Thursday, July 31, 2008

The place I call home

Aside from a hair appointment around noon and a quick stop at the school to do a couple of things I had left hanging last week, my day today was a quiet one. Of course, there was the daily Big Walk with George, and boy howdy, was it ever humid this morning.
I took these shots this evening after dinner. As most of you know, we just moved into this home. I will come out and say it again that we've never actually owned our own home and it's one thing that I plan on doing in this life, but with my husband's profession, equestrian management, you live on the farm where you are employed and are provided a house with paid utilities.
The home in which we are living at the moment is a sturdy place with some character and was probably constructed in the 50's. It's situated in a semi-private location on the farm at the edge of the woods, the floors are hardwood, the appliances are quite good and although the kitchen floor is a bit dodgy, the house itself is quite nice. It's a ranch home and it has 3 sets of sliding glass doors, two of which lead to small garden areas on the shady side of the house. The pictures here are of this side. I know it looks small, but there's a whole other section on the other side!
Here's the little rock patio that that I've been working on. When we arrived, it was nearly covered with grass and weeds, but you could see that a partially completed rock patio was underneath. I see George has left two of his fetch sticks on the ground there on the right. He has favorite fetch sticks that he keeps in the yard.

The gardens aren't much at all, other than some hostas. In my mind, though, I see ferns and other plants to make it more interesting, but that will come later. The other set of sliding glass doors is off the master bedroom. The frame around this set is in need of repair and the carpenter is coming tomorrow, so I don't want to show you that yet. The house also has a garage, which we've never had before.

When we moved, we did it quickly. My husband lost his job on a Friday, got another job the following Friday and we moved the Friday after that. I rolled with it all, packing like crazy along with him but when we got here, I realized that I had so much work to do just decorating our new place. So, using what I already had and trying to make it look beautiful has been somewhat challenging, but I think I've done it. And this morning, while surfing on the blogosphere (yes, Kacey, I like that word, too!) and reading Donna Boucher's Quite Life blog, I found a link that I found interesting. If you're into decorating, or even if you just enjoy treating your senses to beautiful rooms, or perhaps you'd like to be inspired, please visit this cool link. It's a blog called The Inspired Room and on it, I found a link to a fun picture quiz to help determine your decorating style. Fun!

I've still got some things on my list to accomplish this week, and my friends are coming this weekend to stay overnight. I love when they come. They're so much fun!

Until tomorrow, my friends.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sharing my flowers and a sale at Totally Rad

After the big walk with George this morning, I put the macro lens on my camera and went back out to take pictures of things I'd spied on the way. There were little things, like mushrooms and little flowers, all near my house. Then I spent hours afterwards, working on pictures and felt like a total slug, so I decided to finish work on the stone patio outside the kitchen sliding glass door.
When we moved here, this area around the shady side of the house was rather neglected. There was a little stone patio that had been started by the previous owner, but grass had taken over in all the cracks and open spaces. I'm trying to turn it into something that looks a lot better, and I don't mind sweating, hauling rock and getting dirty.
I also took a quick trip up to the garden center again, picked up a few plants for the shade, and planted them. The pictures posted here are ones I took of our sunflowers before we moved. No, I'm not reminiscing or anything, just sharing my flowers.
For those who are into Photoshop, specifically actions, Doug and Chenin Boutwell at Totally Rad Actions are having a sale until August 3. They're celebrating the fact that they've won Best Actions at Blu's Daily Blog. Sets are 25% off and I'm telling you, if I hadn't spent money on new curtains and a rug for this place, I would be right on this sale. I'd also be thinking of buying one of those cool downloadable sites on that blog. So I'm putting it out there for you. Check it out!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My vacation week begins

Today I didn't stop. I have the week off and originally we'd planned on taking a trip to the Maine coast and visiting Acadia National Park, but with circumstances as they are, that won't be happening. There's always next year. In fact, the very day that my husband was terminated from his former job, was the very day I was mailing our check to the realty office in Maine. At the time, I didn't understand why they needed a check. This was a different realty company we were using and for some reason, they wanted a paper check rather than using our Visa card. Things happen for a reason, don't they?
Regardless, I've got the week off and a list about a quarter of a mile long to accomplish. At the end of the week, our friends are coming to spend the weekend and that makes me happy. I'm planning on making some special treats, using recipes I saw over on Pioneer Woman's cooking site. I'll let you know how they turn out.
Like I was saying, today was busy. I took George out for the Big Morning Walk and he spooked up a wild turkey who's been hanging out on the farm for some reason. Then I ran some errands and afterwards, took my son (he's doing much better, by the way) over to his apartment to pack and help him move his stuff out by Thursday. He was told by the doctors not to do anything strenuous for the next two weeks, so after we packed, I hefted all the stuff out to the car and packed it carefully. Everything fit in our Honda Element with the seats folded up to the sides. The bad thing was that his apartment is on the third floor. And there's no elevator.
The good thing is that my son is well. Let's look at it that way, shall we?
When we got home, I unpacked and then sorted out where everything was going to go. Hung up some pictures on the walls, put up a shelf up in the laundry area, then finished a quilt I'm making, tilled the garden and basted the turkey I had in the oven.
I am so kidding about the last three items. Ha!
By the time 4 pm rolled around, I was exhausted and so I sat down on the couch with my feet up and pulled out a book I'm reading and of course, of course, this is the position my husband finds me in when he comes home. Never fails! Not that he said anything, mind you. But I think he was thikin' it!
The pictures in this post are of my favorite dog taken on Sunday evening, right after the big rainstorm. I went out looking for rainbows but didn't see any. I did see a beautiful happy dog, however!
Until tomorrow, my friends.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A real find!

Yesterday, after a morning spent weeding around the new house and getting all the weeds out of three big flower tubs, I decided to venture out to find some flowers to fill the tubs. I was hoping to get some annuals at a good discount because after all, it is the end of July. I headed to a shop that's about 10 minutes away from my home, thinking that it was probably going to be pretty pricey. It's one I'd seen before, a long time ago when I used to work in this area. It's family-owned and run and there was a small sign out front declaring annuals to be 50% off.

When I got out of the car, I was greeted at the door by a big beautiful turkey. I asked the owner's permission to take a picture and she answered, "sure!" So I walked back to the car to get my camera which still had the macro lens on it, came back and got as close to him as I could and he actually stood and posed for me for a bit.

This nursery is beautiful, with all sorts of delights for the senses. There's a gift shop there as well, but I didn't have time to browse. Rain was coming and I wanted to get home quickly. I ended up buying 3 huge hanging baskets that were only $10 apiece and was treated to a big rooster who was standing on one of the sale tables and crowing. The owner tried to shoo him off, but I asked if she could wait until I snapped a picture. Looking quite regal, he permitted me to take his photo and then he was quickly told to "get down from that table, you naughty rooster. You know you're not allowed up there!"

When I got home, I ran a slight boost on the photos, using Pioneer Woman's free actions, and lowered the opacity down to about 25%. I didn't sharpen at all because sometimes you can overdo it in the sharpening department, and the pictures just don't look right. These were crisp enough as it was and I'm glad to have met these two characters to add to my collection. I'm definitely going back to this garden center and I'll be sure to bring my camera with me again the next time. I've also got another rooster picture on the Picture A Day blog. I'm just loving this area. Always have.

Until tomorrow, my friends.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Giveaway over at CurlyWurlyGurly's site

I was surfing some blogs this afternoon and realized I hadn't visited one of my favorites, TJ's Humble Origins, lately. Lo and behold, she's posted about a contest on a site I'd never before visited. Thanks, TJ. And it's a cool blog, as well! Visit CurlyWurlyGurly before Tuesday, July 29 to enter.
You can win a nifty gift, so head on over and give it a whirl. I mean wurl. You know what I mean! Just spreadin' the love here.
Have fun!

Mighty Oak

Yesterday afternoon, I took a little walk down to the entrance gate to take some pictures of the roses that are growing there. Using my macro lens, I snapped this one while walking back up to our house. It captured the sky incorrectly, as it was blue, and the only thing I did with the pic was to run PW's Lovely and Ethereal action on it real quick. There's George, looking a little deflated, after the squirrel he was chasing ran up the oak tree.

This oak tree is the first thing you see when entering the farm. It's majestic and this picture isn't even doing it justice. Some day soon I'm planning on getting another photo of it that showcases how powerful it looks. But for now, here's the mighty oak, taken with my little macro lens. It remined me of a poem that has to do with self-esteem.

The Oak Tree

A mighty wind blew night and day

It stole the oak tree's leaves away

Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark

Until the oak was tired and stark

But still the oak tree held its ground

While other trees fell all around

The weary wind gave up and spoke.

How can you still be standing Oak?

The oak tree said, I know that you

Can break each branch of mine in two

Carry every leaf away

Shake my limbs, and make me sway

But I have roots stretched in the earth

Growing stronger since my birth

You'll never touch them, for you see

They are the deepest part of me

Until today, I wasn't sure

Of just how much I could endure

But now I've found, with thanks to you

I'm stronger than I ever knew

by Johnny Ray Ryder Jr .

Hoping you're all having a wonderful Sunday. Until tomorrow, my friends.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's going to be ok

Circumstances in my life attempt to overwhelm me sometimes, but I just try to roll with it. Three days ago, my youngest son texted me while I was at work, telling me that his arm and his chest really hurt and he'd taken an aspirin. I called our doctor to try to get him in and there weren't any appointments until the following afternoon. Since it was his left arm that was hurting and his chest, I thought it best to take him to the emergency room.

After many tests, we were told that they suspected that he had Myopericarditis, which is an inflammation of the muscular wall of the heart. He'd had a fever and sore throat earlier in the week and they think the virus had travelled to his heart. He was seen by three different cardiologists and they've all said the same thing. He'd been in the ICU at the hospital ever since and he came home Saturday afternoon. He's 21.
I was really scared, but don't tell him that. It's odd that I posted about the kitten the other day because we were talking about it in the hospital and he remembered it, even though he was only 3 at the time. He remembered it dying and me not being upset about it, so he wasn't upset either. He also remembered watching Thomasina that night and going with his brother to get the dead kitten out of the laundry basket in the morning, hoping that it would come back to life like Thomasina did.

And when they told us at the hospital what the prognosis was, I just tried to remain cool. The virus will run its course and he's on an anti-inflammatory. Down the road, we'll be able to see whether or not there was damage to the heart. Everything seems fine now, though. I know now that he'll be ok. Just don't tell him how worried I really was, ok?
Tonight we're watching the latest Harry Potter movie together. I'll letcha know how it turns out.

Unitl later, my friends.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Red letter day in the award department

My Skywatch post is on my Picture A Day blog.
I'm not really into tooting my own horn, but I wanted to share with you the fact that I've won an award from a fellow blogger. And not just one award, but two. I'm honored to receive these awards from my peers. Let me tell you a little bit about each one of them.
Today, I received the Arte y Pico award from Mental Pause Mama. I wasn't quite sure what this award entailed, although I've seen it on other blogs, so I visited the site and it kept going back to the google search page. If you visit and it starts jumping off, just quickly hit the stop key and you will be able to read about it.
The rules for this award:
1) Pick five (5) blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language,
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte y Pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award which is here: "Arte y Pico".
My choices for this award are the 5 following blogs:
Noble Pig -- Since the beginning, I've loved her stories, her recipes, her knowledge of fine wine and she's a freakin hoot to boot!
Parvum Opus -- I first came across Olivia's site in late winter and have been a regular viewer ever since. Her photography just takes my breath away sometimes.
Wine on the Keyboard -- Can't get enough of Kacey. Have to read her every day. Something's always going on at her place, even if it's just shots of SuperGuy (her husband) fixing something in the backyard. Always a pleasure.
Quiet Life -- Donna Boucher is a contributor over at Pioneer Woman's Photography site, but I first saw her blog well before she started doing that. I find her easy to read, and her pictures are beautiful. Her favorite saying at the end of every post: "Encourage Each Other". I like that.
Little Red House -- I have been visiting Mary ever since I began blogging. She's interesting, she's from New Jersey, so we have that in common, and her love of antiques and dishes in particular is quite fetching. I also am in love with her new photography blog.
And now for the second award, the Brillante Weblog Award, which I received from Shimmy Mom!
The rules are that I have to award 7 other bloggers whose blogs I admire and that I visit frequently.
Each award winner must show the award and link seven nominated people from their own blog then post a message on the seven chosen blogs.
Blogs that I admire and visit frequently have been mentioned above as well, so here are 7 more:
Mental Pause Mama -- Gotta see the mama as much as I can. I love the way she loves her family, her friends, and she's been there from the beginning with me.
The Tombstone Chronicler -- Ditto Annie. I love that she enjoys graveyards and photographing them. She lives near Mental Pause and they're good friends. Some day I'd love to meet them!
Pioneer Woman -- Yeah, like I'm even gonna tell her about this. But I love her. Can't get enough.
Midlife by Farmlight -- Jeannelle's blog is amusing and about her life as a dairy farmer's wife in Iowa. Whatever catches her eye on any given day is what she writes and photographs. She's into the sax and the religion. It's an inside joke. Go to her site and visit her cows. They'll tell you all about it.
Georgia Rectors -- Posting about her life, her travels, her family and especially my favorite part, her photography. It's beautiful. It's enchanting. And she's become a new friend.
Fertile Mertile -- Ever since she won one of Pioneer Woman's Name That Photo contests, I've been visiting her site. She's real and she's honest. And I think she probably has the most photogenic children. No wait, it's not just that they're beautiful, she's a damn good photographer to boot.
Dlynz -- Dlynz takes lovely pictures and I enjoy visiting her site as much as I can. She's interesting and she's fun. She adores her family and I love her for it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The things I remember sometimes!

This is another in a series of Hall of Shame posts, and regular readers of this blog will remember my other crazy stories. But this is a story that's not really about anything shameful that I did, well, other than to permit my two very young sons to watch a rather dark little Disney movie.

But let me begin.

When my sons were very small, aged 3 and 5, we lived on a huge Dutch Warmblood farm in southern Chester County. My husband was the broodmare manager and it was the biggest and most prestigious farm we'd been on at the time. We lived in a cottage and it was quite a perfect existence, taking walks in the woods with the boys, visiting a little waterfall, having their friends over for visits. Oh, and there was a cat in the barn who had just had kittens. I remember that the farm wanted us to catch the momma cat so we could take it to get fixed, so we were looking for homes for her 3 kittens.

We ended up taking a sweet, beautiful long-haired kitten. We took her home that evening and ended up having friends over for dinner the following night. We had dinner and settled down in the living room to play with their new baby and talk. We were also planning on watching a Disney movie that I'd rented that afternoon.
During the short amount of time that we had the new kitten in our lives, it had taken to sitting in a chair we called the Cuddle Chair. It was a big recliner, big enough for me to sit in with 2 little boys at either side, hence the name. This is where the visiting dad was sitting after dinner that evening when he got up to get something to drink from the kitchen. As he rose from the chair, he noticed what looked like a little fluff of fur next to the arm of the chair and was shocked to find that the kitten had been snuggled up in the little space between the cushion and the arm of the chair.

This person was further horrified to find that the kitten had suffocated, and that he had been the cause of her demise. He was beside himself at what he had done, inadvertent as it was. I played it down because, after all, I told him, it was just a kitten, please don't be upset and anyone could have done it. How could he have seen her sitting there? I hadn't even seen her! She was practically the same color as the chair. He felt awful and could not shake it and the family ended up leaving early. I really did feel badly for them.

As an aside to this story, this family gave us another kitten who we ended up loving and having for years. But let's get back to that fateful evening, before I begin to digress all over the place.
I downplayed the kitten's death and told my boys that it was a simple mistake. If I recall properly, there were no tears, only surprise. Before the family left, I had taken the kitten out of the room and put her in the laundry basket, covered with a soft towel. I intended to give her a proper burial the following day, and the boys were all for that.

The movie I had rented for the evening was "The Three Lives of Thomasina" which, given the current circumstances, seemed like a good choice in retrospect. The boys ended up loving the movie, as did I. It had a popular cat about town that everyone loved, a grumpy dad who was a vet, a beautiful witch, and it was very British and had a happy ending. We all went to bed content and nobody seemed at all upset with the events that had occurred earlier.

Imagine my surprise the next morning when I came downstairs to find my young boys not only already up, but both of them sitting in the cuddle chair and on their laps was (you saw this coming, didn' t you?) THE DEAD KITTEN. They were both stroking it, and it was stiff as a board and my eldest said to me, "We thought that maybe this kitten would come back from the dead like Thomasina did, mommy." My little one was gently rubbing its ear.
I didn't make a big fuss about what they'd done. I remember kneeling down and petting it and telling them that it doesn't work that way. Only in the movies do things like this happen. This kitten was dead and we were going to bury it this morning, and I gently removed the dead animal from their laps. And a burial is what we ended up doing right away. My husband, however, loved telling this story at work or to anyone who would listen. It was quite the laughing matter among his co-workers on the farm.

It's just one of those things that happen and I don't know what made me think of it this morning while I was driving to work. Sometimes I remember the oddest things . . .

UPDATE: Rich at work tells me he had to read this twice. He can't believe I posted it. I need to tell you that the guy who sat in the chair was a skinny young guy. The kitten was very small and was apparently sleeping between the arm of the chair and the cushion; there was a little space there. It did not struggle, or he didn't feel it. It's a sad story, and I apologize. But it's a weird story, too, and you know I'm weird, right? I was totally freaked when I got up and found the dead kitten on my sons' laps! But I didn't want them to know, so I played it cool and gently took it away from them. It's all everyone on the farm talked about for weeks, because it was sort of crazy.

(photos courtesy Disney studios)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Show me the way to go home

Dang, I got nuthin' tonight, I'll tellya. I just spent three hours working on photos from this year's Alumni Banquet and set up a Photobucket account for the school. My friend, Katie, who's the editor of the Alumni Newsletter is working on a deadline for the quarterly newsletter and needed the pics. And just before that, I took George for an hour long walk after dinner and I am just plain tired. TIRED, I tellya. And I think my retinas are burning from staring google-eyed into the computer for so long.
So I'll leave you with this thought . . .
Show me the way to go home . . .
I'm tired and I want to go to bed . . .
I had a little drink about an hour ago,
and it went right to my head.
Now quick, name the movie this song was sung in. You all should know this. It's a classic.
And oh, Rich . . . I don't wanna hear how short this post is. And you'd better have left me one of those mini cupcakes from Bing's. The chocolate one. With the coconut sprinkles. I think I'll dream about it tonight.
Until tomorrow, my friends.
UPDATE: Pat-An Arkansas Stamper was the first to tell us the name of the movie in which this song was sung. Say that three times real fast, willya? Yes, Pat, it was JAWS. They were in the boat, it was at night, they'd had a few drinks and had shown each other their scars and told stories. Then they sang this song and all hell broke loose.
~ C.G.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Yeah, we're cool

Thanks to all who answered my burning question yesterday. And a special thanks to Starwoodgal for the free photoshop actions and tips! One thing that I learned from everyone's responses to my question is that at ten years of age, all of us were so much more independent that many of the children today. Do children today spend all that much time out-of-doors in the summertime, making their own fun? I don't think so. Unless you're the children on this farm where I'm living now, riding back and forth on their bikes between home and their grandparents home. It's quite a trek through the woods and around the fields. It's really nice to see. They have paths all through the woods near our house, and a little bridge to go over if they're on bikes. But yeah, when we were young, for most of us, the memories are sweet.
I've arranged it at school so that I have Mondays off now. It's just for a few more weeks. You see, in the summer, for two whole months, I have summer hours. They're daily from 8-1, making it 25 hours a week. Well, with the price of gas and the amount of time I drive now, I asked if it would be okay to do all my hours in 4 days rather than stretching it over 5. And it's ok.
This morning, I took George on a walk that lasted well over an hour. The weather wasn't too bad for walking and there was a nice breeze and low humidity. We just stayed out of the sun as much as possible. Afterwards, I ran some errands and ended up tidying up the outside of the house, pulling weeds and trimming bushes a bit. When I finished, I was looking forward to having a glass of mint iced tea in the yard, under the dogwood tree.
And that's where I took these bird photos. It was just so relaxing sitting there and watching the birds flitter about. I like the shapes of the leaves and the tree branches in the one below.

Have a good Tuesday, everyone.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Our first visitors at the new house

My husband's parents came today and brought their granddaughter, (and our niece) Colleen, with them. Most of you have seen her before, here in this picture I doctored up from Christmas last year. And the picture in this post, unfortunately, needed doctoring up today.
I am not a great photographer, by any stretch of the imagination. My camera is too much for me sometimes and I like things simple. I tend to get lazy and use the automatic settings more than I should, and the original SOOC of this picture (see below) is a prime example. I took it on the auto dial with the landscape setting. It was a bit shy of light under the eves of the barn and I should have gone to manual and used a different aperture. But pictures happen too fast for me sometimes and I tend to do the easiest thing and correct it later.
To me, this says that I am not a photographer, but rather a manipulator of the digital image, which is a much lesser standing than a real photographer, in my opinion. So when people say, "oh, you're such a good photographer" I quietly disagree. I may have a good eye, I will admit that, but I am nowhere where I'd like to be.
And so, I'd like to share how I shamelessly manipulated this cute shot of my soon-to-be ten year old niece, using Photoshop. And speaking of my niece, do you remember what it was like to be ten years old? I'd like to know. Because I do remember. And when I first moved here, I saw a tree that looked like the perfect climbing tree. It's right next to the house, and my sister Charlotte, upon arrival to visit me for the first time, noticed the same thing. It surprised me~ Oh, but I digress.
So here's how I made the picture you see below, the original straight-out-of-camera (SOOC), into the picture at the top of this post.
I opened it up in Photoshop and duplicated the image. That's the image I'll work with. I ran an adjustment on it called "shadow/highlight" and set it to about 35%. It's looking better at this point.
Then I ran two actions on it. First, I ran Pioneer Woman's Soft & Faded and lowered the opacity to about 75%. After that, I ran Totally Rad Actions Super Fun Happy with the opacity set at about 70%. This gave it a creamy finish for the skin tone.
Then my husband brought me a glass of wine. So this next part may get a little fuzzy. The picture was looking good at this point, but was still a little dark. So I did PW's Slight Lighten, lowering the opacity to 85%. Then I lightened both her teeth and the whites of her eyes. These are accomplished by using the lasso tool and drawing around the area you need lightened. Then choose Select>Feather and go to about 2. This slightly rounds out the area you're going to whiten. Go to Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation. For the teeth, choose Yellow in the edit screen and slide the Saturation bar down some. Then go to the edit screen again and choose Master and slide the Lightness bar up some.
Am I talking too much? I hope not.
The next thing I did was to make her eyes sparkle. I used PW's trick, and if you have Photoshop, this is such a simple trick to remember and use when you want to make someone's eyes pop a little bit.
I flattened all the layers at this point and was just about to call it a day. In fact, I had finished the picture at this point and loaded it into this post and still, I thought it was too dark. So I ran PW's Slight Lighten on it one more time and lowered the opacity to about 30%. Which means I should have it at 100% the first time I ran it.
I hope I haven't gone too fast for all this. And if you have Photoshop and want to download some free actions, please stop by Pioneer Woman's site and do so. They're great and they're free. Totally Rad also also has free actions to try out, but you'll only get 3 of them, so check them out as well.
Ok. Here's another question for you: Do you know of anywhere else to pick up free Photoshop Actions? And please, don't forget to let me know the burning answer to the question: Do you remember being 10 years old?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bokeh in the bouquet

I recently learned what bokeh means on a post written by Miz Booshay (Donna Boucher) over at Pioneer Woman's Photography site.
Bokeh is pronounced bow-kay or bow-keh and it refers to that lovely out-of-focus light and all the different shapes and colors you see in the background of photos taken with a digital camera. It is created by light and and the glass in your lens and distance and wind and focus. It's a Japanese term for the subjective aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of a photographic image.

Ok. Got all that? Well, when I opened this series of photos up in Photoshop this evening, I noticed the wonderful bokeh in the top picture in this post. I took this one lying on the ground, looking up with the camera and the walnut tree was in the background with the light coming through the leaves. And this is what I got. And this is what I'm sharing with you today. I also put another shot of the Queen Anne's lace on my other blog, A Picture A Day. I just really like how they all look.
Meanwhile, back on the farm, my husband is feeling his way through his first full week of work here. He'd been working outside in the blazing sun and the sweltering humidity these past two days and I was pleased to hear him tell me that the owner came out this afternoon to find him to see how he was faring in the heat. He said he smiled at her and said he was just fine. "I'm a survivor," is what he told her.
Things are gonna be ok. And even though he didn't jump for joy when I showed him the dinner of gorgeous steamed Maryland crabs I brought home with me today, I had a nice little meal of them myself. Damn, they were good.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Well, it's happened. George is famous now.

Can you believe it? Our very own George is on a magazine cover! What is this world coming to? I mean, there is so much going on in my life right now and I really don't need all this. Our phone is already ringing off the hook. Now I'm going to have to get him an agent!

Nah. Not really. George isn't really on a real magazine cover. Sorry I keep goofing on you that way, but it's just how I am.

This is a fun toy that's offered through Flickr, and you can create your own here at Flickr toys.

Go ahead and make your own, and send me a link. I'll link back to them in a post if you want to play along!

Here are some others that I've seen and are pretty cool:

Mary at Little Red HouseLauren at Amongst the Oaks

Oh, and our phone is ringing off the hook already. With telemarketers. It rang 5 times tonight!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

An evening walk and some answers to questions

After dinner tonight, I took a walk with my son and George. Shaun hasn’t seen much of the farm yet, so I thought I’d show him around a little bit. The first picture is of the pond. There are geese over on the other side of it. George chased them into the water.
I’ve received a lot of questions both on the comment section of posts as well as personal e-mails and I thought I’d answer a couple of them here because it’s just easier for me that way. Hope you don’t mind.
Will you be able to keep the same job? I’m not too clear on that. Yes I will be keeping my job. I’ve been there for ten years now and it’s just an extra 10 minutes to get to work. Well, in the summertime it is. Once school starts, I’ll probably get behind every bus in creation and it will end up taking a lot longer. But I’m not going to think about that today. I’ll think about it tomorrow.
Where, exactly, have you moved? Well, I can’t really say because I don’t think it’s good to let people know exactly where you live. I mean, it’s allright if all of you know, but the creeps out there . . . I don’t need them knowing. I will say that I live in southeastern Pennsylvania, just over the Maryland border. I think that’s saying enough.
Did George get a job on the farm, too? It's funny, because when we came for the interview, the first thing the owners said was, “Oh, my! A border collie. We have sheep!” To which I thought they were saying, “Oh, no. A border collie that will chase our sheep all over hell and creation!” So I immediately assured them that he was very well-behaved and he wouldn’t go after their sheep. But then we got to talking, and I realized that they thought it might be a good idea to train George to herd the sheep for when it’s shearing time. They told me it was really difficult getting the sheep into the shearing pen without the aid of a herding dog.
How did George take the move? George was great, actually. I thought it would be a huge problem because we used to have a fence all around our backyard. But he pretty much keeps to the area around the house. Well, unless someone that lives here is walking by. Then he runs over and introduces himself. And if there are dogs with them, he’ll follow them. So we have to keep an eye on him. He does get to go to work with my husband, though. So he's a very happy dog right now. And very tired when the day is done. This is good.
Our cat, Blackie, on the other hand, took a couple of days to calm down and settle in. She spent all of moving day in her crate, even after we opened it up for her to come out. Then the next day, we let her outside and we didn’t think we’d ever see her again. But she’s fine now.
This place looks even prettier than the last one. Is this the case? Well, we’re in a different setting here. The farm sits in the midst of steeplechase and show horse country and let’s just say that it's a little more 'moneyed' here. I don‘t know how else to explain it. Also, the soil is different here and it has better water-retention properties so the grass is really nice and green and soft. And around my house is a lot of good shade and mature woods. My husband and I both think it’s prettier.
Are you out in the middle of nowhere? How far is the closest mall? I wouldn’t call this nowhere, not by a long stretch. I will say that developments and tract housing is not exactly right nearby. The closest mall is probably about a half hour away, and a grocery store is about 6 minutes. But it’s really expensive and we have to find a cheaper place to buy our groceries.
Is this a dream job for your husband? A dream job? Well, I don’t think I‘d call it that. He works hard. And it‘s hot outside. It’s not that it’s perfect, but it was amazing that after I sat down with him and asked him exactly what he could see himself doing, we found just what he told me he wanted. The money is probably a bit less, but it’s not about the money. I’m still reeling from the two-week turnaround. Suddenly, I’m in a whole new life and it’s pretty exciting, actually. I think that about answers all the questions I've received over the past several days. And now, I'm going to put my feet up and visit some of my favorite blogs. I've missed all of you!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Greetings from Pennsylvania: Where the grass is green and the internet is fast!

Wow! I say that because I haven't had internet since last Wednesday evening and haven't been able to check my mail at work since Thursday. Well, until today. I went into my e-mail account and couldn't believe how much I had. So I let it go until I got home to my new Verizon FiOS and well, WOW is all I can say at the moment. It's amazing.
We survived the move and, in fact, it went rather smoothly. We went under budget with the moving company because we had so much done before they got there, like bringing down the boxes from upstairs and the basement to avoid their using the steps too much. So, it was worth it.
I'm writing from the living room of our new home, which is almost set up. There aren't any curtains in here, but we don't need them really. Only the deer would see us on this side of the house.
Before I go any further, I want to publicly thank both Adrienne and Bobby for all the help they gave us on moving day and Saturday. Here they are in the picture on the right. I don't think we could have done it without you two. Well, we could have, but it would have been really really bad. A big thanks also goes to my sister, Charlotte, who came out Monday and helped me with windows and turning a room full of boxes and crap into an actual guest room, complete with a made bed, sparkling clear windows and curtains. Thanks, my sistah!
Hey, while I'm at it, thanks to all of you, my readers, whose prayers and well-wishes went a long way to helping me ease into this new life of ours. My husband started work on Monday and so far, so good. I believe in the power of prayer, and after I did those auto-posts last week, I concentrated on moving and packing and you know what? It went really smooth. From reading your comments, I think it was because I had so many people praying for me!
You might be surprised to find out that I have hardly taken any pictures since I've been here. I have just been so busy trying to get this place into shape. Most of the pictures on this post wewe taken on the evening of moving day (Friday), just after dinner. My husband and I took Adrienne and Bobby on a little walk around the new farm and it truly is beautiful.
I took the last 2 pictures just now because I wanted you to see what it looks like out my windows here. The one above is the view towards the road and the one below is from one of the doors looking towards the barn.
Sorry I can't say much more just now. I've had a super busy day, with work and having to stop by the old place to get a couple of things we inadvertently missed. It's a half hour drive from work and then an hour drive back north to this place. While there, I also picked a bunch of vegetables from the garden we had to leave. Gotta go now. I've got a curtain rod to hang in my bedroom!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The future is promising

When we last left off on this story yesterday, my husband had just been terminated from his job of 10 years on the beautiful horse farm in Maryland on which we live.
We were shocked, to say the least and if you've been following this blog, you've seen where I live and you'll understand my heartbreak.
My husband has a lot of connections in the horse world, and we called them all. I talked to some of the parents at school who are also involved in the business, and they said they'd keep an ear open. I checked the internet every day, but we didn't want to pay the fee for Equimax, the employment service.
My husband heard from the blacksmith that a farm manager job had just come open on one of the big breeding farms over the state line, in Pennsylvania. We'd already heard about it and decided we wanted something a little more low key. Maybe a lot more low key. So we didn't call and hoped that we were doing the right thing. It's a hell of a lot of work running a breeding farm and the responsibility for the care of all the horses is great. It's almost overwhelming, actually. And then there's the foaling. Basically, you're always on call. And you work every day during breeding season. Think about that for a minute. Every. Single. Day. From January 15 through July. It ain't easy, my friends.
I remember years gone past where my husband would go to sleep and end up getting up three different times during the night for foalings. He'd get about 2 hours total sleep and have to get up at 5:30 to be at work by 6 the next morning. He really wasn't looking forward to doing all that again.
So we sat down and I asked him what he really wanted, what he really could see himself doing, and he answered that he just wanted to work, to be productive,to be appreciated, to maintain a small farm, a couple hundred acres maybe, for a retired couple who maybe still had their hand in horses. It would also be good to have other animals on the farm, too. And a little house with a fireplace. And a garden.
When he told me all this, these are the things I prayed for. I prayed that he would find a job with all these things. When you think about it, they're not much, are they? But it's all he wanted. I really hoped to keep my job, too, but this I knew would probably be impossible. At least it was summertime, and I wouldn't have to leave the school in a lurch during the school year.
Days later, we heard on the news that there are more and more people being let go from their jobs. I began to think that our situation could last months. I started having trouble sleeping at night and concentrating at my job. I made stupid mistakes and became angry with myself. And then I decided that I needed to think like a retired person who has acreage and horses and needs help. Where would they advertise? Probably not on the internet. So I check the local newspaper over the Maryland border, up in Pennsylvania. Luckily, I know this paper. We used to live up that way.
The search engine for their classifieds are annoying and frustrating. I know that there must be horse jobs, but when I enter horse or farm as a keyword, they have nothing for me. I'm on my lunch break at work, and I got so frustrated that I hit the x to get out of the page, but instead I hit something else and a classified ad pops up on the screen. It says it's looking for a horse farm manager and offered a house and insurance. References required. And it was posted that very morning.
It looks exactly like what my husband is looking for, and when I go home and show it to him, and he calls, I decide to leave him to it and take a quick walk down the driveway with the dog. And when I come back 10 minutes later, he's still talking to them and laughing on the phone.
What's this, I think? And then he asks the name and I'm shocked. I will not tell you who they are, or where they live. But they're well-known and not just to people like us who know horses. They say they will call back after they check his references. And so we wait. The tension is high because we know there's no way that this could be this easy. After only a week without a job, could this actually happen?
Finally, on the 4th of July, he has an interview at 8:30 in the morning. It's a beautiful farm of 200 rolling acres. There are about 20 horses, several retired racehorses living out their old age with dignity and care, several ponies for the grandchildren who also live on the farm, a beautiful pond with wood ducks and geese and best of all, sheep! When the owners meet George, they are excited. A border collie who perhaps can be taught to herd! George would love that.
We walked over to the house and it's quite nice. It also has a fireplace and a 2-car garage. And as I stood on the lawn, and listened to my husband being offered the position, I realized that everything I'd prayed for had come true. And walking back to the barn, the owner said to me, "We prayed for someone like your husband. His references were excellent." And I stopped and told her that I, too, had prayed. And then she looked at me, and with a twinkle in her eye said, "I think that life is really all about timing, don't you?" I agreed. And as I looked at my husband's new boss, I knew then that we were going to land on our feet. As you're reading this, we will have moved in. There's much to do as we head into this next chapter in our lives and I may not be able to post for a few days, but you're not going to believe this next part . . . Verizon FiOS is available on the farm! Wow! I have set pictures to autopost every day on my photography blog, A Picture A Day. It's easier for me at this point.
To those who have been following this blog, thank you so much for your support. Please understand why I haven't been able to visit you all this week. And to those new readers who have been leaving comments, I can't wait to have some time to stop by your blogs and to welcome you to mine. Please understand why I can't do so just now.
Until next week, my friends. Oh, the picture on this post was taken on the new farm, just after the interview. It was raining lightly. This is the area behind our house.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The future is so uncertain

I know that some of you have noticed that I haven't quite been myself lately. Well, my husband lost his job on the horse farm and it's been weighing heavily on the both of us.
As I edit this post, things are ok. Really. But this is what has happened.
We've been living on this horse farm for ten years, and my husband and a co-worker who had been here 14 years were both given termination papers on June 27, along with a sad story involving the Thoroughbred racing industry in this state in general.
You know, up until this point, neither of us had ever, EVER been terminated from a job. And even though they said it didn't reflect at all on performance and wasn't personal, it really is. And so we were faced with having to start all over somewhere else, which I've decided to look at as an adventure. But in this case, it just seems pretty scary. It's working on my nerves something fierce. There was unemployment insurance to file for, a job to be found that has housing available and where the job will be, when the whole state is suffering in the Thoroughbred racing industry.
The following morning found us in the basement, going through all our old things and getting rid of as much as we could part with. We cleaned the basement too, because it was hot outside but cool in the house and especially cool in the basement.
Sunday found me in front of the internet, contemplating signing on with Equimax, a search site for equine employment. I also signed on a free service called Equistaff. I made some iced green tea with ginger and lemon because it's a happy drink. And as I sat there, I watched my husband make lists of things to do, and realized how sad he was and that I would give anything for him to be happy and feel productive. There's more to this story that I can't reveal because it involves his health, and it's personal. I've said before in this blog that he's lucky to be alive. Today he doesn't feel so lucky, though. When I tell him that I honestly think that the whole thing is a blessing in disguise, he dismisses me.
I glanced onto my laptop screen just now which is dark because I'm using the big 22" Dell flatscreen that my husband gave me as a gift last month. In the dark screen, I see a woman who is much older than me, who looks troubled. I realize that it's me! I'm surprised at how much older I look when I'm not smiling! I chuckle and tell myself that at least my skin is still soft and nice. So there, laptop screen with the sad woman inside. Take that!
My husband has gone to Lowe's for garden string and boxes. Let's not even get started on the garden. Oh, my. I pray, too. There's a road I ride the bike on, and it's right down the farm lane. It's lined with sycamore trees, 60 of them on either side. Underneath is a smooth road, and it feels safe there. It's right where I saw the fox the other evening. It's beautiful, it's serene, and it soothes my soul. And when you get to the end of the road, you can see the river that leads into the Chesapeake Bay. This is where I pray while I ride my bike with George trotting at my side. I realize how much I'll miss this road when we leave.
I remember a time when we were preparing to move from the first horse farm we'd ever been living upon. I was in my early 20's and it was in Chester County, PA and as I took one of my last walks there with my border collie, Alex, I cried and thought to myself that we'd never find a place as beautiful as this. I was very young and thankfully, I was very wrong. Because every place we've ever lived since that time has been even more beautiful than the last. And hopefully, this time, our luck will hold.
I have to believe that.
To be continued . . .

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why I call it 'the licorice store'

You've heard me say it a couple of times in this blog that I'm going to the licorice store, when what I really mean is that I'm going to buy some wine. Or maybe some beer. But I'm really going to the liquor store. And today I'm here to tell you the reason why I call it that.
It all happened a long time ago, when a certain girl, who's going into the 7th grade this year, was in kindergarten at our school. Or was she in 1st grade back then? I can't remember which.
We have an athletic director at our school whose two daughters have since graduated, but his youngest, Maddy, still attends. I help her dad at school doing secretarial work occasionally for him, producing booklets when we host tournaments, and finding him help for sporting events when he needs it. And every year on my birthday or Christmas, he gives me a present.
One year, he let Maddy come along to help him pick out my gift. I remember her running into the school office with a big smile on her face, followed by her father, who was also smiling. She proudly offered me a paper sack, and very excitedly, said in her little-girl voice, "We've been to the Licorice Store and I picked you out a present!"
I'm telling you, I couldn't think what might be in the bag, other than licorice which I think tastes really horrid, but I was planning on being gracious about it. She was just so darn cute. And when I opened the bag, I was surprised to find that it was a bottle of bourbon. Maddy and her dad had actually been to the Liquor Store. I wondered if it had been a let down for her when she got inside and found no candy, but she seemed excited and happy with the present, regardless.
I was tickled, as were others who witnessed the scene, at Maddy's verbal description of the store, and it turned into a sort of catch-phrase at our school.
Whenever any of us is having a really bad day, we jokingly say that we're going to need to stop at the Licorice Store on the way home. There's not much that drives me to drinking, well except when my son won't stop driving his hot rod Lincoln.
It was just so cute, and something that stuck. And it was better gift than the bourbon.
And that, my dear readers, is the story of the Licorice Store. See now? Aren't you glad you stopped by today to find out?
Don't worry. I plan on continuing my other story from yesterday . . .
Photo borrowed from Leo Reynolds at

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Goodbye sunflowers

We're moving from this farm because my husband's position has been terminated. It's what's had me down lately, because you all know how much I love it here.
But there's going to be a silver lining in this cloud. I know this much is true.
I'll talk to you about it later, ok? For now, I just want to enjoy the sunflowers and our garden and take pictures while I can. Aren't these just so cheerful looking?