Wednesday, May 29, 2013

All Work and No Play...

Can I just say that I've been busting my hump cleaning my house for the last few days.  We have company coming, so I've been getting to all of the nooks and crannies that we tend to gloss over when we are just cleaning for ourselves.  I won't even tell you how long I spent cleaning my might think I was working backwards or sleeping on my counters with all the time I spent in there.  And I bet that if any one of you popped by, you would still be able to find stuff I missed...I'm blaming failing eyesight on this, not my lack of ability!

But here's the thing with cleaning...the more you do, the more you need to do...know what I mean?!  You clean the fridge, which leads to wiping down all your cabinetry, which leads to oiling your soapstone counters....and on, and on, and on.

I will also add that as I get older, well I find I take a fair number of breaks.  Sometimes it's as simple as checking my email, while other times I escape to my backyard with my camera in hand.  And I will also tell you that a certain husband doesn't help in this "pacing" ie. procrastination, because he does things like send me texts informing me of such things as..."the heron is back!"  Sheesh, as if I didn't already give myself license to avoid cleaning, he's now actively encouraging me to slack off.

But you know what they say about all work and no play...and I have to assure you that I am NOT a dull boy...quite the opposite in fact.

Ok, back to cleaning...or maybe Pinterest...I think he just texted me about something cool on Pinterest...yup, I hear my phone dinging!

P.S. Oh, and in case you are wondering...yes he cleans too...he's very helpful that way, he's just better at finding distractions than I am. ;-)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

She Couldn't Decide

In the end, she decided it was a little bit of both! :)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Not Again

When I first shot more pictures of flowers today, I thought to myself...people are going to think...NOT AGAIN, please, enough with the flower images.

But then I asked myself if "I" was tired of creating flower pics, or if I could ever tire of seeing flower pics, and my answer was a resounding no.

Right now my yard is overflowing with peonies, poppies, coreopsis, columbine, verbena, some blue flower that I don't know the name of, and lots, and lots of roses.

Now, I know some of you have been avid gardeners for years, and although I've always gardened and had flowers in my yard and in containers, this is the first year that I feel like I'm a "gardener."  You know, one of those people who has beautiful cut flowers strewn about their house, and who walks around each morning and evening admiring mother nature's handiwork.

My mother was a gardener, and could blow my not so tiny butt out of the water, but I'm learning to find happiness in something I used to do for others and not myself.  What I mean by that is I've always planted flowers to look pretty on my porch, or in places people could admire from the street, but I rarely planted flowers where I could enjoy looking at them.

Now, I am filling up the corners of my yard that I look at, while still wanting our yard to be beautiful for others.  I've finally grasped the concept of a secret garden, one that is reserved just for me and those I want to share it with.  Truth be told, I will want to share my secret garden too.

Lest you think that all I'm doing is lounging among the petals, here is my other new obsession...jams and jellies!  I ordered this book a bit ago and I plan to make good use of it once our blueberries are ripe.  

Since I'm gluten free, I don't even really eat much toast or things to put jam or jelly on, but that won't stop me from becoming a confiture connoisseur my friends!  You see, I think I'm channeling a bit of my grandmother these days and that makes me want to create things that are reminiscent of simpler canning, gardening, and whatever else brings me closer to nature.

So if you see a woman wearing an apron, carrying a baby lamb in one hand and stirring a pot of jam in another....just honk your horn and move on down the road...really, there's nothing to see here folks...just shake your head and say "not again!" ;-)  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Follow the Light

A walk through my yard and down our lane, followed by a drive to our farm property today provided me with lots of pretty things to photograph.

One of the greatest gifts photography has bestowed upon me, besides the ability to freeze time, is awareness.  As a freelance magazine writer since the 90s...gulp, has it been that long?!...I had to be aware, observant, etc. in order to visually capture through words written in a notebook what a home's interior looked like so that I could write about it later.

But it wasn't until I picked up a camera that I really became fully aware of my surroundings. 

There is a well known bit of wisdom that photographers quickly learn, and that is to follow the light.  For a photographer, light is everything.  It sets the mood, determines if you can get the shot, and by learning to follow it, you learn to see it everywhere you go.

You become so keenly aware of how important it is to the craft, especially if you are a natural light photographer, that you begin to lament the setting sun each day.  I will sometimes think, "Darn it, I wanted to take a picture of the way the light hits those roses but it's getting too dark now!"

And although there are lots of nifty gadgets and post processing programs out there to help you "create" the light you want in an image, nothing beats the real deal.

I once read that National Geographic won't even consider wildlife images that aren't captured right around sunrise or sunset, also known as the golden hours.  Now, I have no clue if that's true, but it does make sense, because light is truly that important to giving you the right shadows, contrast, and warmth that takes a good photo and makes it spectacular.

I love that following the light has made me slow down and appreciate the subtle nuances of each day and the ebb and flow of light as it plays off everything from flowers to dragonflies.

And I hope to one day figure out how to master it, so that I can capture starlight better and those twinkling lightning bugs.  I don't think I'll ever be so old that I won't giggle at the sight of those magical creatures who light up the night sky each summer, so to be able to capture a whole fairyland of lightning bugs with my camera would totally rock!

Maybe that is why we use light related phrases to denote pleasant things, like

...he is the light of my life

...she had a twinkle in her eye grandchildren are so bright

and so on.  Because light really is that important, and when people lack it they feel sad, lonely, and detached.

Whatever the reason we are drawn to its power, I hope that I never stop following the light...because wherever it goes...surely I must follow!

Because so many of you have requested that I turn my comments back on, I have decided to do that.  Please know that if I don't reply to them, it's not because I don't appreciate each and every one of them, but just as the light fades each day, so do I...and you can only do what you can do, right?! 
xo Kat

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

In Search of Beauty

I will be honest, I haven't watched the news about the devastating tornadoes, I have read the headlines online, but not delved any deeper.   It's not that I'm uncaring, or unsympathetic, it's just that I can't handle all of the sadness, loss, and deep, deep pain that those people must be feeling.

Once upon a time, when a tragedy like this would strike, I would read every story, watch every gut wrenching video, and hope that by doing so, in some small way I could take away some of that pain.

I have always jumped into action, making donations, helping in any way I could to mend the wounds that so often happen along the road of life, but today I do it from a point of not knowing all of the particulars, and that seems to work best for me.

Instead, now I tend to search for beauty during times of darkness.  Sadness spurs me on to want to capture and create loveliness and calm amidst the unthinkable.

Last night I had dinner with a very dear friend, and we laughed and chatted until 1/2 hour past the closing time of the restaurant.  They were so sweet and didn't even tell us that they were closed, but the mop buckets and empty room brought us out of our bubble and told us it was time to go home.

We were blissfully unaware, because neither of us had heard the news, that across the country others were experiencing something totally different, something horrific.

Today, I went out into my yard and gathered up a huge bouquet of roses and peonies, arranged them into one of my favorite vases, washed some strawberries, broke out a china tea cup and some tea.  I needed something pretty to counteract all of the ugliness that touches us each day.

Like the fact that a friend lost her beloved dog last week, or that today is a memorial service for another friend's husband.  And the fact that so many are now without homes, clothing, or their greatest possessions of all...their loved ones...not just in Oklahoma, but all over the world.

So instead of focusing on the loss, the sadness, the emotions that I can't fix, can't change, can't take away, I will instead focus my energies on creating beauty and donating money and supplies to Oklahoma so that they can begin to pick up the pieces and move forward.

A friend of mine from HS posted this on his FB page, so I will pass this along to anyone who wants to help with the relief effort.

Click here for a list of ways you can donate to help the victims in Oklahoma.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Turning Points

Yesterday we attended my beautiful niece's college graduation from West Virginia University.

After arriving on Saturday, we were excited to share in her day and help her celebrate this major accomplishment in her life.

For the sake of her privacy, I won't post any recognizable photos of my niece, and to be honest, the lighting was so bad, and the size of the venue was so large, that I had to really crank my ISO up, so they weren't the best anyway.

Instead, I will share with you with the myriad of creative mortar boards donned by some of the graduates.  There were more, but the shots either turned out blurry, or I just wasn't quick enough to get a good shot of the others.

The ceremony was lovely, well organized and not overly long, and you could feel how excited the graduates, their friends and families all were to be there, but there was one thing that wasn't perfect...the person who delivered the commencement address.

Now, I get it, we can't all have A list speakers at every University graduation, but wow, this person really missed the mark with their words.  Instead of taking the opportunity to feed off of the enthusiasm, creativity, promise, and utter joy of this captive audience, the speaker chose to focus on their own lifetime accomplishments.

It was like listening to someone read their resume...and it was a LONG resume.  Clearly, this individual had achieved much in their lifetime, was a contributor to our country, and seemed to love their own family, but I was so struck by how this person wasn't really interested in the reason they were actually there...what this occasion represented for these students...undergraduate, post grad, and doctoral students.

As I listened, I became more and more confused as to what this person was trying to convey, aside from the "hey, look what I've done," speech.  Finally, after a very long winded and circuitous talk, he said something that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and I actually grabbed Mr. Tide's leg, as if to say...did he really just say what I think he said?!

This person, the one asked to address new graduates, people hungry to get out in our world and make a difference told them to NOT follow their dreams!  Crazy, right?!  I know, that's what I thought!

Now he didn't say it quite that way, but I'll try and loosely paraphrase what "I" went something like this.

Now, people may tell you that if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life...and if you do what you love the money will follow, but you can't always follow your dreams, you have to be realistic and you have to be able to make money to pay the bills at the end of each month.

Now, that is probably not in order of how he said it, and it's certainly not word for word, but holy crap...who says that to a graduating class?!  And I don't care if you are graduating from kindergarten or getting your doctorate!!!

The speaker then went on to tell them that most marital problems stem from not having enough money, and again I was dumbfounded!

Ok, I get that everyone needs a healthy dose of realism...(anyone who has watched American Idol auditions, where whole families have told someone they have singing ability when clearly they don't, gets that concept)...but crushing people's dreams is far worse in my mind.

Here I was, sitting in a room full of people beaming at the prospect of following their dreams, creative people, some young, some old, all with the same hope that they could go out in the world now that they had this piece of paper and make a difference.

Even some of their mortar boards screamed...I'm creative, I have dreams, and I WILL achieve them, and then like a wet blanket being thrown on a camp fire this person told them...don't dream, follow the money trail, because that is where true happiness lies in this life.

I've never spoken at a graduation ceremony, so I can't fault this person for not really knowing what to tell people who are venturing out into a world full of unexpected glitches and financial insecurity, but I do know that I would NEVER tell them not to follow their dreams.  Or maybe I'm the clueless one, and what he said did impact people in a way that I just didn't get...who knows?!

So, this got me thinking, what would I have told my niece and the other graduates if I had been the speaker at her graduation, what do I wish someone had told me when I was just starting to walk the path that has become my life, and this is what I came up with.

First, I would tell each of them to dream big, even bigger than they can imagine.

I would tell them to not be afraid to fail, because from failure always comes triumph.

I would tell them to be flexible, because change can be a good certainly was for this Poli Sci major who has never worked a day in her life doing any Political Science stuff!

I would tell them to live without regret, but be thoughtful in your choices.

I would tell them to avoid people who tell you to follow the rules, innovators never have and never will follow the rules.

I would tell them to bottle up the joy, the pure idealism, and the pride they had on that day, and to pull it out on days when they needed to.

I would tell them to listen to others, but never lose your own voice.

I would tell them to never stop being a student, and to always be a teacher...being one or the other is great, being both will make you whole!

I would tell them to give back, because they got where they are because of the generosity of others.

And though I could go on and on, I would finish by telling them to enjoy life, not the life they had, or the one they hope for, but the one they are living right this very minute, because time flies by way too quickly and you can't change the past or predict the just have to live!

After chatting with Mr. Tide, and calling my own children on the 5 hour drive home to tell them how I hoped they would never follow advice which told them to not follow their dreams, but focus on the money, late last night I logged on to FB and saw the video below.

I watched it, and then left a thank you for the person who posted it, saying that it had restored my faith in humanity.  

The truth is, that our experiences in life are just that...they belong to us, and they are not necessarily predictors of how anyone else's life will turn out.  This video shows how it should be done, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, because it's not just graduates that need to hear what he is saying, we could all learn a little bit from it!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Roses and Radishes

Our weather has taken a turn back towards early springtime in terms of temperatures.   It's been a little crazy trying to decide how to dress each day when the temps have ranged from high 50s yesterday and today, to the 80s last week and for the rest of this week.

But as confused as we humans might be, I'm sure the plants are even more unsettled by this changeable weather.  Despite the fluctuations, the roses are coming along beautifully, and with warmer temps on the horizon again, it won't be long before we have blossoms everywhere.

For Mother's Day the past few years, my children have given me rose bushes as gifts, and I can't think of a better gift or one that keeps on giving in such a beautiful way.

Over the weekend, we planted all of our herbs, some tomato plants, and flowers in containers.  Now, when I sit out on my back patio, I feel like we are finally heading in to summertime and I love watching everything grow and prosper.

The other great thing about this time of year is that our farmer's markets are back in business after taking the winter months off.

Even though I grew up with a big garden each year, and we have the room to plant one of our own, we opt for planting just a few veggies and get the rest from local organic farmers.

I like the idea of supporting them, and it sure as heck beats having to water, weed, and worry about the deer gobbling up anything we would plant at our own house.

Last Saturday I was excited to see that one of our favorite vendors had French radishes.  I love radishes...and I'm the only one in my family who eats them, but I always buy several bunches.

French radishes are a little sweeter than other varieties and not quite as hot.  They are yummy in salads, but to be honest mine never last long enough to make it to a salad bowl.  

I just clean, trim, and sprinkle a little salt on them and then greedily gobble them up!  I sure hope they have more next weekend!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Strawberries, Chocolate and Mom

Fresh, ripe strawberries and yummy chocolate.

My family seems to always know the best ways to make this day special!

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Circle of Life

Sometimes in life, things don't turn out exactly as planned.  No matter how much we hope, pray, meditate, or wish for something to work out...the plan we have just doesn't come to fruition. 

Now for those of you who have read my blog for any length of time, you already know that I believe we all have the power to help shape our own lives and our destinies.  But I also believe that no matter which higher power you believe in, there are just some things that are out of our control, or beyond our current comprehension.

Such is the case with our baby bluebirds.  After days of cautiously monitoring their well being from afar, and the occasional welfare check inside their box, we have lost all 5 of them.  We don't know what happened, and on a rational level we know that this is how nature works, sometimes babies don't make it in the wild, but it still makes our hearts heavy knowing they are gone.

All we can do now is to clean out the box and wait for another bluebird family to start anew.  I've read that this doesn't take much time at all, so I will keep you posted as to whether or not we get to root for more baby bluebirds sometime soon.

When I sent my son an email about the loss of our bluebirds and my sadness, he wrote back explaining that it was all part of the circle of life.  Of course I'm aware of this circle having lost loved ones and pets who I miss dearly, but I tend to focus on the upswing of the circle most of the time and not the part at the bottom of the circle I suppose...or whichever part represents death.

I do this in many ways, mostly by knowing that those I've lost are always nearby.  I pay close attention to little things that act as reminders of their ever present love and guardianship.  And I also help to focus on life by bringing more life into the world.

One of the ways I bring more life into the world is by planting and nurturing things, like a pound's worth of cosmos seeds that just arrived in the mail from Eden Brothers.   I also try to exchange plants with other people, mostly old fashioned or heirloom varieties because those help give other creatures the pollen they require to exist and thrive.

I have to say that I've even been toying with the idea of beekeeping in hopes of giving honey bees the best chance possible as they are dying in unimaginable numbers.  Colony collapse is a huge issue that I think many people either don't realize, or don't fully understand the impact of it happening...because I believe that if they did they would be as freaked out as I am about it.

Sometimes the circle of life theory isn't about nature at work as it should be, but it's because of us human beings turning the world so topsy turvy with our desire for it plants, lawns, or whatever...that we ruin what has been in existence and thriving for millenia.

Although I've known about this bee issue for awhile now, it wasn't until more recently that I actually became alarmed at what is really going on.  So in my own small way (which every small act can add up to a huge change I believe), I am doing what I can to help save the bees.

We buy only organically grown foods...but I have a caveat to all that is organic.   Don't let the label organic be the hook on which you hang your environmental hat folks.  You see, sometimes organic fertilizers and other so called organic growing methods can harm things just like non organics can.  The impact is often far less, don't get me wrong, but if you are doing things without fully knowing the entire spectrum, you can still be hurting the environment.

For instance, if you use vinegar in lieu of other weed killers, you can actually be harming helpful critters in the soil that are overall good for plants.  Or if you look on the label of some organic fertilizers you will find that they contain bat guano.  Mining that particular ingredient can often be disruptive and harmful to the ecosystems in other parts of the world.

So, what's an environmentally conscientious girl or guy to do you ask?  Just be cognizant to the best of your ability of what you are using and what you are planting.  Don't succumb to the hype of great advertising and pretty packaging, but really look at what you are buying and do some research.  Some of those gorgeous hybrid flowers you are planting that "just have to be full of pollen because they are SO much bigger than their ancestors," may have very little pollen content, or worse yet, the blossoms maybe so huge that the pollinators can't even reach the pollen because evolutionarily speaking they haven't caught up yet.

Phew, I'm apparently on a roll, but I'll stop now.  And I will be the first to admit that I've been guilty of waving the environmentally friendly flag without crossing all my t's and dotting my i's from time to time. 

And I know how it is to have someone banging the drum...eventually we all tune it out and go about doing whatever it was we were doing before...but maybe, just maybe we can all learn something if we stop and listen for awhile. 

If you want more info on bee colony collapse you can watch the video at the end of this post.

Ok, so back to the beauty that is nature...back to beautiful roses and fresh (yes organic) peaches so yummy that you might have to say ''mmmm" when you bite into them.

The roses are Carding Mill and they have a really interesting, or as my husband puts it "weird" scent.  Maybe it's the myrhh scent, which heck if I know what myrhh smells like...because to me they smell kind of like orange Pez candies.

And with that keen observation we have come full circle with this little post of mine, from tragedy to childhood memories of yummy candy with a lot of gobbledy gook in between.  Somehow I think my view of the circle of life might be a little more oval or some other geometric design whose name I can't remember, but it's all good I think...don't you agree?!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Princess Alexandra of Kent

I had hoped to share something else with you on my blog today, but the weather is having other ideas and it's been raining off and on.  We have 5 new visitors here in the form of little baby bluebird hatchlings, and I'm so excited I can hardly stand it.

We tried taking pictures of them yesterday, but it was too dark and too rainy, with more of the same today.  Even with the ISO cranked way up in the photo above it was hard to get a decent shot, so you will have to wait for a bright sunny day before I can properly introduce you to my new (apparently very hungry) babies.

Yes, I feel like a proud grandparent or something, and I have become a bit obsessed with these bluebirds, even going so far as to worry if another bird will harm them...stay away you mean house sparrows or you'll be introduced to my nasty side! 

After yesterday's rose post several of you emailed me or wrote on my FB page about how pretty they were and how much you loved the color.  The images in that post had had actions and textures applied to them which gave them a purple hue, so I thought I would show you their "true" color in this post.

They are Princess Alexandra of Kent roses from David Austin...which has become another obsession of mine!  I went from never owning a rose to craving WAY too many roses thanks in part to the internet and my friend Connie, who has a much larger obsession than I do with these beautiful plants.

In the two images above, you can see the varying shades displayed by these gorgeous blossoms as they open to peony like show stoppers.  They range from orangey pink to lavender, and some of the petals at the base of each bloom even have a touch of yellow.  And don't even get me started on the's yummy and I find myself burying my face in them every chance I's embarrassing really!

Of course I'm never content to leave well enough alone, so here is a shot I messed with by adding a texture and a few actions to.  As you can see, it does alter the true color of each blossom, but I'm ok with playing mother nature from time to time...heck, why not?!

Enjoy your day, and stay tuned for the baby blue bird extravaganza soon...can you stand the wait?! ;-)

Monday, May 6, 2013

To the Manor Born

I think I've been watching too many British period piece films lately.

I seem to think that I'm living in a castle or manor house with lush lawns and maybe even a pond or two, with a fountain of course.

At my lovely home, with its soaring ceilings and finely detailed carved mouldings, are a whole staff of people at my beck and call.

Someone to tend to my varied rose gardens, and to bring fresh flowers to my bedside table each morning before I wake.

And another bouquet to accompany afternoon tea...with gluten free scones...hah!

Yes, my manor house is quite lovely this time of year, you would like it should your carriage end up turning down the tree lined lane of my imagination.


And after such a long journey to get here, I would surely have a bath drawn for you, scattered with what else but fresh rose petals.

The first blooms of the season are here on my David Austin Roses, and their heady fragrance has me channeling a little upper crust luxury I think. :)