Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Along with many other people, I have become obsessed with the show Who Do You Think You Are, that airs on TLC on Tuesday nights 9 pm EST.

It's not that I am a celebrity follower, in fact it wouldn't matter to me who they showcased, I just love the idea of finding out who you really are, and following along as they discover long lost relatives and family triumphs and secrets.

I abhor so called reality tv, and refuse to be sucked in to following overpaid and often ill mannered celebs, so when I do watch television, which isn't often, my tv is normally firmed fixed on PBS.  But somehow, amidst my general disinterest in stars and my disdain for reality tv...I am transfixed by this show.  I think a part of me has always longed to know my lineage in a more in depth way than just the hearsay of relatives, and I also love the idea of being able to jump on a plane and go to the far flung places my ancestors once called home, like they do on the show.

So, about a week ago, we signed up for an account on and I began to delve a littler deeper into who I am.  It didn't take long for me to find out some really fun, sad, and interesting facts about my own family, stuff I had never heard before, and to substantiate some things I already knew.

I was able to confirm things I had known about my own relatives, and dig deeper into mysteries that no one seemed to be able to answer, and sadly no one had thought to ask before that person was no longer with us.  Like where my great uncle had actually fought in WWII.  I'm sure my mother and grandmother likely knew the answer to where he served in the Pacific theater, but when you are busy raising children and treading water just to keep up, the idea of asking about deceased family members is not at the top of the priority list.

I feel lucky though that I at least knew names, had some oral history, and had vague ideas of when and where people had died, but my digging rewarded me with so much more.  It turns out I had relatives who fought in nearly every war this country has seen, including those wars we fought abroad.  My great uncle from WWII, was in one of the toughest Marine Corps infantry units that ever existed, and he participated in some of the most terrifying and horrendous battles of the Pacific theater.  That participation resulted in him being injured and returning home, only to suffer from his mental and physical battle scars for the rest of his relatively short life.

As I dug deeper on both my mother and father's sides of the family, I found more info, more service members, and more tragedies as well as stories of great courage and even wealth and prestige.  It turns out I had relatives fighting for both sides during the civil war, and even against one another at the Battle of Gettysburg and Appomattox.

And I have a strong connection to England, and have likely even wandered the countryside in areas where my ancestors once lived and worked.  It has amazed me that the parts of the world for which I hold such affinity and love for, are the very places where my ancestors once knew joy and heartbreak.  It's as if their ghosts have drawn me there, so that I too could love these places they once called home.

One of the saddest things I found out as I was searching was about my great uncle, brother to my paternal grandfather.  We found records of him having served in France during WWI and it was there that he died.  Because I am a stickler for facts and also very curious, we decided to find out which battle he died in during the war, something we assumed since he was buried in an American war cemetery in France.  So we did a Google search to help verify what we found on, and what we found was a daily journal kept by the chaplain of my great uncles battalion.

It turns out they had only been in France for a short time when they had a battle against the Germans to try and prevent them from coming in to that area of France.  But what we discovered was that he hadn't died in that or any other battle, but he had drowned while swimming in a nearby river on a hot summer's day!  So he had survived and even won the battle with the Germans, but died tragically none the less.  It was just months before the war ended, and the chaplain describes it as such a sad event and that he was one of the best liked soldiers of his platoon.  How heartbreaking it must have been for my great grandmother to receive the news that her son had died, and even more gut wrenching that he died from drowning just months before returning home to her.  And to think I was only a short distance away from where he is laid to rest, and that the river he died in flows directly in the Seine, the river I have so been drawn to when visiting Paris!

Not all of the stories I have found are sad one though, it appears that I have relatives who were pillars of their communities, philanthropists, ministers of many faiths, and gentry with ties to wealth and power.  Of course I will continue to independently verify these sources, aside from what others put on, because I've already found one instance of someone claiming I had a relative who landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts with the earliest of settlers, when in fact further verification showed he had come a little later and settled in Connecticut and Rhode you have to double check your facts.

But I will say that I have found tons of documents from census records to marriage, birth, and death certificates, and even photos of old homesteads and manor houses in England that are a direct link to my family, and I couldn't have done that in a week without the help of, so I am thankful for the information they provide access too.

I think I now understand why I love certain parts of the world and why I have or want to visit them.  Though these people may be distant ghost like figures in my storied lineage, I am a miraculous mishmash of each of them...the good, the bad, and the ugly...I no longer wonder who I am, but revel in everything they contributed, allowing me to be me!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Strangely Beautiful

From day to day I never know what I will see outside my window.  Sometimes it's the resident bluebird family I have come to count on each day, and then sometimes it is something completely unexpected but amazing!

We have lots of Great Blue Herons that visit us, so seeing them is nothing new, but today, while hanging out with the dogs, I noticed a huge flash outside our back door.  What made this unusual was that the flurry of large wings didn't move past quickly and go towards the creek, but instead this majestic bird landed in one of our walnut trees away from the water but relatively close to our house.

Herons in the wild are extremely temperamental and wary of people, so I doubted I would be able to capture this unusually "close" encounter, but I grabbed my camera anyway and headed outside.  I was sure that when I opened the door it would take flight, but it stayed put and kept its eye on me.

As I edged my way closer, ever so slowly, I noticed something had a dark black eye...something I have never seen in all my years of photographing and watching herons.

Their eyes are normally yellow, and as you can see in the image above, its left eye looked like what I am accustomed to seeing when I look at a heron's eyes.

At first I wondered if perhaps it was a eye lid I had captured in the down position, but as I snapped away and came inside and really magnified the images it became clear that the eye was completely black, but not cloudy in any way.

It made me wonder if that could be why this particular heron was so different from any I had encountered before.  We usually can't get within 200 feet of one before they fly off, squawking with dismay, and I have plenty of heron "butt" pictures to prove this.

Instead of fleeing, this bird seemed to almost want me to get closer, to make note of his or her uniqueness.  I also think that this might be a juvenile, though it stood about 4 feet tall and easily had a wing span in excess of 5 feet.  The mottled neck feathers and chestnut edging on it's wings and near its legs can be an indication of its immaturity.

After a bit, he or she decided to move on, and flew off towards the water.  I was so happy I had talked myself into going out and taking a chance even though past experience dictated that I would only capture pictures of a fleeing bird.

And the bonus is that this heron was even more lovely with its mismatched eyes.  To me, it made it even more beautiful.  Some people find differences to just be strange...I find them to be captivating, and strangely beautiful!

Enjoy your day!

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Not much new here, in fact I realized yesterday as we went out to run errands that I hadn't been down the lane for almost a full week!  That's what feeling yucky will do to you, it will turn you into a hermit...but then again, being a hermit is sometimes a good thing.

But the whole not feeling well seems to have subsided, so now who knows where I will go...look out world, here I come, well at least the grocery store anyway! ;-)

Though I've stayed put this past week, I have been wandering around my yard, and I even made some yummy zucchini bread.  And the tomatoes are coming in fast and furious, so I shared some zucchini bread and some tomatoes with my neighbor.

Along with the wildlife and quiet nature of this place, another thing I love about my home are the neighbors.  Though we come together for parties and luncheons, we also have that lovely balance of leaving one another alone...well until we have too many tomatoes, or we need a cup of it's perfect!

The morning glories are finally blooming.  They've had so much rain this year that they haven't been as quick to bloom.  Morning glories flower best when they are stressed, such as during times of drought or high heat.  I don't mind that they haven't been as prolific this year, because their foliage is still one of my favorites and their leaves have cloaked our fence line in a truly beautiful way.

 And speaking of beautiful, the weather has taken a turn for the better and we have actually been sitting outside in the hammock and on our patio for the past few days.  It has been heavenly, and a welcome reprieve from the scorching hot days of the last several weeks.

I hope each of you are having a wonderful weekend.  I'm off to do a load of laundry...the down side of feeling better, but hey, I'll take it!  Enjoy your day!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pretty Cool

I stayed inside most of the day, still not 100%, but not horrible either.  It was pretty boring to be honest, but I didn't want to push things since I wasn't back on my "A" game yet.

Throughout the day a group of wild turkeys was parading back and forth just outside our house, along the fence line, and at one point they were so close that I decided I couldn't stand it any longer and went out to grab some shots.

Turkeys are not dumb, and when they heard me bumbling around in the bushes trying to be "quiet," they took off and ran at top speed across the field, leaving me with mostly shots of turkeys on the run....not exactly what I was hoping for.

Not to be defeated I looked up and noticed that with an impending thunderstorm there were lots of birds taking full advantage of the thermals, and the kicked up surf for fishing.

I don't know what it is about the wind, but when it is really blowing, the osprey and eagles decide it's time to come off their perches and duke it out with one another.  I noticed a mid air dog fight taking place WAY off across the field above the tree line, so I positioned my camera and started snapping.

I realized when I do this that I will likely just get shots of black dots off in the distance, but the logical part of me never wins out and I snap away like I'm going to get a shot good enough for National Geographic...every single time!

What I didn't expect when I got back in and started downloading images was that even though these would be black specks yet again, they were pretty cool tiny black specks!  In the image above, it's not an osprey and an eagle, but 2 eagles fighting over a fish.  If you look closely you will notice that the bottom bird is turned completely upside down.  What appears to be something hanging off of him is actually one of his wings and those are his talons pointed up in the air ready to take away the other eagle's fish!

We see this kind of fighting nearly every day, but it seems to ramp up a little when the winds pick up.

Eagles are tenacious birds, and when they want something, like another eagle's fish, they don't take no for an answer!

Even though the images appear to be in black and white, they are straight out of the camera, except for cropping and adding my watermark in Photoshop.  I love how graphic they look, and the stark contrast between the birds and the cloudy skies.

In the image above you can see the fish dangling from the top eagle's talons and the other eagle in hot pursuit to get to that fish.

I imagine the conversation was going a little something like...hey gimme that it's it's MINE!

And then, as often happens, the second bird finally got a nice hit in and knocked the fish right out of the other eagle's grasp.  There it is falling as the second eagle makes his move to catch it in mid air.

He or she was determined to catch their prize and went into full on dive mode.

Because I was shooting from so far away, nearly a quarter of a mile, I wasn't even sure I was capturing anything worth keeping, and it is really hard to focus once they get down to the tree line and the contrast is diminished.  So sadly, I can't tell you if the fish was ever recovered by either eagle, or if another battle ensued.

I turned and started taking pictures of flowers...and then came inside to find I had captured this battle, once I downloaded the images.

Even though these aren't the best images in the world, I love when I get shots like this.  It reminds me of how lucky I am to live in a place where one minute I think I will get pictures of wild turkeys, the next I'm shooting tiny aerialists in the sky, and then roses back here on the ground.  Pretty darned cool!

I hope your week is off to a cool start too!

P.S.  Welcome to the world Little Prince! :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's the Little Things

I've been going, going, going for days now and then last night it all came to a screeching halt.  I developed a horrible headache, one like I've never had before, and it actually made me physically ill, so today was spent laying in bed and watching whatever movies were on TV.  

It's funny how not feeling well and being laid up in bed for a day can make you appreciate all that you are able to accomplish on a day when you don't feel sick.  

On Friday, I got the chance to go to lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in awhile.  My old art partner and I have been so busy that it's been hard to carve out time to get together, so it was wonderful to have a couple of hours to sit and chat about everything that's been happening in our lives for the last few months.

I always realize after I get the chance to see someone I love spending time with but rarely get to, that I need to make more of an effort to do that.  You know how you run in to someone and you each say, "we really need to get together soon," but then time, and life get in the way and you never make it happen?

Well, I have decided that part of simplifying my life is to concentrate on the little things, the things that really do matter, like making time to see those people who you talk about, want to see and spend time with, but rarely do.

I'm also happy to report that we have now eaten 70 of our last 72 meals at home.  We decided about a month ago that we would make an effort to eat at home, preparing seasonal foods and just enjoying the process of cooking again.

It really has been effortless in many ways, made easier by the fact that it is summertime and lots of fresh veggies and fruits are in season and so plentiful.  Our tomato plants are giving us lots of tomatoes and the blueberries are finally starting to come in.

I so wish I could have these sweet blue berries fresh off the bush year round, but then again maybe I would take them for granted.  It is after all, the little things that truly make us happy in life, like a handful of fresh ripe blueberries on one of my favorite is good people, really good!

I hope you each have a great week!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Mister Quinn?

Yes, Misty Belle?

It's Too Darn Hot!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In Focus

I have a love hate relationship with my macro lens.

I love how close I can shoot some things, though I wish the lens would allow me to focus right on top of something, which it won't. :(  And the depth of field is incredibly fickle, even with a fairly tiny aperture.

But I still find more things to like about it than things I don't like, so for now I will be content with the shots I can get and not focus on the shots I can't get.  

See the dragonfly pic above...see those tiny round things on the back end of the dragonfly...those are eggs!  And if you follow the tail up you can see a few more eggs which I assume will soon be laid.  In my perfect macro lens world I would be able to get the whole dragonfly in focus...and be really, really close...close enough to see each of those tiny little eggs!

And in my perfect macro lens world, insects would stand perfectly still and let me take as much time as I want to capture their amazing detail.

But then I wouldn't have to work hard in order to get each shot...and life would be practically perfect, and where's the fun in that?!

The dragonfly agrees.

And deep down I know it's not the camera's fault or even the fault of my macro lens, it has more to do with my weird obsession with wanting everything in perfect focus, well when I want everything to be in focus anyway.  It's a complicated emotion folks, and I don't claim to be able to explain my weirdness! :)

This week has been a mixed bag of emotions.  Today I had lunch with friends, it was wonderful to get together and it was even more special to be able to celebrate someone's 88th birthday!  Mr. Tide has been working non stop, it comes with the territory of his job, and though I know what he does is very important, sometimes I worry about the toll it takes on him.  And yesterday I got a phone call that a dear old friend had unexpectedly lost his son...his only child, and someone who was way too young to go.  My heart breaks for him and his wife, and their loss has hit me hard.

 Life is sometimes like me and my macro lens, it isn't perfect, it's sometimes hard to deal with, but when you focus on the right parts, you really are able to capture its beauty.  Hug those you love tight my friends and focus on the good things in life.  It's as close to perfection as you will ever come.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Nuts and Bolts of Life

Do  you ever stop and think about what grounds you?  I mean what really makes you who you are, what has shaped you over your life, and what rocks you to your very core when you think about it not being there anymore.  For me it is more than one thing, but I think that's true for most people.

Of course family is and always will be at the top of my list, with pets right up there.  When I look around my house there are certain possessions that remind me of my lineage, like the pieces my parents made for us, antiques I bought when we didn't have two nickels to rub together, heirloom pieces I inherited, gifts we've been given, and sweet mementos my children have made or given us over the years, but aside from photos, the other stuff is mostly just stuff.

This weekend we went over to help our son mow the farm property I own with my siblings.  There is a lot to mow there, especially when the fields need trimming, so it's a two tractor event that takes awhile to do.  My grandfather used to do this all on his own, though he did let us drive the tractors, and I learned to drive on an old tractor complete with a metal seat and hair trigger clutch.

From the day I was born, this land has been a part of me, the nuances of its hills and furrows are burned into my brain, and I know that they will remain there forever.

After my grandparents had both died, the farm was passed to my mother and father.  At times I think tending to it was a burden for them, having land requires work, but most of the time it was just a place they felt great affection for as they lovingly cared for it.

After my parents both stopped working, the farm became their own playground of sorts.  My dad planted blueberry bushes and they always had a huge garden each summer.  They built a cabin for the grandkids on the property, hosted big parties complete with roaring bonfires, and took us on hayrides in the had become a place where my children were now deeply rooted just as I was, and our family before them had been.

Now, this land is in the hands of myself and my 3 siblings, each of us with a different take on what it means to us.

As I wandered the property with my camera, I was struck by how many memories I have stored from every vantage point, even though so much has changed since I used to ride my bike or walk from my own home to spend time there as a child.

I could recall how it felt to run through the fields of hay or rye grass so tall we could hide in them.  How the horses who grazed the fields smelled and how it felt to run my fingers through their manes.

I could smell the flowers and the honeysuckle that lined the ditches, and hear my grandmother's voice as she hollered to my grandfather to come in for lunch or supper.

I could smell the freshly baked cakes, canned tomatoes, and Sunday suppers we all shared here, and see my grandparents sitting on their side porch watching the horses and life go by as they aged gracefully.

And I remembered those crazy sleepless nights when we brought our own firstborn home to this house which we rented as a young married couple.  It was a small place, with a tiny kitchen and one bathroom, but it felt like a palace to us.  Every wall held memories of laughter, every creak in the floor spoke of children playing, and every slam of the screen door meant that summer was here and sour grapes needed eating and old junk cars needed 6 year olds to drive them, even if weeds were growing through the floorboards and they never moved!

They say you can't come home again, and although that's true because things are always changing, what they don't tell you is that home never leaves you, it's always inside of you.

Home is the seed that never stops growing, the one that can lay dormant during a drought or rot from too much rain, but then springs forth despite the hardships of life.

It is the tree that may lose branches, but its roots run so deep that it can weather any storm and provide shade on the hottest of days.

Things change, people change, but the things we hold dear endure in a way that rust and decay can not touch.

Cracks can form, wrinkles may appear, but underneath it all is the place that grounds us, the heart of it all.

The nuts and bolts of our lives are what we use to construct our own destinies.  We can be mindful architects or careless builders of places that won't stand the test of time.  We must all chose to use quality materials that will give us solid foundations, chose a site that will ground us and not wash away, and constantly tend to ourselves and make the repairs necessary, because if you love yourself you will be ever mindful that even after you are gone, others will feel and benefit from the strength of your structure.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Winging It

I am behind on any number of things, including but not limited to...

Cleaning out my closet
Uploading pics to my website
Returning emails
Mowing my yard
Delivering birthday presents to friends
Answering questions by sweet commentors!

And the list goes on and on, but I have to say that we have way too much going on here at my house, stuff that occupies our minds and our bodies, and keeps us swimming upstream some days.

But I made a promise to myself when I came back to blogging that I would need to let things go sometimes and focus on the important stuff, even if it meant not returning every email or being as faithful to this blog as I would like.

Real life happens, and real life can't be put on hold, so that is always the priority around here now, and I'm ok with just winging it most days.

Because winging it can actually be quite beautiful!

Enjoy your week everyone!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Talking Turkey

I'm so glad you all liked my Fatty Breadkins post from yesterday...I think she would be pleased to know that her legacy lives on through my feeble attempts at silver polishing.

I awoke this morning at 4 am, and could not for the life of me fall back asleep for over 3 hours!  In case you are wondering I watched a little bit of the movie Babe and realized that it's not the happy go lucky story of a pig that I least the part I saw had a much darker tone when I was watching it pre-dawn.

I also can tell you loads of info about Lewis and Clark's expedition, the show I found on PBS, which I opted for once the sheep dog in Babe was muzzled and drugged and I realized I had probably traumatized my children by letting them watch that movie when they were little and we had herding dogs like we do now!

It turns out that as the sun is coming up there is a heck of a lot going on in the field next to my house which I can see outside my bedroom window.  None of the pictures in this post are what I saw then, these are all from later in the day, but I'll give you a rundown of what I did observe at about 5:30 this morning.

Eagles were flying, 2 deer were chasing one another, bats were flying (which would normally freak me out if I hadn't been so exhausted), songbirds were flitting about, and the neighbor's cat was doing a balance beam routine on our fence...which would normally drive our dogs nuts, but they were exhausted because I had been awake half the night.

When I did finally get up around 10 am, after just a few hours of actual sleep, I was greeted by turkey vultures sitting on our fence, hmm should I consider this a bad sign I thought?

Then, as I mulled over the possibilities of why turkey vultures would be sitting on our fence when they never have in the past, my attention was drawn to a juvenile eagle making his way across the field.

His mottled head feathers made him look almost vulture like I thought.

Turns out they weren't here for me, they were just feasting on something dead in the field, so that's a relief.  They aren't the prettiest birds in the world, but I know they serve a purpose and who am I to judge right?!

English Shepherds are not fans of interlopers in their yards or on their fences, so after taking a picture of the 3 vultures on the fence through the french doors, I slipped outside and took a few more pics of the two remaining before letting Mr. Quinn and Misty out to inform the trespassers that it was time to move on.

All was quiet for a few hours until our resident wild turkeys showed up...

Accompanied by some deer.  I think it may have been a party of sorts, or maybe with the rain we've been having I could say that in this picture they may have been looking for an ark.

Whatever their purpose for being nearby, it wasn't good enough for my ever attentive watch dogs.  Misty Belle says that her work is never done, and she thinks she and Quinn deserve a few extra hugs and treats for their very full day!

Thank you to those of you who left comments yesterday, you guys make me smile and I just think I have the smartest and most amazing readers on the planet!  And for those who asked, I did try the foil, soda, salt thing for removing the tarnish, but it was no match for my tarnish, though it did help a lot.  I ended up using Twinkle silver polish and then using a special polishing soft cloth, because when I tarnish, I tarnish big! :)

Also, Phyllis is an eagle eye, because my chandelier is by Solaria!

Oh, and I read this quote on Pinterest today and thought, how perfect for my sleepless night...I wonder who was dreaming of me?!!!