a second look, attention to detail, blessings, brainstorms, changing times, childhood, Christmas on the brain, coping, facing facts, faith, family, growing old, Just do it, life goes on, making memories, memories, pastries, perseverance, photography, Yummy

Salvaging the spirit…

I have become a bah humbug sort of person. I don’t say that proudly, or lightly even. I grew up with a reverence for the day we celebrate the birth of Christ, and I loved making Christmas for my own kids through the years. Growing up in a big Italian family there were many treats to be had at Christmas that we didn’t see for the rest of the year. As the daughter of a fireman and a nurse I spent the major holidays at my aunt’s house, with my working parents coming and going, plus lots of relatives dropping in to visit. Special times that I couldn’t have appreciated at the time what treasured memories they would turn out to be. So when I got married and moved away I did my best to recreate the holidays I treasured. I made lasagna for Christmas dinner, something the family had switched over to some time in my preteen years when they decided that they were ITALIAN, for goodness sake, and weren’t going to duplicate the Thanksgiving dinner at Christmas anymore. I made the Italian cookies that are flavored with anise. I made strufoli, the tiny honey balls we only had at Christmas, and, when I could find it, I bought Torrone, a nougat candy that came in individual boxes that were exquisite little works of art in themselves. For many years Christmas was a wonderful time of year. But those days are long past, the kids are grown and gone, and even the grandchildren are grown. It feels like the media has taken over all aspects of life, including the holiday, and you can’t escape the pressure to be HAPPY, to spend more and more money. The meaning is lost, hence bah humbug.

With my bad attitude I have disappointed the new special person in my life who still treasures Christmas. Our first Christmas together and he didn’t expect my usual light-hearted self to just want to get this whole thing over with. We will visit his relatives for Christmas, and when a discussion of what to have for Christmas dinner came up my offer to make lasagna was accepted. That perked me up a little. It really warmed my heart when my daughter said that she is making lasagna for her crew too, and she is making strufoli for the first time in years! Now I will make strufoli too. I collected all my recipes yesterday, and my friend wanted to stop at the nice Italian deli near him, and I wondered out loud if I might find Torrone there. Boy, did I ever! Torrone in the little boxes. Torrone cut into wedges like a slice of layer cake, some topped with chocolate! Torrone packaged in the shape of Christmas trees! I stood there with my mouth open, and possibly drooling, as every where I turned I found Torrone. So, yes, I did find Torrone, and I think I might have found my Christmas spirit too.

The feature photo is a display of containers of strufoli, larger honey balls than the ones we used to make, but it made me happy to see my familiar treats. I wrote this post early yesterday, before a heart-warming (and tear-jerking) message from my daughter showed up online. I was already on my way to finding that elusive Christmas spirit, and now I’m happy to say that my strufoli is made, and my lasagna is coming together. So let me wish a Merry Christmas to all with a happy heart. And the new year? Well, there is always hope…

'scene' along the way, a second look, birds, dogs, dolphins, Florida wildlife, fun, Hudson Beach, Just do it, making memories, moon, perseverance, photography, sky, sunset, unintended images

Photobombs…

Lately I seem to be way too willing to decide that I’ll just stay home, I won’t go out for the sunrise or sunset. There are too many dark clouds, I tell myself, or the morning is kind of foggy. Last night was no exception. I was driving up Rt 19 and there were heavy dark clouds to the north, but when I turned into my street and looked towards the west I saw blue sky and nice puffy clouds. So I told myself to go out to see what I could see. That turned out to be a wise, or rather, a lucky decision.

As usual the houses on the inlet had their faces turned to the sun.
The moon was looking pretty also.
The sunset itself was doing a great job of making me happy that I came out.
It was low tide, and the rocks were exposed off the walkway, but for some reason several dolphin decided that this was the night to put in a first ever, for me at least, appearance at Hudson Beach.
Back and forth they swam. And they leaped out of the water! I have seen dolphin here and there before, and I’ve always wished for them to breech, but this was the first time I ever had a chance to try to get a picture of them in action.
Of course I wish it was a ‘better’ picture, but I did manage to get one.
Actually two!
The man standing next to me had two big golden retrievers with him, and one of them was VERY interested in what was going on in the water out there.
Even a pelican couldn’t resist a photo bomb as the color reached a peak.

When I hear all the talk among my fellow photographers about the great new cameras and/or lenses that are coming out lately, I am, momentarily at least, tempted to buy better equipment. My stuff is considered adequate, for a beginner. But if I’m honest with myself I’m really not willing to concentrate enough to master the technicalities of setting the camera, or doing more than basic editing. ‘Better’ equipment would probably have required me to change my lens when the dolphin showed up last night, and if he stuck around long enough for me to do that then I probably would have gotten better pictures. So the temptation is there, but it’s fleeting. I appreciate the freedom my current set up gives me. When the mood strikes then out the door I go, and I’m ready for whatever happens next. That feels good…

a second look, boats, fantasy images, Florida landmarks, friends, fun, learning, nothing's easy, old dogs new tricks, perseverance, photography, sunset, technology

Deja Vu…

Four years ago to the day, last Saturday to be precise, I went to my second photo walk with my ‘new’ (at the time) photo group. I saw the announcement of a photo walk to see the Dunedin Christmas Boat Parade and had to summon up all my courage to go join in with a bunch of people I didn’t know. Especially true since I was such a novice with my camera, which to me was a big deal investment, but I was barely functional with it. Lucky for me one of the group administrators set my camera up for me that day, thanks Kate. Our leader Jeff had snagged prime territory for great views of the boats as they made their way into the marina, and even provided chairs for us to sit on. A luxury I’m afraid I didn’t appreciate until 4 years later when we were faced with finding a place to shoot the scene on our own. Weighed down by equipment, and with two (really three) hours to kill before the boats would arrive, we decided to take advantage of the empty bleachers which would give us a great view of the boats arriving at the marina. Great view yes, but a challenge for photography with boats arriving and leaving and their lights overlapping, etc. The feature photo is from my iPhone as the sun was setting, and it was about 6 PM, time for the parade to begin. It took almost an hour before the boats began to arrive at the marina. A dramatic sunset filled the gap.

If we had brought chairs we may have been able to sit at the railing. On the other hand, the top row of the bleachers was a pretty good perspective over all.
The sunrise itself got a lot more dramatic than it first appeared that it would be.
The reflections were amazing…
There was a dolphin sighting…
I didn’t see a bear in the Smokies, but I saw a bear on a boat.
Boats were coming and going…
And going and coming…
Frosty was there…
A simple display created quite the reflection.
The boats came into the marina to make their turn…
Rudolph lit the way…
Some boats carried lots of people, some not so many…
Do I know what this boat was all about? No. But I included this picture because of the little girl…
And finally Santa arrived, escorted by the Pinellas sheriff department.

Even though I had advice about what settings to use for this shoot I will need more practice before I’ll be really happy with shots like these. But I was happy with the day itself. Winter in Florida can’t be beat.

'scene' along the way, a second look, adventure, Florida landmarks, friends, fun, Just do it, making memories, nature, perseverance, photography, weather

Up a lazy river…

Or maybe it was down a lazy river, but whichever way we were going there were lovely reflections, much to the delight of the assembled photographers at Hillsborough River State Park yesterday. It was all about the clear skies, cool temperatures, and light and shadows on the river. And surely all about the fun of gathering together for the first time in a long while. This is an example of a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Gnarly cypress knees were in the spotlight.
These are the rapids. Seriously, they are!
Okay, a wider view.
Such clear water.
There were lovely views up and down the river.
But the reflections especially were stunning.
Fall in Florida.
There was a rare sighting of our fearless leader Jeff, also.
Natural wonders.
This suspension bridge was built in 1934. It sways, but it’s holding it’s own.
We heard about an alligator up ahead, and he was there but facing away from us so I skipped talking a picture.
The last bridge of this modest walk of ours.

A very nice walk was followed by an equally nice lunch. What a fun way to spend a cool Florida morning…

a second look, adventure, Bayport, Florida landmarks, fun, Just do it, making memories, nature, perseverance, photography, sky, sunrise, Up and at 'em

Bayport was calling my name…

Actually I’d been hearing that call for a while now, so it was silly of me to wait until daylight savings was in effect making me rush more than I’d have had to just the week before. The weather report said cloudy all day, but I walked out my front door to check for myself and saw that there were breaks in the clouds, so off I went. I guess it goes without saying that I was glad I rousted myself out. It was a beautiful morning.

Sunrise was in full swing when I parked and got out of the car with my cell phone to get a quick picture. I never did remember to get the camera out, there just wasn’t time.
I hurried onto the dock to position myself to get this shot of the fishing boat crossing the water in front of me.
I’ve lost track now of just how long it took for this dock to be rebuilt, but it’s a boon to the fishermen and the photographers too.
It kept getting prettier.
And, as always, the pastel clouds behind me caught my eye.
The sun peeked above the trees and that seemed to be the cue for the grackles to fly in. Several of them watched the sun coming up with me.
I had expected to head to the car after the last shot, but I heard the motor of one more fishing boat heading out so I stopped for one more shot.
a second look, Amazing artwork, attention to detail, butterflies, Florida landmarks, flowers, fun, gardens, nature, perseverance, photography

Back to the botanical gardens…

Thankfully I still have my desktop computer to use while I figure out the laptop, iPad, and external drive. Which is why I didn’t worry about it and headed to the Nature Coast Botanical Garden yesterday. The first thing to see is the crane carving that is still under construction. It seemed more detailed to me, but while I was taking pictures I was hearing some loud chattering in the nearby trees. It sounded like I was being scolded, and I had to hunt before I saw who was unhappy with me. You can see him too, that’s the squirrel in the feature photo. Maybe the tree that is being carved into the statue used to be his home.

I hope they will be able to take down this yellow tape eventually, though I’d hate to see the statue damaged.
I haven’t caught a pagoda flower in it’s full glory for a while. I thought they were a particular favorite of the butterflies, but not that day.
Butterflies were in abundance though.
They didn’t pose for photos very often though.
I love these tiny purple flowers on the stalk of the plant. This moth seemed to like them too.
I know we were disappointed to not see more waterfalls while we were away last month, but the waterfall in the botanical garden seemed to be extra pretty yesterday.