Friday, February 29, 2008

Weekend Guessing Game #8 is here

It's that time of week again where I take a macro picture of something and hold a guessing game. I just do it for kicks, because well it isn't like there's a prize or anything.
This week I've been a little distracted. And tired. But enough of that already. Maybe I just rooted around my house and found something, because we all know that I haven't ventured out of my house at all, not even for a little walk. Or maybe . . . maybe my husband brought me home another one of his little presents. You never know here at my house.

So no clues. It's crazy because last weekend someone guessed correctly on the very first comment posted and the weekend before, zilch. I just don't know how difficult to make it. But hey, it's all in fun.
Know this, though: I would never post something gross. (Like something old I found growing in my frig or something dead in the woods). I just don't wanna see gross things in print. It's, well it's just yukky.
So put your thinking caps on. GAME ON now. Game ends in 24 hours. Winner will be posted by 6 PM tomorrow evening. To make a guess, hit the comment button at the bottom of this post. If you're commenting anonymously, leave your initials or first name. And remember, when you're guessing you may see the answer already there. Just guess anyway. It's always interesting to see what you can come up with. Be creative. Guess as often as you like and here's the important part: have fun!
Good luck! Can't wait to see who wins this Leap Day Guessing Game

A Gift from Nature on Leap Day

I'm starting to feel a bit better, but unbelievable as it seems, still I was not able to make it into work today. That makes a total of four days out. Everything makes me tired and it's frustrating.
But this story isn't about how I'm feeling. I'm getting real tired of that. It's about these beautiful feathers I saw on my countertop earlier this week in my delirium.
Beautiful yellow feathers, along with another deer antler. My husband had beenwalking in the woods again and he'd brought me home some presents.
He's been doing this for as long as I remember. Usually the presents are something really interesting like these feathers but I'll tell you, sometimes they're something really gross.
Like the time he pointed out to me that he'd replaced one of my candles with the skeletal head and vertebrae of some small possum-sized creature. I hadn't noticed it after about an hour, but when he finally couldn't take it anymore and told me, I realized that now I knew where that distinctive smell was coming from. And I wasn't happy. I got a towel right away and picked it up and threw it out the door. And sprayed the area. And stomped my feet. And told him never to do that again. He hasn't done anything like that since. But, like I said, he's always bringing something home. We have a pretty extensive collection of deer antlers, several different types of feathers, an oriole's nest, pieces of wood he's found interesting, and lots of odds and ends.
But back to these feathers. I wanted to get a good picture of them and today was the first time I actually picked up my camera all week. As I was taking the feathers from their spot, to set them up for a photo, I happened to glance outside and saw my first Robin of the year. In fact, my backyard was absolutely full of robins. I got the camera quickly and shot a few photos and counted 26 robins in my backyard. That was a nice gift.
So today I have a picture of the first robin to hit my neck of the woods, and my husband's feather find. It's the little things in life, isn't it?
Hey, stop back around 6 PM tonight when I hope to post this week's Guessing Game. I say I hope because well, I really don't have a picture yet. And I need to take a nap.
UPDATE: Nearly two hours after posting this, I came downstairs to find the jawbone (complete with teeth) of a small woodland creature, (possibly a vole), on my kitchen counter. *sigh*

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wow! I've won an award!

Actually, I won this award on Monday, but was so sick all week that I couldn't even acknowledge it, other than to say thank you to the giver. It's a "You Make My Day" Award and was given to me by tj, over at Humble Origins. Thanks so much, tj!

TJ has the distinction of being the very first person, outside of my family, to leave a comment on this site. Her comments are always so kind, like a blessing. And you know, she even signs them "blessings". It made me realize there really are good people out there reading what I'm writing, and looking at my pictures. So thanks, tj. You made my day and it makes me feel better just telling you that!

And now I must pass this award on to someone and there are just so many that I can think of. So many friends I've made blogging who have been helpful and kind. But I'm going to have to pick one and I'm giving this one to Kacey over at Wine on the Keyboard. Kacey makes my day with her unique ideas and well, I'm just sharin' the joy here. Congratulations, Kacey!

Down and out in Maryland

I regret to inform you that I'm still down for the count. I've been out of work the past 3 days and I don't see any hope for tomorrow, either. It's some sort of respiratory flu and I won't go into the details.

Imagine my surprise when I logged on this morning, to see all these wonderful get well wishes from all of you. Thank you so much. It actually made me feel a little better! I am typing very slow and trying not to make mistakes.

I do want to admit something awful that I did. Do you see that sweet little pup in this picture? I took this about a month ago, but I yelled at that little pup today. He has been trying to help me by bringing me squeeky toys and things, I guess, that make him happy. He just lays them on top of me and backs up. So I'm laying here with squeeky toys on me. Some are wet from outside. But today he jumped on my bed and he was wet and I yelled at him to get down and go away. He sulked out the bedroom and down the steps. I felt awful.

But he's over it now. I think I am, too.
Once again, thanks for your well wishes. I'll be back soon. I just don't know when . . .

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Just a quick hello

I didn't want to let a whole day go by and not post, but I'm just not feeling well. And it's getting on my nerves. It's difficult to think and even my hair hurts. How does that happen?
I've actually taken a sick day from work. And I rarely take sick days.
Anyway, I'm posting this dark and dreary photo of an angel wing begonia. Actually, I think it's an angel wing, but like I said: it's difficult to think.
I'll return when I feel a little bit better. Have a good Tuesday everyone.

Monday, February 25, 2008

And the winner is . . .

I'm waiting for The Oscars to begin and reflecting on the peaceful day I spent.

My husband and I sat outside in the sun today and read for awhile until the wind picked up and it started feeling too cold. Then we came inside and I checked my mail and was on the computer for a bit.

I checked Pioneer Woman's blog and clicked on this advertisement for and played with that.

Rocketlife is a pretty cool site that turns your photos into all sorts of useful items. They've got photo books, calendars, notecards and lots of other things. They claim that you can make an entire photo book in two minutes. And using the site today, I can honestly believe it.

They've got an automated feature that sorts through all the colors of your pictures and seems to be able to differentiate birds from dogs from feathers (I don't know how it's done) and it assembles everything into professionally laid out pages that look like they took days to create.

For photo books, I've used both the Kodak Share program (which I really don't prefer) and Shutterfly (which I really do). The problem with each is that it takes ages to upload your photos into the program. Shutterfly has so many more background and layout options than the Kodak program and I have also tried Lulu, but it's not as user friendly as the other two.

Rockletlife uploaded my pictures (and mind you, I have dial-up) in less than one minute. 75 pictures in one minute! I don't understand it. Nor do I know where they went, but hey, I can upload all of them again in less than a minute, so I don't care. Has anyone out there tried Rocketlife yet?

Oh, the bird pictures. You must have realized by now that they have absolutely nothing to do with this post. But for your viewing pleasure, I have chosen to feature an American Goldfinch, a House Finch, and a Red-Winged Blackbird. I wouldn't wanna mess with that last one. His sharp little bill looks like it could do some harm.

Gotta go. The show is starting.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Here comes the sun

All week long, I've been hoping for the feel of the sun on my face, and finally, today it happened. I'm so glad that the sun is shining on my husband's only day off from work during the week. During breeding season, he gets one day off and Sunday is it. But this story isn't about him.
It's about how happy George is when we're both home. He is positively exhuberant when we're all together.
My husband throws the frisbee for him and George loves trying to catch it in mid-air. Mostly he misses, but every now and then he gets it (although not for the camera) and we both cheer. George knows he's done something special when we cheer.
He crouches down low awaiting his command, just like you've seen the Border Collies do on TV, and then he's off like a rocket, then jumping for that frisbee.
Unfortunately, he's way too quick for my camera. But some day, I hope to have a decent photo of him catching his prize.
This funny sculpture in our backyard is my husband's toy tee-pee. It's made of sticks that my husband has found during walks, and they're all shaped into a tee-pee. Then George's toys are added into the mix. For some reason, George likes this creation my husband made for him. He picks the toys out that he wants to play with, and it seems to keep him busy for a bit.
If you sit in certain places in our backyard, where you're protected by the wind, it actually feels quite warm. The sun on your face, the warmth in your heart, well it's everything I think a nice relaxing Sunday should be. You can read your book out there, enjoy a little glass of wine, and today I actually had to put on sunscreen! Hoping you're all enjoying your Sundays! Amen.

Hiding Place

Darling, let me touch your face

and let your skin be my hiding place

I promise I won't take up

too much room.

Darling, can I touch your face

Let your eyes fall to love's embrace.

Forever isn't far, it's coming soon.

Serena Ryder ~ Hiding Place

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fungi and lichen: perfect together

My sister, Char, and her family will 'get' the title of this post because it's also one of their family jokes. They have a lot of family jokes.
Years ago, there was a certain governor of New Jersey, who coined the phrase (said with a slightly nasal Joisey accent, and a slight lisp) "New Jersey and You: Perfect Together". So everything in their house is now "something and you: perfect together". Like "plaid and paisley: perfect together". Although I could never imagine plaid and paisley EVER being perfect together.
I'm posting these pictures because, although they're lichen and fungi, I still think they're beautiful. I took them in December after a rain, during a warm spell we were having at the time. I had just started blogging, and had also just purchased my new macro lens and had gone for a walk and came home and wrote this post.
I love how the pale green color of the moss looks against the rain-darkened wood of the tree. The carmel color of the fungi is interesting, too. And I just wanted to post something different and quiet today.
No offense was meant to anyone from New Jersey who happens to read this post. I'm from Jersey. And I'm PROUD of it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Winner announced for Weekend Guessing Game #7

This week's winner is JEN who guessed correctly that this is picture is a PISTACIO nut.
I couldn't believe that someone guessed it on the very first try!
Jen lives in Iowa and is engaged to Aaron. She's also mom to two children named Nate (aged 3 1/2) and Sammi (aged 1 1/2). You can visit Jen's blog and congratulate her yourself!

I've been hosting this guessing game for 2 months now and after playing one at Midlife by Farmlight this week, I think my game needs to a little more fine-tuned. I liked when Jeannelle commented that someone was 'getting close'. But on the other hand, I don't want to be tied to the computer all the time. I'm on it enough already! Usually I post a winner the next day and let people keep guessing even though the answer is already there. But I think it's time to stop when the answer appears, don't you?

Here's the original picture. Thanks to all who played this week. And Jen, enjoy the fame that winning this contest will surely bring you! Ha.

Weekend Guessing Game #7 is here

It's that time of week where I take a macro picture of something and hold a guessing game. It's just for kicks, mostly because there's no prize. The prize is the fame that can only come from winning this contest. Oh, yeah.

I'll only give one clue and that is that I didn't find this in the woods. The woods are full of ice and snow today, anyway. I'll say this, as well: I think it's way too easy!

So GAME ON now. Game ends by 6 PM tomorrow evening or until someone guesses correctly. I'll post the answer as a comment as soon as I see the correct one. If I happen to check. Ok. I'll try to check.

Good luck!
UPDATE: We have a winner. See comments. I'll announce later in post.

Cold Hands, Warm House

I got the call this morning that school was cancelled and since I work there, I've got a snow day. I'm stuck inside because it's raining ice and I'm feeling just a little bad because my husband is outside working in this weather. There's horses to be fed and broodmares to be bred, and someone's got to do it. But like I said, I'm feeling a little bad that I'm inside warm and dry. The key word being little. Oops. Did I say that out loud?
I've been somewhat constructive today. After breakfast, I took George out for what I thought would be a nice big walk. I mean, the snow isn't deep. So I put on my Sorrel boots, bundled up and grabbed the camera. We got about half-way down the hill when it started lightly raining ice again, but I kept going. After walking around the pond and along the fencerow on the other side towards the woods, my boots started dragging and my spirit started slagging. What is up with this rhyming???

Finally, I called it quits when the drops began getting heavier and I began to get worried about the camera which I'd been trying to keep covered. I'd only shot a couple pictures of George by the time I tromped all the way back to the house. Before we left, I'd made sure to fill all the bird feeders and by the time we got back up the hill, I could see backyard was filled with lots of birds. I saw red-wing blackbirds, chicadees, tuted titmice, goldfiches, finches and cardinals.

I shot these pictures through my sliding glass door. I was hoping for a male and a female cardinal and was about to give up, when lo and behold, two cardinals appeared.
I got some really nice shots and spent some time playing with them in Photoshop. After lunch, I'm planning on cleaning out my walk-in closet and after that, I'm creating a filing storage system for all my pictures.

Not really.

What I'm really going to be doing is having a hot cup of tea and reading for awhile. Then I just may make some soup. And take a nap.

It is a snow day, after all.
Hope you like my bird photos!

The Secret of My Success

I've been thinking a lot lately about being successful in life. I don't know why, maybe it's just my age but it's a thought that seems to crop up more and more. When I was a young child, I remember my mother saying these words to our father, after she told us that she was going to have another baby. I was the eldest, and we always seemed to have no shortage of babies. (Two sets of twins in a row, no less!) Anyway, my mother said to my father, "Oh, Clarke, another child! We're getting richer every day." By saying this, my mother instilled in me the knowledge that richness wasn't monetary wealth. It's how much love is in your home. And growing up, our home was full of love.
Oh, boy, was it ever!
I received a thank-you note from good friends today who live in Pie Town, NM. I love the name of their town. They also sent a little magnet, with this inscribed on it. I think it's seredipitous that it arrived today. I'd been thinking of them a lot lately, as well as the subject matter to follow.
"To laugh often and love much;
to win the respect of intellectual persons and the adoration of children;
to earn the approbation of learned critics and to endure the betrayal of fake friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to give of one's self;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;
to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived -- this is to have succeeded."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I just felt better having read this. My heart goes out to my friends who are so far away.
Big storm a-headed our way, according to all the weather reports. Not so much with the snow, but it's ice that's a-comin'. I just hope we don't lose power because it's awfully cold out there. I am looking forward to the possibility of a snow day and since I work at a school, I get snow days.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Adventures in Photography

I've got to tell you, if you've never been to Pioneer Woman's site, you really need to get over there. I'm sure that most people who visit my blog have seen Ree's, with her gorgeous photos and very well-written stories. I love visiting there every day since I found it just over a year ago on StumbleUpon where I'd entered that my interests included photography.
What I'm really excited about is her new Photography section that's beginning March 1st. Today, on her post, she gave us a sneak preview of it. I found it really interesting. She's planning on starting at the very beginning level on March 1 and going from there. I've already learned so much from her. What I'm also hoping is that her generous heart gives out some free downloads of some of the 'actions' she uses. It wouldn't surprise me if she did this.
I took these photos at Shenandoah National Park last summer using my old camera, the little Sony Cybershot point & shoot. I also have a gorgeous Nikon N60 SLR (film), but it's been in storage ever since digital took off for me. I photoshopped these pictures just a little bit, sharpening them up some and lightening where necessary, adding some contrast. Oh, and the borders. The butterflies aren't anything special, but they're nice to see. I'm not sure what kind of lily this is. We found it growing along the edge of the woods by the parking area to one of the trails.
Late this afternoon, it began to snow and so far we've got a couple of inches on the ground. We haven't had a snow day yet from school this year, and frankly I don't think this is going to do it. What is surprising is that a little snowfall like this has made the local news in Baltimore.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Chance Encounter in My Hall of Shame

This doe doesn't have anything to do with this tale. She's an innocent who simply stirred up a memory today.
I took this photo of her with my old Sony Cybershot while visiting Shenandoah National Park last summer. The deer are pretty tame there, and if you've never been, you really need to visit the Skyline Drive that runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains next time you're in Virginia. But I digress.
I do that alot.

What this story is about has to do with the fact that we all do things that are just downright embarassing sometimes. And the memory I had today was no exception. Even though there wasn't anyone around to see, there COULD have been and then it would have been much worse . . .

A few years back, I was walking our former dog, Ralph, in the woods. Like George, Ralph was also a fine specimen of a border collie and he did love his walks. Although he was getting on in years, he still had a bit of a spring in his step. We were returning from a long walk and were still about a mile from our house. As anyone who takes long walks after drinking several cups of coffee knows, a person sometimes has to use the facilities. And when there are none to be found, we must make do in the woods. For the menfolk, this is easy. But we ladies have to find the right place. I quickly found my ladies room right next to a fence, at the edge of a stand of trees, but hidden. What I didn't know at the time was that I was actually right on top of one of the myriad paths that deer use regularly through the fields and the woods.

When I was finished, and still crouching down, I heard a crashing noise. It was getting louder and coming straight my way. I quickly thought about getting up and getting out of there, maybe backing into the trees, but in heaven's name, I'm glad I didn't. As I sat crouched (sorry for the mental picture, people) what happened next was shocking. A huge buck with a big rack BOUNDED right over top of me and went right over the fence and just. Kept. Going. It happened in an instant and probably took all of 5 seconds from the first time I'd heard the noise in the woods. And I had been sitting right smack in the middle of his path over the fence and he didn't see me until it was too late. If I had stood up, that buck would have crashed right into me.

I would have been knocked unconscious. Or killed!

And they would have found me there. With my jeans pulled down to my ankles.

I'm so glad I didn't stand up . . .

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Convertibles and motorcycles

First, I want to say to everyone who is still suffering with the cold weather that still has much of this country in its icy grip that I'm sorry. I'm sorry, but it went up to 60 degrees here in Maryland today and I still can't believe it.
The best I can do is share with this you and not gloat. So I will not. Gloat, that is. Today, people were in short sleeves and light jackets and motorcycles were all over the place and some folks were even riding in convertibles.
Actually, the people in this particular convertible were two of my friends that I had lunch with today. School was closed for the holiday, so we all met and headed for The Olive Garden. I love that you can get a very good lunch and a drink for under ten dollars.
The view with the adirondak chairs is from my friend, NANCY'S house. She lives on a river. And today, the clouds were white and puffy and the sky was a gorgeous blue.
All too soon, it faded, for around 4 PM, the wind kicked up, the temperature dropped and now it's raining and chilly. Still, it isn't snow and it isn't terribly cold.
I think the day we had today was just what everyone needed. It made us feel like Spring really is coming. And pretty soon, you'll be feeling it, too. One can only hope . . .

Monday, February 18, 2008

The wonderful world of color

I'm old enough to remember watching TV when it was in black & white. And I remember watching Walt Disney on Sunday nights. When the show moved to CBS and went to color, the creators changed the name of the show to Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color.

Time for some color in this blog. The last couple of posts have either been black & white or the grey of the water at the wildlife refuge. I plan on celebrating the anticipation of Spring. Because, well, I just know that it's coming.

I long for the warmth of the sun on my face, and the gentle breezes and scents of April. Don't you miss how the earth smells in the Spring? So I figure that if I post some colorful pictures here on the site, it'll help us all to remember the warmth of the weather that we all know is on its way.

The temperature in this area is slated to reach 60 degrees tomorrow. I'll believe it when I feel it. It's supposed to rain, too. But that's ok. At least it won't be so cold.

Here's hoping that Spring comes soon.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Black & White Challenge, Revisited

The other day, Kacey over at Wine on the Keyboard, issued a B&W Challenge. Just a little get-together, I guess, to share B&W photos. On my previous challenge post, I did two people photos. This time, I'm doing things that lend themselves to B&W. Well, at least they do in my eye. They'r'e practically black & white to begin with, so it's not much of a stretch.
Regardless, for the weathervane shot, it was a grey day and I just brightened it up a bit with photoshop. Looking at it now on the site, I think I should've straightened it up a wee bit, but I'm going to be lazy and not.
OMG, that e-trade commercial is on the television right now with that baby that sits in front of the camera and talks about stocks and how he had enough money leftover to rent the clown in his bedroom, BoBo. How weird is that commercial?
Ok, what was I saying?
The second photo is of George, our pup. He's well, he's already black & white. So I desaturated the photos (control+shift+u) and then I put borders around each, with a soft edge inside of them. Instructions are on the previous post. On the pup pic, I used Tracey's suggestion of making the white areas glow, and I lowered the opacity somewhat. I found her suggestion on the original challenge at Wine on the Keyboard.
Have a lovely evening everyone.

Slow Day at the Wildlife Refuge

Gray skies, cold weather and winds this morning left me feeling like taking a drive somewhere and when the wildlife refuge was brought up, I said okay. Usually it's a yawnfest for me because I'm not the birder in the family. But I've got a good camera and a zoom lens and so I don't mind it so much these days. We haven't been there since I last posted about it, which was around the holidays. That time I got lucky and took a great photo of a fox, as well as a great blue heron in flight. Today, however, there was nothing going on while we were there. We did see a couple of Buffleheads, both a male and a female. The male is unmistakable with the big triangle of white on his head. The female was paddling against the current and holding her own with it, going under to eat and coming back up. Buffleheads are most frequently encountered in wintertime, and I read that they're really quite tame and have a spirited disposition. When they're in flight, they're very fast with rapid wingbeats. Aren't you glad you learned all this? Geez, I'm a fount of information here with my husband's bird books. Where's that tea I poured? I'm still freezing . . .

Full of surprises

Late yesterday afternoon, while I was on the computer playing with b&w photos and working on a post, my husband was busy with something outside. I figured he was picking up puppy toys and straightening up out there. It was about 35 degrees, pretty warm actually, but the best part was there was no wind. The back of our house faces south, so it's nice and sunny on this side. Eventually, I looked outside and saw him sitting in one of the adirondak chairs over by the fence. Huh? And then I saw that he had built a nice fire. I love a campfire! So I got bundled up and poured a glass of chardonnay and before heading outside, changed the lens on my camera to the all-purpose one I use.
It was so nice to sit around the fire, watch the birds coming to the feeder, the horses and the sunset. I took some photos of the view over our garden to the neighboring farm, and the sunset. Really beautiful. I like when he surprises me like that. It's one of the reasons I love him.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Birds of a Feather

I love my macro lens. This is a photo I took this evening of a BLUE JAY FEATHER my husband brought home yesterday. He's always bringing me little gifts from the woods. Once in a while, they're really weird, but always, they're interesting. But I digress (here I go again).

This is really a story about a COOPER'S HAWK that my husband met the other morning.

He and a co-worker came into the main barn early yesterday morning, opening one of the wide side-opening doors wide. They turned on the lights and my husband went towards the other end of the barn, and in doing so, spooked up a Cooper's Hawk, who took off and flew directly over his co-workers head then turned around and exited through the door my husband had just opened.
He said the hawk came so close to him, he could almost touch it. He also said it was the most interesting thing that happened all day (he really said all week), but I can understand that sentiment. It's not every day that a bird of that cliber comes so close to you.
I would have been in awe.

Sorry, there's no winner for WGG #6

Sorry, no one guessed correctly this week. The answer is a PRETZEL ROD. I guess I should have given a better clue, like it was edible. Some of the guesses were outrageous, though. But I hate to see that it was so vexing to some.

People said it was carmelized and it was, sort of. It was a glaze put on pretzels to hold the salt on. I had some really sharp photos of the salt and as soon as I saw them, I knew they were a dead giveaway. So I used the blurry salt pieces. One person said it was baked, and it was. A pretzel is baked.

I'll try to make it a little easier next week. Maybe. Well, I'll think about it.

Black & White Challenge

Kacey, over at Wine on the Keyboard has issued a Black & White Challenge for the weekend and I've been playing around with it, but am sort of confused. I've tried following her advice directly from Scott Kelby and have also fooled around with one of the commenters suggestions to make the white area "glow" but wasn't satisfied with the results.
The first photo is of my youngest son, Shaun. He plays piano and he blows me away with his ability.
The second photo is my beautiful neice, Kim who you may remember from a previous post.
And I've been working on this for awhile now. I take my photos in color with my digital camera. And I'm converting them to black & white in Photoshop CS2. In my CS2 book, Scott Kelby tells me to convert to black white by choosing the Cannel Mixer from the Create New Adjustment Layer pop-up menu at the bottom of the Layers palette. Then when the dialog appears, to click on the Monochrome checkbox and click OK. But I'm telling you, I can get better results by just desaturating the image by going into Image>Adjustments>Desaturate (control+shift+U).
So here's my challenge pictures. But really, it wasn't a challenge because it feels like I'm cheating. I did add an effect that I learned on Pioneer Woman which is the black border with a soft effect around the edge. I did this by going into Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves. Drag the slider down to an output of about 16 and click on OK. Then take your Rectangular Marquee tool and draw a thin box around the whole photo. Then hit Control+Backspace. Then go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and up it to 250 or much less, depending on the effect you want.
I used pictures I've taken of PEOPLE rather than things. I like the B&W effect on people.

Watermelon, Feta, and Olive Salad

Yes, I know it sounds strange. But it's really not. It's a surprising mix of ingredients that truly tastes good together. And after the indulgences of this week, it's much healthier to eat this than what I really wanted. I'd been on the go all day, having to leave the house at 8:30 to drive to a check-up appointment for my beloved Honda Element. What should have taken a half hour took over an hour, but I was okay with that. I don't like the Honda waiting room, so I trek way across the parking lot through the cold to get to the Accura waiting room where the leather couches await, the Starbucks coffee, and the refrigerator full of chilled water. It's not that I'm an elitist or anything. I just like being comfortable.
Then on to run my errands and get some things I've run out of. Driving home afterwards, I realized I was missing my girlfriends, Karen and Adrienne. So I called each one of them just to hear their voices, and they were going shopping together. And I love shopping, but I live all the way out here and I'm heading home because I've got things to do. I started to feel really sad, so I stopped again to my favorite store outside of Smyrna, DE. It's Willey's Market and they've got so many lovely things, and lots of excellent produce. But best of all, they've got a greenhouse and I took my time strolling through it and wishing I had brought my camera. I was looking for a calla lily, but couldn't find one. When I checked out the produce section, I saw there was a big display of watermelon. Fresh, pink watermelon all sliced up for sampling, and there were a lot of people eating and smiling, so I tried some. And that's when I knew what I was going to make for lunch.

This recipe comes from a book I have called "The Skinny: How to Fit in your Little Black Dress Forever". The juxtaposition of cool, sweet watermlon and the salty olives and feta makes a very satisfying lunch or snack, says the book. Now, it won't last more than a couple hours after you make it because of the properties of the watermelon. So just make enough to eat without putting any aside.
Here's the recipe:
Watermelon, Feta, and Olive Salad
2 cups watermelon, cut into small chunks
1 1/2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/3 cup)
2 Tbsp. chopped, pitted kalamata olives
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs,
such as basil or oregano (optional)
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Toss the watermelon, cheese, olives, oil, and if desired, herbs together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.
I feel like it's summertime when I eat this. And suddenly, I'm feeling better about my day. This salad has a surprising taste. Try it and let me know what you think!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Weekend Guessing Game #6

It's that time again when I invite you to look at this photo and try to guess what the heck it could be. Here's how it works. If you think you know what this item is, or even if you don't, hit the comment tab at the bottom of this post and guess the answer. Oneguess per comment, as many times as you want. If you guess anonymously, please leave your initial or name, so I'll know who you are.
I hope I didn't make it too hard, but after someone guessed last week within 10 minutes of my having posted, I figured it was time to get tough.
No clues this week. It could be anything. Oh, was that a clue? I know you're wondering if I found it outside . . . or inside . . . or is it part of something . . . well, guess on. Because I'm not telling.
Game on as of now, 6 PM Friday night, Eastern Standard Time. Winner will be announced later tomorrow afternoon by 6 PM. The first person to guess the correct answer is the winner. There's no prize other than the fame and notoriety that winning this game can only bring. So be prepared for the fame.
Not really.

Weekend Guessing Game

Stop back this evening around 6 PM when I post this weekend's Guessing Game. I think it'll be a tough one.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine's Day Story

When I started this blog, I told myself I'd never publish a post involving my workplace, and then something happened today that just made me feel good. And I wanted to share it with you. All day long at the school, delivery persons were bringing Valentine surprises for faculty and students alike. And then, at the end of the day, when most of the teachers had already left, an elderly gentleman who I recognized from one of the better florists showed up, out of breath, but seemingly proud of himself that he had arrived 'on time'. I didn't have the heart to tell him that the recipients had already left for the day and thanked him, telling him I'd call the teacher over the intercom right away. I did, but to no avail. She'd already gone. Some of you readers may remember ALISA from a previous post when she won one of the Weekend Guessing Games. And when I called her on her cell, she was well on her way home. I told her about the delivery and when she asked me if she should return, I told her that yes, it would be worth it if she did. You see, Alisa's husband Steven is in Iraq and I knew these gifts must be from him. I got the little school camera ready because I knew he would appreciate it if he could actually see his children and his wife and their reactions to the lovely bouquets of flowers he'd so thoughtfully sent. To each of his girls, Courtney and Grace, he sent a single lilac-colored presentation rose, and to his son, Chris, a box of candy with the instructions that he should "share this with your sisters, now." And to his wife, my co-worker and friend, Alisa, the biggest bouquet of red roses that I'd seen all day. The look on their faces alone made me realize how much I enjoy this little holiday. Its positive message of love makes me feel good. I hope it does you, as well.