Happy New Year

The photo I am sharing with you is the last sun set in 2014 for mid-Michigan.  I want to wish everyone a New Year full of peace, love and happiness.

Remember:

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”— Brad Paisley

They claim the way you spend your New Year’s Eve will set the tone on how the upcoming year will be for you.  I have spent the day writing and working with photos.  I cannot ask for anything more for 2015.  I plan to keep writing articles and format by book for publication.  Of course, I plan to take photos.  I never go anywhere without a camera.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”–Albert Einstein

Happy New Year, safe travels and blessed 2015!

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” –Steve Jobs

 

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Sun Halo and Sun Dog

“There is no better designer than nature.” Alexander McQueen

Each time I find something new or unique in nature, I think of the above quote.

I am one of those people who will pull over alongside of the road to take a photo of whatever interests me.  I can’t help it, I love photographing anything I want to research or learn more about especially when the phenomenon involves nature. Today was no different.

The sun was shining brightly but as I drove around.  I noticed a ring around the sun in the form of a rainbow.  I was instantly intrigued. Of course, I did not have my good camera with me.  But I had my little pocket camera that goes everywhere with me.  I pulled off the side of the road and snapped a few photos.

Sun Dog

I figured there had to be a formal name for what I witnessed, so I started researching this evening. The ring forming around the sun is known as a 22˚ degree halo or sun halo.  Basically, the ring forms around the sun when sunlight passes through ice crystals in the clouds.  And, yes the temperature has to be 22˚ degrees.

Sun Dog 2

The bright spots on the side have another name. “At the points on the 22° halo which are on a horizontal line with the sun, the arc commonly broadens to two bright spots”, the phenomena is known as a sun dog  (HyperPhysics, n.d.).  I had never seen one of these before today.  In fact, my mother was with me and she stated the same fact.

Sun Dog 3

Reference

HyperPhyics (n.d). The 22˚halo. Retrieved from: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/atmos/halo22.html

 

National Pepper Pot Day

I can honestly say that I have never heard of the story or legend of the Pepper Pot which I find difficult to believe since I am such a history buff.    The story goes on that on this day (December 29) in 1777; a soup which was spicy and warm was served to the Continental Army on the orders of George Washington.

The era was the time of the Revolutionary War; the Continental Army had set up camp Valley Forge during the winter.  The legend states that George Washington himself had asked the cook to serve up something special since the men had been enduring such harsh wintery conditions.  George Washington wanted a special meal that would not only keep the Army warm but would also help boost their morale.

Having experienced ice storms and frigid temperatures in the past in the mid-Michigan area, I can just imagine how cold these soldiers must have been as they camped out at Valley Forge.  Since the food and other supplies were limited in the area at the time, the Army’s chef used the resources that were on hand which included pieces of tripe, small pieces of meat and peppercorn.  The chef added these ingredients with others into a big pot hence the Pepper Pot was born.  The Pepper Pot soup is also known as the Philadelphia Pepper Pot soup.  The spicy soup was an instant hit among the Army men.  Some even deemed the Pepper Pot, “the soup that won the war”.

I haven’t tried to make this soup yet.  I just don’t have all these ingredients on hand.  So, I will have to let you know in the future how the soup turned out. After some searching, I found a recipe for Philadelphia Pepper Pot Soup on About.com, here’s the recipe which was submitted by Peggy Trowbridge Filippone:

Philadelphia Pepper Pot Soup

Ingredients:

1-1/2 pounds beef honeycomb tripe

3 teaspoons salt

Water with 1 Tablespoon salt

3 Tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped onions

1 whole onion, studded with 3 cloves

1 rib celery, sliced thin

1 large carrot, peeled and sliced thin

1 leek (about 1 cup), washed, sliced, including tender green part

1/2 cup diced green bell pepper

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

1 small meaty veal knuckle

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle Chile powder or cayenne pepper

1 bay leaf, broken in half

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups 1/2-inch-diced potatoes

1 cup evaporated milk or heavy cream

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 Tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 3 Tablespoons water

1/3 cup butter for garnish

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Preparation:

Rinse tripe under cold water. Drain and place on a cutting board. Sprinkle with salt and rub into tripe to clean the crevices. Rinse again to remove salt.

Place tripe in a 3-quart saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches, with the tablespoon of salt stirred in. Slowly bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes. Drain tripe and let cool. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.

Heat a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of butter, chopped onions, whole onion, celery, carrots, leeks, and bell pepper. Stir to coat the vegetables, cover, and reduce heat, simmer, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and translucent, about 10 minutes. Do not brown.

Add broth and water to the pot, along with the veal knuckle, tripe, garlic, Chile powder, bay leaf, oregano, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1-1/2 hours.

Remove the veal knuckle and pick off the meat, cutting any large pieces down to bite size. Discard the whole onion. Return the veal meat to the pot, along with potatoes, evaporated milk, and parsley. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Stir in cornstarch mixture and simmer 2 to 3 minutes until slightly thickened.

Swirl butter into the hot soup until melted and immediately ladle into bowls to serve. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.  Yield: 6 servings

Reference:

Filippone, P. (2013). Philadelphia pepper pot soup recipe. Retrieved

from: http://homecooking.about.com/od/soups/r/blss112.htm

Photo Credit: Pixgood.com

My Christmas Blog

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. ~Charles Dickens

I actually began writing this blog last night while listening to Pop Francis’ midnight mass.  Even though I am not Catholic, I enjoy listening and watching the Christmas Eve Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  There are numerous reasons why I try to watch this every Christmas Eve, I love the children’s choirs, pipe organ playing in the background, the opera singing, and the symphony with all the violins and cellos

The camera always pans over the crowd to the beautiful artwork and statues of the cathedral.  There’s the use of all the diverse languages from around the world; I always wanted to learn Latin which is used often in the mass. I really do not know what all the ceremony and symbolism represents; I am going to have to research the process one of these days.  I just find the entire setting beautiful. I also like the element of historical symbolism that is presented in the mass.  The Book of the Gospel which was placed by the statue of the baby Jesus was a replica of the one from 1506.  The history in the walls of the Vatican and Rome would be amazing to know and study.

The message I got from listening to the Pope was the fact, “the world needs tenderness”.  I agree with this statement from him.  I think the world could use more tenderness, good will toward fellow man so to speak. I spent most of today, Christmas Day with my family.

I brought my 95 year old great aunt out to the family gathering.  If you really want to learn about people, you should talk to someone who has been around for as long as her.  She always shares stories of time past; the best learning experience anyone could ask to receive. She also provides insight; we often go through life thinking we shouldn’t do certain things.  We hold back in telling people how we feel out of fear of rejection.  Or we fail to try something new because we think we are too old to learn. But wouldn’t you rather look back when you are 95 and say, “wow, I can’t believe I did that” than say “I should have done that when I had the chance”.

Life changes so quickly.  Be with the ones you love and show no fear.  Try zip-lining, mountain climbing, a new class or anything else that makes your heart sing.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

From my house to yours….

Merry Christmas!

Peace always,

The Sun Started to Set, the Fog Began to Roll In

The weather almost reached 50˚F this afternoon.  Definitely a rarity for December in Michigan, the temperatures are supposed to slowly drop tomorrow as rain begins to move in.  But we may actually have a little snow on Christmas Day, just enough to cover the ground.  We will see if I get my white Christmas or not.

I originally went outdoors to photograph some birds.  My feeders were being overrun with Sparrows, Titmouses, and Black Capped Chickadees.  I love these diminutive birds; they seem to “chirp” at me when I just step out the door.  Trust me; they are all very vocal when the feeders are low.

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SparrowChickadee

After a while, my attention turned to the clouds.  They were just beautiful.  One person on my Facebook page describes the clouds as a “stairway to heaven.”  The stunning array was a perfect setting as the sun slowly began to sink below the tree lines.

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As soon as the sun started to set, the fog began to roll in….sounds like a good beginning for a book.

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The sun was already beginning to set in the above photo, but the clouds were still gorgeous.

Fog Rolling In

 

The fog rolled across the field, I actually watched the mist cover the ground.  I found the experience fascinating.

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The sun was setting, but the fog just covered the bottom of the ground.

I am sure there are better more scientific words to describe the fog, the clouds and the sun.  But I just like photographing the natural world around me.

 

 

The Shortest Day, the Longest Night: Winter has Begun

As I am writing this blog, winter has begun.  Winter officially starts on December 21, 6:03 p.m. EST.  What exactly goes into figuring this exact time? The moment winter officially begins is when the Northern Hemisphere is the furthest distance from the sun.  So, as I say good bye to the shortest day of the year, I can welcome the longest night.  And, yes the day has been cold.

Even though the day was cold, I spent some time outdoors this afternoon.  When they came and harvested the fields, the water was high in certain areas which prevented all the corn to be picked. So, I went out to the back property and hand-picked two buckets of corn which I can use later on to find the wildlife.  Feeding the birds, squirrels and other little critters is one of my favorite pastimes.

I also trek around the back property and took some different photos.  I did spot about seven Whitetail Deer (Does), they were on the run. However, I like the fact that they are returning to the area after the hunting season.  The deer always hide down the river banks during that time.  I miss seeing them outback.

I know a few people will yell at me for this: I would like to see a little snow.  The snow does not have to be in large amounts.  I would like enough to at least cover the ground.  I would like a different contrast when photographing the landscape.  The weatherman still cannot state for certainty if we are going to have a white Christmas.  I would really like one.

Happy Winter Solstice!  Stay warm during this first official wintry night.

 

 

 

Vintage Photo: The Kelso Funeral Home Girls Ensemble

What can I say, I love vintage photographs.  The photos give me a glimpse at a different time, a time gone by.  I cannot honestly say if these times were better or worse.  I really think that is a matter of perspective. The photos will sometimes contain names which I am always researching.  But, most of the time the photographs just reveal lost memories.

I take these old photos, slides or negatives clean them up as best I can with the use of digital enhancement.  I try not to lose the grittiness of the old prints.  I think that is what makes them so unique and interesting.

I recently was fortunate to come across some photos from an estate sale.  I love that the person that owed this photo wrote a story on the back.  Old stories are why I love finding these treasures.  Most of the photos that I get are a mystery.  But this one had background information. This is what the story reads:

   The Kelso Funeral Home Girls Ensemble began when Dorothy and all except Allene Rayburn & Polly Anna O’Neil were in the 7th grade.  In those days most, but not all funerals in Wellington were held in churches in the town.  This group was formed by Mr.  & Mrs. Jimmie Kelso to provide music for those funerals held in his funeral home-mainly because those people could not afford to pay for someone sing.  I shall never forget the Kelson’s & Mrs. Elliot for all they did for us.  As time went on we provided music for many functions-even performed on radio in Vernon, Texas. This was in the depression and none of the families represented here could have afforded voice lessons for any of us or the money to travel as we did.  Mr.  & Mrs. Kelso & Mrs. Elliot did that out of their pockets.  All of us dearly loved them and shall never forget them. “1986”—Dear Cora Clark Holton and Polly Anna O’Neil have passed away. 

Front row:  Polly Anna O’Neil (pianist), Dorothy Holcomb, Cora Clark, Allene Rayburn (Pianist after Polly Anna O’Neil

Back Row:  Betty Lou Blanton (?), Faye Moore, Mrs. Elliot (Director), Frances Nunnelly, & Virginia Blideao.

 

 

A Moment at the River Flats

Michigan’s weather has been strange for the last couple of weeks.  There’s actually supposed to be a warming trend on Monday which could bring warmer temps around 48˚F; I want a white Christmas. I have very little Christmas spirit; I was hoping a little snow would get me into the holiday mood.  I know I should be thankful for the warmer weather, Michigan has seen worse with lots of snow and frigid temps.

We actually had more snow at the beginning of November.  Now the forecast is predicting rain. We were having some colder mornings; you know the type where the cold actually takes your breath away. Despite the colder days, I do like to get outdoors even if my time outside is short. Viewing nature during each season has helped me learn and understand the environment that surrounds me on a daily basis.

The main photo that I am sharing with you, was taking on one of those cold blistery days where even the air seemed to be frozen in place. Even though, the weather was less than desirable I wanted to snap some photos of the geese and swans that landed to rest down on the river flats.

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The swan trying to keep warm from the blowing wind.

 

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I love how the geese just walk across the ice to find an open water space.

The Snowy Owl: Magical Bird

As many of you know I am a huge fan of wildlife, I could spend hours watching animals in their natural habitat. Today, I was able to view a Snowy Owl for the first time in the wild.  I was returning from dropping my niece and nephew off at school and I got a glimpse of white flying across the road. Of course, my curiosity was immediately peaked.  Followed by a leap of joy, when I realized what bird had caught my attention.  Snowy Owls are beautiful creatures.

I was disappointed with myself for not having my good camera but I still managed to get a picture of this magnificent bird.  My mom was with me in the car, we sat and watched her for a long period of time (technically, I cannot tell you if the owl was male or female.  I do not have the knowledge to distinguish the sexes).

The Snowy Owl was made popular by the Harry Potter series with the character Hedwig.  I can honestly tell you watching this breathtaking bird was magical.

The Joy of Christmas Cards

A diverse variety of Christmas cards spread out across the kitchen table, my favorite radio station is blaring loudly throughout the house. I am sipping hot tea as I glance down at my lengthy Christmas card exchange list.  I send numerous Christmas cards out each year (when I say numerous, I mean hundreds).   I even write little notes or long letters in some of the cards depending on if I get to see that person on a regular basis or not.  Enclosing a letter or decorating the envelope with stickers just adds to the overall creative process.

Since we live in technological world where social media provides an instant response to a greeting or letter; I have had people tell me that the tradition is no longer in style. In fact, I was told the tradition was a dying art. However, I love sending and receiving Christmas cards.  When a friend or family receives my card, I want them to know that I was thinking about them during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

The first Christmas card was given by Sir Henry Cole in 1843 in England.  John Horsely, an artist, was a friend of Sir Henry Cole and made the first design.  And, actually the design was criticized by some since the artwork showed children with a glass of wine.  I can only imagine what would have been said, if these critics could see some of the cards that are designed today.

As time went on, the sending of Christmas cards became more popular.  Some of the cards that were sent in the 1910’s and 1920’s were designed by hand.  The cards were decorated with art work created by ribbons, foil, and pieces of cloth.  The home crafted cards were given by hand since they could not be delivered through the post. I can remember making Christmas cards in school when I was younger to bring home to my parents.  I always used lots of color and glitter.

The Christmas cards that I send and receive remind me how delicate life can be at times.  I look down my list and realize that some of the people that I sent cards to in the past are no longer with us this year.  So, create a list, make out a card and let people know that you are thinking about them this holiday season.  Because the list may be reduced next year and you will miss the chance to tell someone that you care.