect pretty much. She relies on the generosity of friends for all those bottles! I only hope, during the month it is up, people will respect it.

There you have it--a reality show house, an entertainment complex and an art installation. All happy news instead of the more somber news you will find elsewhere!

Happily pointing and shooting again,

Gail


Thursday, June 25, 2015

This Cake is Doomed! Or, is It?

A number of years ago my 89 year old neighbor gave me some pound cake she'd made, and it was out of this world. Of course Corrine wasn't 89 back then, but she was still pretty old. Lately I have not written much about Herb and Corrine because, frankly, it is just too painful. Over the last two years Herb's dementia has increased a hundred-fold, whereas Corrine continues to lose weight at an alarming rate. That said, she is still driving, albeit slowly, and it makes me a nervous wreck. Herb has no idea who we are, just that we are neighbors. The conclusion to their story will not be good.

Nonetheless, after trying the pound cake, I had to have the recipe, and Corrine kindly typed it out.
Just like all good recipe cards, it is messy, a testament to the number of times I've made it. Last evening I set out the butter and eggs with the intention of making it first thing in the morning. And not long after getting up, I set out to do just that.

Except, things began to go wrong, beginning with not enough cake flour. Allegedly I could easily fix that by adding cornstarch to all purpose flour, however, I did not even have enough regular flour!! Bread flour, I've got like two five pound bags of the stuff. Now what? A combination of all my flours is now what! Then, while adding the eggs one at a time, I dropped half of one of the shells in the running mixer!!! That's a first. Plus, I made a big fat mess adding the flour, spewing it all over the counter.
Still love my white cabinets by the way. My goodness, what next? The batter is quite thick, perhaps the four extra minutes of beating?
(this is a funny picture, what with the reflection of the pan in the mixing bowl.) Smoothing it out, in the oven it went. After about ten minutes of cooking, maybe when I came back into the house after a recycling run, I smelled anything but the delicious aroma of pound cake. Oh no my friends, I smelled burning pound cake!
That was fun. I globbed out the stuff on the bottom using a large serving fork, and wrapped the bottom in foil. Good grief, what next?
Almost an hour and a half later, it came out looking like this. So much for my smoothing. The good news is that with the help of Bakers Joy, it came out of the pan like magic. Not that it looks all that great but still...
It is no wonder Corrine uses a very long loaf pan--to heck with that tube pan called for! Now, another hour and a half later, the cake looks like this, and although not perfect, surprisingly it was not doomed after all.
The crusty top is one of the things that makes it so tasty. The next time you are hankering for a scrumptious pound cake, make this one, just do things better than I did!

Meanwhile, during the cooling, I mowed the lawn after only five days, and I can't tell you how great it is to have a mower that starts on the first pull. I only wish we'd bought the new one about two years earlier. Another gusher last evening; thank goodness for the rain chain in the forefront!
On culture...

The other day I finished a novel by Jose Saramago, Skylight, that, although written more than 60 years ago, is astonishingly contemporary. Exploring so many of the same societal issues that we face today, it is really remarkable. Making it more so is that when he sent it into a publisher as a young man, they lost it, finding it 36 years later, a few years before he received the Nobel Prize for literature. In the unlikely event that you might find the back story interesting, here it is. I found myself wishing the book were mine because there were so many, many, sentences worth re-reading.

For example:

Therefore he had not yet given up entirely, and behind his resignation hope still lingered, just as the blue sky is always there behind the clouds. 

Here is another one:

"Has twelve years of living the way you've been living not shown you how badly people live? The poverty, the hunger, the ignorance, the fear?"

"yes, but times have changed...."

"Yes, times have changed, but people haven't."

So, that book was really good, as were two documentaries I watched this week. I just love documentaries! When Jonathan was a young teen he became interested in Japanese culture, specifically manga, and anime. He bought everything he could find, and when the movie Spirited Away came out in the States, he was in heaven. I did not understand the attraction at the time, but it wasn't porn, so that was good. Eventually he got me to watch that movie, and it was then that I began to appreciate his devotion. So, when I saw there was a documentary about one of the most famous Japanese artist in this form, I decided to dig in. Fascinating is what it was. The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness is shot in the Ghilbi studio in Japan during the year they work on a new film. I learned that a big wig at Pixar spent time there in his younger years, and was highly influenced by Miyazaki. Think "Up."

Secondly I watched The Imposter. Unraveling the mystery of how a Frenchman, Frederic Bourdin, could convince a Texas family that he was their missing 15 year old son, you seriously cannot believe that it really happened. Sadly it did. There is a reason the saying, "truth is stranger than fiction," is still around.

Waking very early yesterday morning, I had a good idea. Or that's what I thought. For ever and ever, driving down Conway Road, there is a picture that I've wanted to take, just never have stopped to do so. Maybe it could be good at sunrise was my thinking yesterday. You see, there has been a single parked truck, and a single tree, that I thought would make a good photograph. Not to be, or at least the way I envisioned it. There were several cars in my way, causing me to have to angle the shot ,rather than shoot it straight on. Still, I kind of like it.
It is a well established fact that I love both clocks and watches so when Maureen offered me her garage sale find, I jumped at the chance. I find the numbering on this clock very interesting.
Speaking of time, it is lunch time around these parts...wonder what I can have?

Saving room for cake,

Gail

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Taking My Time

There was quite a long period of my life when I was always in a hurry. Having a job, four sons, and a husband will do that. That time, however, has passed, and these days I do anything but hurry.

Lisa and I were talking the other day about how she has been getting serious about cycling in the last few months. She rides long, hard, and fast; what she does is called cycling. What I do is ride my bike, and sometimes the slower the better. Here's my ride parked alongside the road while I take a photograph.
It's cute isn't it? All the better to meander, however, I suspect it is capable of going much faster than I have the energy to make it. Actually, I might have the energy, except I'd rather enjoy my ride, not endure it. What I stopped for is this shot of the beautiful Crepe Mrytle tree in full bloom. I am in love with this color!
All over town the trees are blooming like mad in a wide variety of colors, including this lovely white one, perhaps planted to match the house?
If I travel too fast, I would miss out on seeing all the things I love which are mostly nature related. What a surprise it was today to see not a single bee on the night blooming cacti. Generally there are more bees than you can count!
I will admit that most days in the last two months my first stop is to visit with the owls. Yesterday as I pulled up I was so delighted to see one flying low in the next yard, and I just knew he/she was headed for the birdbath. Yippee! You can imagine I was in hog heaven. Getting pretty close, I took shot after shot as I watched the youngster drink.
Naturally the first thing I did when I got home was to put my card into the computer to see how the photos turned out. Not very good is how. I discovered, as I sat there wondering what went wrong, that the setting on my camera was incorrect! Nonetheless, the shot above is very interesting as it shows what appears to be an inner eyelid on the owl. Weird, right? Except it is not. From what I've been reading, owls have three eyelids, and apparently we are seeing one of them! So, all was not lost from that visit. To view it larger, all you need do is click on the photograph.

This morning I followed my routine, finding the two kids in the palm tree, I said hello, and went on my way, riding across Ferncreek and into Harbor Island. Pedaling down the street, I saw a squirrel in the road and wondered what said squirrel was up to.
As I drew nearer, Mr. Squirrel took that pine cone and scooted over to the tree, eventually moving up into the tree, all the while carrying the pine cone.
From my battles with squirrels regarding our bird feeders I know firsthand how wily they can be. How would you like to eat on your head while presumably holding on by your feet?
Nature is just incredible isn't it? Everywhere I look something catches my eye, including how the sunlight enhances the leafy vines around a tree trunk.
If you can believe it, and I know that you can, on my way home I thought to myself, "self, maybe one more owl visit?" Well, that turned out to be a good thought. I rode up, seeing one in the tree with the peeling bark I like so well, as well as the beauty of the water shining in the sun from the next door sprinklers.
If you are wondering why they are so high, I suppose it is because all the trees would block the flow if not for their height? Good golly Miss Molly--teenage owl flew right back over to the bird bath, and this time I knew what I was doing. To watch a huge bird like that in a little bird bath is such a treat. I'll spare you the dozens I took, instead I'll show you maybe just one? Or two...
It is a flat out wonder any of them came out because my hands were shaking! So, after quite a bit of what you see, here's what happened next.
Yup, came flying out and up into the overhead tree! So close I ducked!
Their flying ability seems to be great as this is one of the large overhead oaks. The sibling showed up as well. And, even better, I think I finally got a great shot of the owl.
What a huge difference two months makes...
Hasn't this been fun? I know it has brought joy to me, and I hope to you as well.

Anyone out there know how cardinals mate? Let's see here...
Riding along, I saw this happening, and I don't know if that was what was going on, or not? What do you think? I know I've never seen it before, and try as I might, I can't really find graphic detail on how it happens.

Had enough creature news? How about a people update instead? Bruce, following a Saturday's doctor visit, seems to be improving while taking a round of antibiotics. He's gone to Virginia today, and I've yet to hear from him that he needs to come home, so that is saying something. Then too, I imagine you've been wondering about Matt Stromberg's condition. It's been several weeks since I spoke to them, however, Angela wrote this update on Caring Bridge if you would like more details. As a reminder to those who've forgotten, any text that is not black is a link with further info!

The last laugh is on me....I wrote this post about making a dress that fit me like a sack. In said post I mentioned I was so disappointed that I even threw the pattern away. Turns out that was pretty stupid of me. (I know, I can afford to buy another one!) Anyway, with the heat we've been having, a sack dress is just the ticket, and I've worn it more times than I can count. Aside from horrible stain that I think came from the washing machine, it is the perfect house dress--my version of the duster. You'd have to be a woman of a certain age to get that reference....

Taking my time,

Gail



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summer in Earnest

First off, thanks to those who sent along biscuit tips. This morning I tried one of them that Lisa passed along, which was one that suggested cooking the biscuits in a cast iron skillet at a higher temp than I used previously. These were the frozen ones, so I've yet to try a different recipe. They still weren't huge, but mighty tasty nonetheless.

I've been mentioning the relentless heat of the past week, and yesterday we apparently hit a record high of 100 degrees. Although some folks think Florida is super hot in the summer, and it really is, the truth is, we generally have thunderstorms around 5 in the afternoon that drops our temperature by about 20 degrees. Boy did that happen yesterday. The rainfall was not the deluge of last week, but let me tell you, the thunder and lightening were out of this world! As is often the case following such a storm, a rainbow occurs around sunset. Spotting the rainbow once again from my office window, I grabbed the camera--ta da!
Of course with that, a spectacular sunset is sure to follow. Last night was no different. If only I'd gotten a shot of the lightening the flashed across the sky. To date, lightening is not a part of my photo library.
While I was standing there shooting this, one car stopped in the roadway, taking a picture from the car, and an additional car pulled over on the grass to do the same. It was that breathtaking. :)

So, enough about the weather. Let's turn our attention to okra, as in some beautiful home grown okra from the Hill's, of Hill's Happy Hour fame, garden.
Because I had my heart set on fried green tomatoes for dinner, I decided frying the okra would just be overkill. Instead I grilled it after a little coating in oil and cajun seasoning. Get the grill, or grill pan, super hot before attempting.
I used the skewers for easier turning, but the truth is, without would be just fine as they tended to twirl on the skewer. Before turning the pan off, I threw a bunch of fresh pineapple chunks on there, and if you've never had grilled pineapple before, I suggest you do so, sooner rather than later. Talk about delicious! The okra was super good as well.

During my owl odyssey, I've chatted with all sorts of folks who are doing the same. One such folk mentioned that smaller birds often harass the birds of prey. Well, just this morning. as I was returning from the mail box. I heard all sorts of squawking in the pine trees. Sure enough, some birds were doing their best to get a hawk to move on. Loud, I tell you. Eventually, he got the picture.
It was so high up I can't be sure, but I think it was mockingbirds causing all the ruckus. They escorted him on his way.
While we are, surprisingly (!), on the subject of birds, I was off by a few weeks on the peacock babies. While making the collages, I came across a shot from a few years ago dated about the middle of June. Well you know where I went to see what I could see. There were a bunch more peacocks than I saw on my last visit, including this guy whose tail feathers seemed to have gone AWOL.
It was as odd as could be. I did notice he had a limp as well, so maybe he's old, or sick? I saw about six babies, seemed like three per mama.
Crossing paths?
I reminded you how adorable they are, and you can now confirm that I was not exaggerating! I really do admire people who get fantastic bird shots because they are anything but easy. You may wonder why I keep trying with the owls, and I'll tell you why--I still have not got the perfect shot, in spite of them being so accommodating of late. One of the kids flew down pretty low, so low in fact that if I were taller, AND braver, I could almost have reached out and touched him.
Well, maybe a slight exaggeration, but I was standing adjacent to these awesome tree trunks! Around our house, the cardinals are coming around non stop..
and the woodpeckers are plentiful.
And, if you are looking for a flower that can withstand the summer heat and humidity, look no further than this little one in the succulent family. You can just break off a chunk, throw it on the ground, and before you know it, they will not only root, but spread as well.
Tomorrow is Father's Day, and the Father in this household has been a little under the weather this week. David, the only son in town at the moment, because Bill and Fallon have gone to Vero Beach for her birthday, called to schedule an evening out tonight, but the truth is, he is not quite up to it. We'll just wait until he's feeling perkier, which we hope will be soon. He does, however, have two cards waiting from Jon and Matt so that will be nice.

Here's hoping we won't be having record heat tomorrow if Bruce is us to setting up the booth which is up in the air as I type. May well be a good excuse not to go!!

Keeping her fingers crossed,

Gail

p.s. this post seems to be full of puns--did you notice?


Long Beach, CA