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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, Amazing artwork, attention to detail, black and white, blessings, exploring new places, Florida landmarks, fun, Just do it, making memories, natural wonders, nature, on closer examination, perseverance, photography

Clyde Butcher…

Even though I had lived in Florida for eight or so years, I don’t think I became acquainted with the name Clyde Butcher, or his incredible photographs, until I joined my photo group four years ago. Florida Center for Creative Photography, which has taken over my life in a very good and welcome way. When I saw mentions of Clyde Butcher I think I nodded knowingly, to cover my uneducated rear end, and then looked at his wonderful images online. He has published books also, and he has a studio in Venice, Florida, which I am belatedly hoping to visit.

I took these pictures a couple of weeks ago, intending to write a post about them so that anyone who visits the area, (yes, you Maddie), might choose to stop in at the Clearwater Library to see these images for themselves. Though seeing his images online is wonderful, until you have stood next to an image that is taller than you are, or ones that are 9 feet long, you can’t begin to imagine how incredible they really are. And to see what he goes through to take the images and produce such amazing prints is just as incredible as the images themselves. When I took these pictures they looked great in the iPhone, it’s only now that I see all the reflections in them, but I hope it’s enough to whet the appetite to see them for yourself. Perhaps at his studio if you are in the area, or in the library in Clearwater. The display runs through May 2022.

adventure, attention to detail, butterflies, exploring new places, Florida landmarks, flowers, friends, fun, gardens, Just do it, making memories, nature, perseverance, photography

A new botanical garden…

If you spend enough time drinking coffee and talking about what to do that day you might find yourself thinking that it’s too late to do anything. Photography is better when you can take advantage of the softer light around sunrise and sunset, but this day we decided on a noon-time trip to the botanical garden at the University of South Florida. There was lots of pretty scenery, and welcome shade on this December day in Florida when the temperature reached 86.

A doorway to draw you in.
I just love the graceful branches of the live oaks we have here.
This particular trunk bent to touch the ground again before it rose toward the sky. At the base of the trunk a succulent garden has erupted.
This angle didn’t show that last tree the way I hoped it would. Possibly the plants are bromeliads.
I wonder what they feed their cows at USF?
“Study nature. Love nature. Stay close to Nature. It will never let you down.”
When I took this picture I thought I’d comment that no one was home. But seeing it in the computer has me seeing two eyes, a nose, and a great big yawn.
You never know who you’ll meet when you head out the door.
Angle Trumpets fascinate me.
I satisfied my curiosity about what the inside of the flower looks like by taking a ‘selfie’ of it.
This is my favorite from the orchid garden.
Hibiscus is always tempting to photograph.
Loved this pretty flower.
Not the best picture of this tiny white butterfly on an equally tiny white flower. But on closer examination I was amazed to see the the ‘eyes’ on the wings.
My current idea of a dream home is a little cottage on a lake. Maybe looking like one of these.
Blue sky, a shady path, and a lovely gazebo to call your name.
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The Immersive Van Gogh Experience…

I missed the opportunity to see this exhibit in Tampa, so when I saw that it was coming to Orlando I wasted no time snagging two tickets. This was months ago, and it turned out to be conveniently timed to be a birthday present for my friend. Upon arrival we were delighted to find easy parking close to the doors of the venue, and then we walked over a mile (round trip) to the actual location within the convention center. When we finally arrived I was disappointed to find ourselves standing in the room, with people between us and the displays on all four walls surrounding us. But, as you can see, in looking at my pictures it was the ones that included those people that I liked the most, to show the experience rather than trying to do justice to the artwork itself. In the feature photo you see the people sitting on a bench, enjoying the view. We eventually took over that bench, and I wonder if we are now front and center in other people’s photos. Thank goodness for the iPhone, 11 pro max, which I knew would handle the low light situation perfectly. What a fun experience.

Just as each scene came into full color the images would begin to dissolve into another beautiful scene.
You could look in any direction and be amazed at what you were seeing.
Phones were the preferred cameras of the day.
The scenes wrapped around the corners of the room. As the scenes changed I found myself a bit dizzy as the floor seemed to be moving. It was good to sit on the bench.
Of course, when I could I tried to fill my shot with the beautiful paintings.
Beautiful blossoms.
More endless hallways.
A little cottage, my dream house.
You can even see the brushstrokes in some of these images.
The final images.
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Sanding Ovations…

I have always wanted to see the sand sculpture event at the beach, but something always prevented me from heading to Treasure Island. And it was not on my mind at 2 AM on Friday when I walked out the front door to look for the lunar eclipse and got rained on. I hadn’t seen a notice that the sand sculptures were even happening, but, lucky for me, my friend did, and off we went. You can see from the pictures that it was a perfect day, hot in the sun but with a wonderful breeze to cool you off and keep the kites aloft. Traffic was surprisingly light driving there, and I was delighted that I had easy access to the sculptures without people in the way. I neglected to notice all the commotion in the background of my pictures while I was taking them. And with the tools in Lightroom and Photoshop I could have knocked my head against the wall trying to remove them, or I could not worry about it and assure myself that I’m presenting an accurate picture of the event. But I’m sure there are lots more people and distractions going on today and tomorrow as the event reaches full swing.

You can see that this is a work in progress. I have no idea when the judging will take place, but I was blissfully unaware of the unfinished aspects of some of the sculptures while I took pictures. They will be on display through the holidays, barring weather related damage. This one is Neptune’s Organ.
Lest you worry about my hydration during this event you’ll be happy to know that we drank Liquid Death while we walked around. At one point I was holding two cans of this when a gentleman asked me how my drink was, and was disappointed to realize it was water. Not even fizzy water. Many people probably shook their heads over this old two-fisted drinker.
This ” tort-a-potty” was one of the first stops of the day.
I didn’t catch the name of this one, something about a mermaid trapped in the kelp.
The DJ was playing some really fun music as we walked around, and he announced that someone had just told him that since he was located beside a sculpture named ‘whale wash’ then he ought to play Car Wash, and he did!
This one was Pilotfish. Those portholes were actually openings to the other side, with different faces looking out on that side.
The hiney on this one caught my eye so I took this picture. As the day went on there were plenty of bikini clad gals walking around showing almost as much hiney as this.
I made it a point to take another photo of that last sculpture and totally missed seeing that he was kissing that scuba guy kite who hovered over us all day.
This is the pregnant mermaid. I love that the little toy rocking horse is actually a sea horse.
Biting the arm that feeds you.
A mighty battle…
The flip side of the battle sculpture was this fresh fish sign.
When you don’t pay attention to the activity in the background you might wind up with a picture you could title “Off With His Head”.
This castle sculpture was placed at the far end of all the sculptures, and was the biggest and most elaborate. I was happy that I could crop the photo and only have a couple of people in it. For scale, LOL, but not really.
This might have been the more interesting view of that castle sculpture, if not for the tools of the trade all on display. I’m surprised that they didn’t show when I took the picture from the other side.

You can certainly tell which photos were taken with the sun behind the sculptures and which had the sun on their faces. As usual I was happy to be out talking pictures in such a fun environment, it’s only when I look at the pictures later that the details of backgrounds and shadows really hit me over the head. But there was so much going on, rows and rows of vendors and a great selection of really good food to choose to eat, that I just happily clicked away. It might be worth another trip next Friday…

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.