Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Safe and Sound

Well, Sandy has pretty much moved on for us and surprisingly she didn't leave much of a calling card in our yard at least...something we are very grateful for.  We had a few tree branches come down, which Mr. Tide made short order of this afternoon, and we've had some flooding which damaged our dock, but other than that we are good to go.


If we are experiencing this sort of flooding, then I know that other more low lying parts of our county are in dire straits.  Some parts down river from us are barely above water when the weather is calm and the tides are low.

We never even lost power, though the lights did flicker from time to time during the most ferocious of the wind gusts.  From what we've heard, the highest wind gusts got to 74 mph in our area, and we thank our lucky stars that our contractor installed our windows so well.  Having lots of windows is great for views, but when a hurricane, nor'easter, or tropical storm hits (in this case a combo of those 3), they can really be put to the test, and ours have passed with flying colors each time we've had a major storm...knock wood!

The winds were at their worst after dark, and that is always a bit unnerving to hear it howl and wonder what sort of destruction it's doing outside.  Our dock suffered a bit of damage from the winds and rising waters and some of the boards were ripped off, but we'll take that compared to what others are now facing!

This morning we ventured out early to check on the farm property and it was like a ghost town.  There were very few vehicles on the road, and most of those were power company trucks.  The farm did fine too, only a few large branches down but nothing major.

All in all, this storm was much kinder to our part of Maryland than Irene was.  We had some trees come down into the creek and one fell this afternoon on the river side, but as we drove around this morning it didn't look like a war zone as it had after Irene.

We have theorized that because Irene had so much more convective energy she likely spawned micro bursts and mini tornadoes which caused the utter devastation she left in her path last year.  And because we had drought conditions this past summer, I think a lot of the copious amounts of rain made their way into the parched soil with Sandy...all good news for us.

The coastline of Maryland didn't fare quite so well I'm afraid, and like NY, NJ, CT, MA and so many other parts of the eastern seaboard, it will take a very long time for life to return to normal for them.  My heart breaks when I see the amount of destruction they have experienced, and as a hurricane prone area, we can certainly relate to their plight.

Today has been a quiet day here, one where I even took a nap.  I think that after all of the stress of preparing, and then riding out the storm, my body just needed to re-set itself.  

We feel so very fortunate to have made it through the storm with almost no damage, and we truly appreciate the outpouring of support you gave us during the storm.  I received so many wonderful emails asking if we were ok...thank you so much!

While we wait for the waters to recede and for life to get back to normal, which it nearly is, we will think of all those facing massive clean ups and trying to contact loved ones.  I hope that sometime soon they will all be safe and sound as well!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hunkered Down

We are hunkered down here, and waiting for the worst of the storm to arrive.  The latest predictions show the hurricane force winds arriving sometime around 6 pm tonight and lasting until the early morning hours before daybreak tomorrow.

We are as prepared as we can be, save building a bomb shelter, so now we just have to ride things out.  The winds have picked up significantly in the last half hour or so.   Early this morning we had already gotten over 3 inches of rain, and it has only continued to fall since then so I'm betting some of the lower lying areas around us are already experiencing flooding.  And we haven't seen a high tide yet this afternoon but our pier has water licking the bottom of it already.

I had hoped to show you images of the waves on the river, but that won't be happening, the tropical storm force winds and sideways rain are a bit too ferocious for my camera I'm afraid.  So instead I'll just show you our 4 kayaks which are nestled up by the house, just outside our master bedroom.  They are lashed together and turned upright to collect the rainwater so that they will be too heavy to fly away...at least that's the theory!

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and since we don't have a proper umbrella stand (note to self to get one) an old zinc watering can tucked into the garage during our storm preparations will have to do.  As will scatter rugs strategically placed everywhere to try and catch as much water as possible when we bring the dogs in and out.

As the storm progresses, we will need to take them out the front door where we will be slightly more sheltered from the wind and driving rain.  And there is a porch where we can towel them off under cover before coming back inside.

The pups are real troopers though and will come in and let me towel them completely off before giving us a good shake.  Just a little bit ago when Quinn came inside after a potty run my daughter commented that he looked like a boxer getting ready for a prize fight with the beach towel draped all around him.

As much as I dread the next 24 to 36 hours, I have to feel pretty lucky.  Lucky that Mr. Tide and the folks at the company he was visiting worked like dogs while on travel so that he could catch a flight in last night....such a wonderful feeling to have him home when we weren't expecting it!  And our daughter will be staying with us as the rental property she shares with her brother has many more trees surrounding it than our house.  Super saturated ground with high winds = downed trees!  

Our son Bugs is riding out the storm at the local firehouse.  Not what a mother really hopes for during a major storm, but it's what he loves, and I know there will be people who will need his help.  I just hope they don't keep the first responders on the roads until the 11th hour like they did during Irene.  Once it becomes unsafe, no one should be on the roads or be expected to go out during the height of the storm.  He sends me texts every now and again to ease my worries and to let me know how things are going up his way.

And you can't help but feel lucky when you compare yourself to the families who are experiencing loses from Sandy's earlier landfalls, or the pure agony of waiting to see if their loved ones will be rescued after the tragic tall ship accident off the coast of North Carolina today!  I hope the 2 missing crew are found safe and sound.  Or the folks living in high rise buildings in NYC who don't know what to expect.  One of our friends is a New York City firefighter, and my heart goes out to the first responders of the major metro areas up and down the coast.

I went outside yesterday and snipped a few roses knowing that any remaining blossoms will be gone with the wind by this time on Wednesday.  For now, I will enjoy them and maybe even channel a little Scarlett O'Hara myself...

"Oh, I can't think about this now! I'll go crazy if I do! I'll think about it tomorrow. But I must think about it. I must think about it. What is there to do? What is there that matters? Tara! Home. I'll go home. And I'll think of some way to get him back. After all... tomorrow is another day!

Thanks so much for your comments and emails wishing us well during the storm, they are much appreciated!  And to our wonderful first responders, stay safe, and thank you for all that you do! 


Friday, October 26, 2012

Dear Sandy

Dear Sandy, I'm writing to you today to ask you a few favors.  I know you are busy wreaking havoc south of me, but I thought maybe you could spare a moment to listen to my short wish list.

#1:   I would really appreciate it if you could spare a few of the beautiful leaves that are just starting to show some color around here.  I know you like to huff and puff, but for those of us who aren't that fond of cold weather, having some fall color makes the transition a little easier.

#2:  All of the lawn furniture (and I just realized today that we have WAY too much) has been safely stowed away, but I wanted to remind you that Mr. Tide and I like sitting in this particular spot each evening, so if you could please not drop any large branches or fell any trees here we would really appreciate it.

Just in case you want to make the argument that hurricanes don't knock down lovely big old trees, I would like to remind you that your cousin, Irene, took this one down a little over a year ago.  We miss this tree a lot, and so did the osprey when they came looking for their nest last spring.

#3:  This request is made on behalf of the birdbath.  He/she would like me to ask you to spare him or her from any more cracks.

#4:  I've loved having my morning glories last a little longer than usual this fall, so if you could see fit to leave them alone so that we can enjoy their beauty a little longer that would be very kind of you.

#5:  This gate would look pretty shabby if one of the black walnut trees should happen to fall on it, and although I know you're all about shabby chic, we prefer neat and tidy.

#6:  I know our pier isn't that great, we would like to add on to it sometime in the near future, but that's not really in the budget right now, so if you could, would you mind leaving it be?  I mean you can storm surge and everything, just don't show off, ok?!

#7:  And because Mr. Tide is away on a trip (ugh!), would you mind keeping the rain and wind to a minimum?  These two like to be outside, and there are times they NEED to go outside, so any breaks you can give us would be awesome!

Ok, so I think that about covers it.  I appreciate you taking the time to let me air my concerns and put in a few requests.  Tomorrow will include some last minute preparations and then we'll throw out the welcome mat, but please don't wear out your welcome!

To all those who have been or will be affected by Ms. Sandy the hurricane, I hope you stay safe and sound!

See you when the power comes back!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Rose

There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.  ~Henri Matisse~

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living.  We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon-instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.  ~Dale Carnegie~

What a lovely thing a rose is!... Our highest assurance of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.  ~Arthur Conan Doyle~

I hope your week is off to a good start! :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Does She or Doesn't She?

Thank you every one for your wonderful comments on my last post, you guys make my day, and for that I am forever grateful!

One of the comments from my last post was from my sweet friend Loi who you all may know from the fabulous blog and shop Tone on Tone.   He asked if the image of bluebirds was a single image, or if I had merged more than one image to incorporate the 2 birds.  It's a great question, and I'm so glad he asked it.

                        (same image as the first one but cropped and desaturated except for the bird)                        

Although I do post process nearly all of my images, I have to admit that I've not mastered the craft and real art form of merging different elements from several images without things looking "shopped."  Some photographers cringe at the thought of merging several images to create one finished image, but I don't subscribe to that theory...I'm just not handy enough to be able to do it well.  It is even thought that the renowned photographer Ansel Adams did this in order to get that perfect shot.

So none of the images I post either on my blog, or on my website have elements from one image overlayed into another image...but maybe one day!  Have you ever seen an amazing image with the perfect full moon...it may just be the combination of several images, and I think that's cool! 

Now, the artwork I create with Mary Beth is created using lots of layers....sometimes more than 100, but when it comes to cutting and pasting with more realistic imagery, well I'm a bit of a flop at it so I stick with basic textures and actions to create each picture.

But that's not to say that you can't do plenty with textures and actions, which in its own way is the baby step program into combining images.  As you can see in this post, taking a basic image and "playing" with it in PS or PSE can be very rewarding and it can give your images a whole new look.

So for now I will be content with creating images that rely on all of the elements being in the shot from the get go.  Am I confusing you, because I'm starting to be a little confused myself!

One day I hope to be skilled enough to take a bluebird from one shot, a flower from another, and the moon in another and pull them altogether into one amazing shot.  I just have to wait until I can create something that someone with even the keenest eye would say to themselves...."hmm, does she or doesn't she?!"  Don't hold your breath though, it will be a long time coming! :-)

I hope you all have a very Happy Weekend.  There are lots of cool flea markets in my neck of the woods this weekend so I might just get into a bit of trouble!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I think one of the greatest gifts of photography is the way it makes you appreciate the subtle nuances of light and color.  From something as simple as dappled sunlight on a leaf, to more dramatic shadowing that is best represented by a black and white image.

Sometimes when I take an image I know exactly how I want it to look when I'm done, but other images start to unfold while you are in the process of editing them.  I think all photographers find this to be true.  They will begin with the image and then they let it speak to them, maybe it tells you it needs to be cropped, or that the contrast needs a little boost, but each image has its own voice.

Some choices are no brainers of course, like an image full of vibrant color, or a place you want to remember not only for how it looks, but for the colors that make you want to return there over an over again.

Sort of like the way we try to capture that perfect sunset on the last day of a wonderful beach vacation.  You want to be able to look at that photo 6 months later and be transported back to that very moment in time and have it inspire you to want to be back in that place the next chance you get.

But other images call for a less is more approach, and it's at these times that black and white can be such a powerful tool.  For me, black and white is a "just the facts ma'am," kind of image, one where you focus on the subject matter without the distraction of color.

Black and white images evoke strong emotions and allow the viewer the chance to impart their own feelings onto a photo.  In the image above it could be said that Miss Misty Belle is sad, when in fact she was just sleepy and wondering why I insisted on taking her picture when she was trying to nap.  Devoid of the color it takes on a more melancholy feel and makes you really focus on her eyes.

Whether you think she looks sad or sleepy, the point is it that black and white imagery makes the emotions in photographs really pop.  Perhaps this is why it is so popular these days with wedding photographers.  I don't have a single black and white or sepia image in my wedding album, and although I love our photos, I am bummed that they lack that raw emotion that you can only achieve with a well done, dramatic B&W image.


Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think every photo should be processed as a black and white image...that would just be downright boring!  But I do think there is a place and time for colorless photos, and I'm happy that I have that option with my own photos.

And speaking of color, I would be crazy to process this last image as a black and white.  Imagine missing out on that blue...not a chance!

Have a wonderful rest of the week! :-)

Here is a lovely song about color...enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday, Monday

Thanks for all of the hydrangea love from my last post, they really are beautiful flowers aren't they?!

This week will be a busy one for both Mr. Tide and myself.  He is winging his way to Savannah for work (can you say jealous?!) and I will be chained to my desk.  It rained most of today, but this afternoon the clouds cleared and gorgeous light filled our dining room and living room so I grabbed the camera and took a shot.  There is something so beautiful about late afternoon sunlight following a rainstorm.

I hope you each have a wonderful week!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Nature at Her Finest

In an effort to embrace all that autumn has to offer I went down to my children's rental house where I snitched a few blossoms from their waning hydrangea bushes.  These are huge old hydrangeas that have been there for many years, so unlike my new tiny bushes they still have some blossoms on them.

Some even retain bits of their original color, though they have lost their bright blue hues in favor of shades ranging from pale purple to dark amethyst.  I thought these blossoms would be the perfect compliment to my little blue and white squirrel that sits atop my old pine dough box.

The other blossoms I picked are wearing shades of green and burgundy, and lend themselves well to the dining room and a silver squirrel nutcracker that resides on my mahogany tea cart.

Though flowers such as roses, lilacs, morning glories, and peonies bring me great joy, I think that the hydrangea has to be one of those flowers that rewards us the most for so little care.  Their long blooming season, beautiful colors, and the ability to be dried make them one of nature's great feats.  They really are a wonderful example of mother nature at her finest!

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post.  A little sunshine, a new attitude, hot tea, and some chocolate always help bring me out of a cold weather funk!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


The weather has taken a turn for the worse here in Maryland.  It's been rainy and downright cold here the past few days.  And I don't know whether it's the fact that my back has been hurting, the fact that I can't seem to get a good night's sleep, or the fact that I truly dislike cold weather that is making me grumpy, but I have been.

I haven't felt like doing anything, replying to emails or comments, or even cooking...I've been in a funk as my mother used to say when we had bad weather for a few days in a row. I did appreciate all of your comments and emails about my back, truly I did, and I thank you, but I just haven't been up to the task of being cheerful I'm afraid.

The other night in between grumbling about how we had to turn on the heat. lamenting the fact that we had finished the last Mad Men Episode, and a 5 minute rant about having to wear a coat when we went out to eat, I did manage to convince myself that maybe a movie would do me good.

So after dinner, Mr. Tide and I decided to look on Netflix to see what we could find.  And as if it was sent from above, there it was, a title that jumped out at me for any number of reasons...it was simply called "Happy."

I normally consider myself an upbeat person.  Oh sure I complain about stuff like everyone else does, but for the most part I distance myself from people who complain for the sake of complaining and I try very hard not to be a complainer.  But there just seems to be something about the shortening of daylight, the cooler temps, and the thought that maybe I didn't get everything out of summer that I had promised myself I would that makes me bristle a little this time of year.

But along with my crankiness, I knew that any movie called Happy, which just happened to pop up right there in the middle of my pity party, must be meant to be...so off we went to watch it.

Remember when you were young and you were dreading something, like a speech you had to give in class, or even a party you were invited to?!  Well, my mother used to always say, "Go, you'll have more fun than you think you will," and she was always right.

As we grow older I think it's easy to focus on the things that don't matter, and we sometimes forget that happiness doesn't come from a store, from someone else's blog, from a magazine, but from within.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I do garner great joy from other people's blogs, photography websites, etc., but it's because I decide to be happy when I read about another person's success, or when I see an amazing photo that motivates me to try harder, reach further with my own images.

So it wasn't long into the movie that I realized that the weather isn't to blame for my unhappiness, the cold can't deprive me of joy, anymore than 100 degree heat can provide it for me.  Nope, I have to make my own happiness, focus on the things that really do matter, and create joy in my life.

I have to put aside aches and pains, grin and bear the tough times, and not become a Pollyanna, but someone who is the master of her own destiny.  And it was funny to me that I needed a movie like Happy to remind me of things I already know.

So this afternoon I forced myself to go outside and snap a few pictures.

If you had asked me to do this a few days ago when I was in full on funk mode, I would have told you that everything is dying, what could I possibly photograph?!  That taking my camera outside would only drive home the fact that my roses are all dying and preparing for winter, that it's getting too cold to go out in the kayaks to enjoy the beauty of our waterways, and that putting on anything other than flip flops might push me to tears, or the need to search real estate ads in St. John.

But not today.  Today, I decided to find the beauty amongst the break down.  To search for the happiness in the things that exist, not what has existed, and not what might exist in the future...the past is gone, and the future is yet to come.  So being here and now is what I have, and I should learn to be thankful for it right now...this very minute.

Now, that's not to say that you can't hold on to the memories, or that you can't dream and plan for the future, but the fact is that where you are right now is where you are supposed to be.  So the only question that remains is what are you going to do with it...before it slips away?!

For me, it meant choosing happiness, choosing to enjoy the flavor of those last few peppers, to drink in the 50 degree temps that come springtime will be referred to as warm and balmy...a treat in fact.

I guess we all need to be reminded that Happiness is a choice, not a right, not something that can be bought or sold, or even inherited or bequeathed.  

It's strange to me that when we have so much at our disposal we often simply want more.  A better house, better weather, better whatever, but what we truly want is to be content, fulfilled, happy.

I hope you each find your own "happy" this week!  And I highly recommend that if you have Netflix you watch the movie Happy, it's in their instant watch section!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Days of Wine and Roses

Thank you to everyone who fell in love with the Beautyberries in my last post, they truly live up to their name!

Life around here has been quiet, it seems that the auto accident we had a little over a month ago is letting itself be known with some lingering shoulder and back pain.  The soreness has been there all along, but it seems to have gotten worse over the past few weeks so I'm off to see a doctor on Tuesday.

I hope he will be able to fix me up quickly, because I have to say that as someone who has never had back pain before, it really is the pits, and keeps you from doing things like taking pictures and spending much time on the computer!

Mr. Tide and I really aren't big drinkers, in fact we rarely drink at all, but we do keep a bottle of Willm, a lovely pinot gris, around for when people come to dinner, or to take as a hostess gift when going to a friend's house.

We discovered this lovely, slightly sweet white wine on a visit to Whole Foods awhile back, so when we make our bi-monthly pilgrimage to WF, which we affectionately call the land of joy and joyness, we always pick up a bottle.   It's from the Alsace region of France, the area that we visited around this time last year.  That was a wonderful time, our very own days of wine and roses!

I hope each of you is enjoying your weekend!  And a very Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends!