Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Redux

Somewhere this last week, our progress toward Spring was derailed and a low pressure system off the Pacific literally collided with some arctic air out of the Frazier Valley in British Columbia to create what the local TV news station is calling "Winter Blast".  They seem to like to name any weather phenomena that colors outside the box of our normal weather patterns.  As I waited for my car pool buddy to arrive this morning, I marked the snowfall in my yard by walking around and taking some photos.

In this storm, which started yesterday about rush hour, we have seen many different types of snow.  Corn snow, hail, fine light flakes and fat, wet flakes measuring almost 2" across.  It piled up to about 5" total overnight.  This is the view out the back deck (built by Bob).

Our ornamental Cherry tree in the back yard was covered.

As was the sweet gum at the top of the stairs.

The snow also bestowed jaunty little winter hats on the dead Sedum blossoms in the garden.

This photo came from the very margin of the deep eave on our house just outside the front door.  It reminds me of a map of an archipelago.

The last surprise that I found was out front in our cul de sac. 

These were created by my husband leaving for work and the newspaperman as he swung through our neighborhood delivering our newspaper. I can't decide which orientation I like better.

I have lots more photos, but I am experiencing photo rotation difficulties tonight.  That means that every single one of these shots had to be rotated several times and uploaded several times before they actually uploaded with the correct orientation.

This quickly curtails the joy and desire to post more pictures, but I will post one more photo to show you all why I am so willing to give up on this tonight and run downstairs to sew.  One of my recent efforts since my return from Tucson. Sweet,  It posted with the correct orientation the first time. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Ongoing blog work assigned by Andrew Thornton this week was a word.  Passion.

(I think that my nature rebels against assignments since I left school.  Bla.)

I started mulling thos one over in my brain a couple of days ago and started jotting down notes that I have quite simply lost.  I looked up the definition of passion just to make sure I was on the right page since I don't feel good about only looking at passion as love; passion has an ugly side to it also.  Boiled down to its essence it means "a strong emotion".   My interpretation of the assignment was to evaluate the different ways that passion manifests itself.

Thinking that it would be hard to take photos that for this "essay", I will have to rely on images captured in words alone.  In my mind I take the following "pictures".

Anger is a strong, ugly emotion as are hate and fear.  All of these "virtual photos" could stem from any or all of these emotions.
...people arguing...Egyptians demonstrating...Suniis vs. Shi'ites...terrorists.

Compulsion can disguise itself as passion.  I can show you a part of  my bead collection or I can overwhelm you with the entire collection.  Without knowing me well, it looks as though I have a passion for beads.  However, that passion can quickly roll right over the edge into compulsively collecting.  (Now that I use my camera, perhaps I can "collect" pictures of beads that I don't actually buy!)

Taking that one step further.  When we call our hobbies passions, is that really the correct usage?  If I think about the things that I enjoy doing:  gardening, knitting, cooking, etc., do I really feel that those activities provoke strong emotions?  Hmm.  I think not.  I feel a sense of pleasure and enjoyment.  A satisfaction of my palate or sense of order or beauty, but not strong emotion.  Passion implies the high highs and the low lows, not the simple homespun quality of my everyday life and activities. 

I think that I'll need to think more about this word as it evokes strong feeling in me to make sure that I use the word correctly.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Howling at the moon

I have been trying to carry my camera with me every day.  I usually forget about it and wonder why the heck my purse is so heavy.  I know that most days I won't find the time or mental energy to use it, but today was different.  I was waiting for my car pool buddy to show up and it had just begun raining.  Caught this picture just before the rain obliterated the pattern on the rocks.

There is something very pleasing to my eye with the roundness of the rocks and the random pattern they made just laying there.

Next I played around with taking pictures through the windshield on the drive home.  That didn't generate anything interesting though.

After dinner I started to head downstairs (we have a daylight basement) and looked out into the front courtyard and noticed an almost full moon framed by the maple tree out front.  (It's in front of the skimmia.)  I rushed and got the camera and tried a few shots only to discover that to get things to show up as I wished, I needed to shoot in shutter priority and slow down the shutter speed.  Way down.  Which required the tripod. 

After almost knocking out my front teeth in my rush to get the tripod out of it's box, I got the camera set up in the courtyard and managed to get some pictures before the moon was totally obscured by the rapidly moving clouds. 

As I stood there waiting for the moon to reappear I looked around for anything else that might be interesting enough for a picture and turned and noticed our huge sweet gum that grows at the top of the stairs to the backyard.  Years ago when Bob put in the landscaping lights, he put an uplight on this tree which makes it a somewhat creepy if spectacular focal point in the courtyard at night.  I played with different shutter speeds for different effects.

Once I downloaded the pictures to my laptop I soon discovered that Microsoft Office Picture Manager is a cool little tool that packs a wallop for its price. (free)  It not only lets me resize photos for the web, but it's got this fantastic low tech cropping tool that allows you to make the photos of the tree even more interesting.

Here's the original shot.

Here are two cropped shots.

At the same time as I was trying to select/resize these photos and write this post, I was making chocolate chip cookies to take to work tomorrow.  They turned out beautifully in spite of my distraction.  The good news is that I only burnt one batch!.

The lesson I learned today is this.  Even though I didn't really use the camera that I had lugged in my purse all day as I traipsed back and forth between buildings on our corporate campus, I believe that the fact that I had taken it out to shoot the photo of the rocks caused me to be more aware of its existence today.  When I saw the moon I thought of the camera and picked it up and used it.  Well worth the extra weight in my purse.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What's in your yard?

We had a high in the low 50's today and some sunshine and a big, blue spring-like sky.  It sent me outside with my camera and a reason for a post!

First things first.  I made a pineapple upside down cake to take to my in-laws tonight - can you tell I didn't have pineapple rings?  Also made some gluten-free bread and hamburger buns before I headed outside with my camera.

Bought these yesterday at Costco.  They had rolling carts of them up to at least 6' tall.  I had to have some to brighten up the yard.

Now when we look outside, there is this big spuh-LASH of color to ward off any possible ho-hums.   I wish I didn't have to plant them.  They have such visual impact all clustered together.

We have seen alot of bird activity in the yard this weekend.  We have a "remnant" water feature that we will redo when the front courtyard is landscaped (soon?).  The birds are drawn to it for their daily bathing.  Yesterday a rufous towhee and today a group of little dark-eyed junkos.  Caught one in the act with the water still flying.

I've been watching the front flower bed for a week or so.  It's got a five o'clock shadow consisting of daffodils and tulips.  They seem to be a little early this year, but I think we said that last year too.

This is a contorted fig that the previous owner planted/jammed in the front corner years ago.  It has gotten tall enough to hang out over the fence and when the year is wet enough, it puts on gorgeous hot pink 1/2" blossoms.  The rest of the year it looks pretty much like this with its corkscrew limbs. 

After I took that photo, I got to looking at the fence.  It is made from cedar and over the years it has weathered to this lovely gray patina with a shimmery silky look. 

Just inside the gate to the courtyard (and in front of the crowded contorted fig) we have a skimmia.  It's already put on its buds that will bloom for one short week in May.  What it lacks in duration it makes up for in impact.  It has the most heavenly sweet smell.  It's indescribable.  Somewhere between lilac and honeysuckle.  During this week, when we come back from getting the mail, we can begin to smell the skimmia the minute we hit the entry to the cul-de-sac.  It is truly wonderful.  Almost as wonderful, is the 2 to 2 1/2 weeks of the lilies of the valley that grow at its feet and then spill down the side stairs towards the backyard.

To the left of the skimmia, the Lenten Rose is in bloom.  This yard is so challenged.  There is about 5-6" of soil that can be dug (with great difficulty) and under that is hard pan.  I must have planted these in  the spring that year, because I unknowingly planted them in the middle of a hosta.  When this plant is done, the hosta takes over and comes up around it.  Somehow, they manage to co-exist in the same square foot.

 This is the remains of some winter blooming kale that I planted last fall for some winter color.  There were white and purple ones.  The purple ones never recovered from a hard frost earlier this winter, but we have had the delicate tracery of the white ones to enjoy. 

Heading around the north side of the house,  I discovered this terra cotta pot bursting with more tulips and daffodils. It took me awhile to realize that the spanish moss-like fibers were the remains of the trailing Regatta Blue Lobelia that I planted there last summer. It was also filled with pink, coral and heliotrope Impatiens.

On the south side of the house, I found this pile of black plastic pipe.  I had NO idea how they had arrived at this location.  I sought out Bob for the answer.  His puzzled reply was "those were from the temporary drain I put in when the downspouts were overflowing earlier this winter".  I don't know why I didn't know this, but I do know that I will go weeks without actually seeing the yard in the winter.  I leave for work in the dark and I come home in the dark.  If it is nasty cold and raining, I only see what is visible through the windows on the weekend and we don't have any southern facing windows.  I'd like one though...

Last year, we had to have an older birch removed from the back corner of our lot.  Before the crew came to take it out, I moved all of the plants that were at it base.  A yellow and a purple azalea, a pink single peony and  four lovely Autumn Joy sedums.  I had bought them as a 4-pack of 4" pots from Costco.  They have asked for little over the years, are drought tolerant and have thrived.  Each one has a 2 foot spread on it now.  I lifted all these plants out and put them in the soft beds of our vegetable garden.  They've stood there all winter looking dead. With my fingers crossed I approached them, pulled away a couple of  dead leaves and lo and behold they are still thriving.

I actually had to go back out and rephotograph these as the first shots were out of focus.  The air outside is cool and fresh, but walking back into the house I was hit by the smell of freshly baked hamburger buns.  A truly round and enveloping smell as I had added a touch of Herbs de Provence to the dough.

I also found a sign of early summer's promise in my yard today.  Inside the little wall in this photo is the winter kale having it lasts stand.  There are also some miniature Delphiniums beginning to come forth.  They grow in a mounding habit and put on a lovely, little star-shaped light blue flower.  There is no scent, but it does provide a veritable carpet of flowers for a couple of weeks in late June or so.  I have had these for 5-7 years and they come back each year.  Last year I split them and spread them around.  In this photo, the little roots are pushing through the retaining wall, so we shall have little blue flowers on the outside of the bed too.

The sun has now disappeared behind a high overcast, but it was out long enough to reassure me that spring is on it's way.  Be still and wait.  It comes.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Get 'er done and get on to the fun.

Yes, I am guilty of taking a full week to make my next blog entry.  I have been busy with getting the suicase unpacked and the contents put away or at least taken down to the vortex called my workshop.  10 hour days at work and then an hour or two trying to complete all of the booking for our European Vacation ( w/o Chevy Chase).  Having trouble finding a place in Bavaria that doesn't require a full week's rental.   Evening is spent sending off inquiries that have negative replies the next day.  If it's long-winded and in German, it gets forwarded to my daughter in Germany for the terse translation:  "nope".

Usual Seattle weather for this time of year.  Chilly...but sunny which is forgivable and of course the usual curse of sunny weekdays and rainy weekends.  Can't get my head wrapped around taking pictures, but the bright side is that once I get the vacation plans finished, I will be on the hunt for a new camera!  Woohoo!  Being married to Bob, that means that I have to do all of my homework to be able to explain WHY I want to buy the camera that I finally select.  It's like having to show your work on a math problem.

The few minutes that I manage to steal before bed time are spent sewing a new purse.  A(nother) interest recently picked up.  I need to research ADD.  Did someone say "squirrel"?