Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Hometown Christmas

 When they light up our Christmas tree on the village green it is the signal for the decorating to begin!

Come take a stroll around with me. Being new to using this camera I still have that beginner's concept of being sure that I'm able to photograph anything. Well, the results aren't entirely perfect and the use of my tripod (which stayed warm alone in the car) would have resulted in more clear images but I had fun trying to document the holiday lights in our town this Christmas. It is actually quite hard to figure out the settings for the camera when you can barely see where the buttons and shutter are, much less use numbingly cold fingers to make the adjustments.

In the Village Center the lamp posts are wrapped with garland and ribbon and the store decorations range from a modest door wreath with a lit tree inside to...
the jeweler who has gone all out this year.

At night it is as though that tree is covered in thousands of glittering sapphires.

 The gazebo wrapped in garland and bows by day transforms to
the sparkle of icicle lights by night.
 The tree doesn't really float as it appeared to in my first photo but the perimeter fence has lights along the top and when it is very dark and you are taking photos at 10.30pm it can look that way.

 The landscaping business has created a masterfully lit advertisement for their services - understated and very elegant. There's a chimney which blocks out a few of the bulbs on the roof ridgeline.

 Away from the center of town homeowners have taken up the lighting challenge also. This one has full on spotlighting to wash the entire front facade along with the candle light in each window and the big wreath.
 With only the one small tree festooned in colored lights this homeowner nevertheless manages to create a splash of wow! I loved how the colors bounced off the paintwork.
Here's a more restrained look; white lights and not too many of them.

This tree just enchanted me. Look how pretty the reflections in the window are.

How dull it will be in January when all these are turned off.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

December in my Garden

I have been somewhat absent from post creating of late because of a variety of reasons - poor weather for photo taking being a major one. But yesterday was not too bad so I spent an hour or so looking around my garden. The night before I had been really lucky to catch the sunset in the above photo. I've wondered for quite some time why I can't seem to see good sunsets and finally the penny dropped that my house is somewhat in a dip in the landscape. It has to be a really great one before I can see it from here.
December in the garden does not have a lot going for it unless you look at textures, shapes and monotones. From my upstairs windows I can see some really robust rusty brown leaves hanging on in among these many tall straight trunks.
In the back corner interest has been stripped away. The garden benches have moved inside for the season and the summer perennials have been cut back to release the chaos of leaves trapped in their dried stalks.
On the side, the sweetbay magnolia tree is currently showing a very pretty combination of colors if you tip your head and look up high.
Holly berries on the Nellie Stevens holly tree are not abundant this year. I'm not sure what the Old Farmers Almanac says this portends.
Out front the Korean boxwood planted earlier in the planing season have had a layer of mulch laid down to help them get through this first winter. The island bed in the foreground still has the coneflower seed heads that I like to leave for the birds enjoyment.
The blush pink nandina is living up to it's name.
I had come inside thinking I was done with photo taking when the sun burst out for a few minutes. From an upstairs window the shadows looked interesting and showed up well on the newly "swept up" back yard.

Now it is the "bare bones" time for the landscape I can see a few items that need moving around. My Dad's rain gauge might need bringing in for the season as I'd hate for frozen water in it to expand and burst the metal seams. The white birdhouse I liked so much that came from Amish country in PA was not nearly as well liked by the birds so I may relocate it to see if the birds think it is more attractive with a different aspect. The sundial on the pedestal next to the holly tree has been too shaded for some years now but when I first placed it there the holly tree wasn't much more than 3' high.

The back of the yard has quite an area of woods in a natural shape. We sometimes like to leave produce items out there for the critters. This was a butternut squash from the 2013 vine in front under the nandina that we forgot to eat and it has taken on a really intriguing appearance. A tomato that did not ripen in time has maintained it's shape and the large brown leaf in the front left added a final touch to this Still Life by Nature. It would make great inspiration for a fiber art/quilt piece with those pops of green among the myriad shades of brown.

Last winter the harsh weather killed the big rosemary bush. In the spring I cut it back to the ground intending to pull all the root system out once the flower  volunteers finished blooming. As you can see, I'm still waiting. This little viola is one of the few touches of color left in my garden in this month of December.
Finally, this was last night's sunset - not quite as pretty as the one from Thursday but as there is a large airport in that same direction the vapor trails from the many aircraft do add to the effect.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Colored by Fall

Posts seemed to have dried up in the past weeks; I have been taking photographs but somehow the time to turn them into a blog post has not happened. But there is such an abundance of color happening in my environs right now that I can't resist the chance to document it.

 A couple of weeks ago I looked out at the large black walnut tree in the yard and remarked on how many walnuts I could see on the tree.
 Within a week most all of them seemed to fall off the tree and litter the ground.  The squirrels regard them as a prize and relocate them all over the yard.
 It has long been a mystery as to why we cannot break through the hard outer casing but the squirrels seem to have no such problem. They enjoy carrying them to a clean place (like this brick wall which I recently had power washed) to sit and crack open and eat. You'll note they do not then clean up after the party. And that the end of season tomatoes hold no attraction for them when they have an "all you can eat" buffet of walnuts.
 Out front the coneflowers have turned into bird feed but the self seeded butterfly bush is still trying to attract butterflies. Sadly, I saw very few butterflies in my garden this season.
 The chrysanthemum, a well known fall bloomer, is in full glory while slightly to the left we see the bud for another coneflower which is very late in the season to be making an appearance.
 The real star attraction this week is the crepe myrtle tree. It seems to have a different color each day.
 Sometimes the color seems to  change depending on the direction you are looking at the tree.
 Last week it had been raining just before I arrived home and I was entranced by the raindrops clinging to the underside of the deck railing. This made a pretty vignette I thought with the fall pumpkin to the left and the summer flowers to the right.
 The very tall tree in the upper left is the black walnut which by now has dropped most all the leaves and walnuts too.
 The top left burgundy colored foliage is the dogwood tree that is such a pretty picture in the spring. You can see the dog checking to see who has been trailing through his garden since last time he was out there.
 So, okay, I took more than one or two of those raindrop photographs. But I liked the combination of the delicate raindrops with the strong linea brown of the deck railing.
 The blue flowers in the background are New England Asters which are not quite as good looking as they have been in other years. The crepe myrtle however is more than making up for that.
 To finish, one more photograph of the magnificent colors from that one crepe myrtle tree that has white blooms in the summertime.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August in my Garden

I can't promise such great photos and stories as the Italian Adventure but it's surely time to see what has been growing and happening in my garden this month.

The coneflowers have done well this season and make for goodlooking rustic photos - I liked the reflection in the birdbath here - but they do have a somewhat raggedy appearance.
There's basil planted in anticipation of a good crop of tomatoes. That little spot of red you see has been the only ripe tomato so far.
 And a full head of parsley to garnish and flavor summer dishes.
But ripening? That's just not happening to schedule. Usually I have several thriving cherry tomato plants that grow from seed. But with the very cold and long winter we had the much anticipated seedlings just never showed up. By the time I decided I couldn't wait much longer to get seedlings in there was not much choice left at the garden centers so I settled on a six pack of Rutgers variety. Fruit has developed as you can see but with the lower than usual temperatures and the number of overcast, dull days we have had there is only very slow ripening.

 Butterflies have also been very slow to appear. Ordinarily in late August I should be seeing multiple butterflies for much of the day on this butterfly bush. But it was only a week ago that I first saw this Tiger (?) Swallowtail.
 And a couple of days later this Spicebush Swallowtail showed up to visit the phlox.
The caryopteris (blue beard or blue spirea) are starting to bloom now and are attracting the bees.

 The hummingbirds are defying the lack lustre summer by appearing frequently at my feeder. Last week demand was so strong that I was refilling the feeder on a 24 hour basis but in the past several days it has dropped back somewhat. The birds seem to be very territorial and although there are four feeding spots at  the feeder an incoming bird would always first chase away whoever else was already there. I happened to be telling a friend, who has lots of hummers visit, that I had not seen two able to feed at once.
And of course the next day I saw this happening. The bird on the left sat quite happily feeding while the one on the right would take a few sips, back off and hover, take a few more sips, back off and hover.  I'll have to check back at the photos from last year and see how much longer we can expect to be delighted by the sight of these tiny birds in the garden.
 In the front garden there is a large number of echinacea (coneflowers) and salvia which are a magnet for the goldfinches but those birds are very camera shy.
I'll close with this last shot of purple petunias backed by more basil that has gone to seed waiting for the tomatoes! It has been a good summer for the crepe myrtle tree.

On the bright side the lawn is the best it has ever been in August so all is not bad!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Day Seven farewell dinner of my Excellent Italian Adventure

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. And so must my very Excellent Italian Adventure. But not without a wrapup special dinner on the front terrace of Profumo di Vino.
Before we left the farmhouse to head into town for our dinner I couldn't resist photographing the view again.

 We were greeted on the front terrace by restauranter Memo who handed us a glass of white wine.
 The advance party had already seated themselves but soon got up again when they realized what was coming out to the hors d'oeuvre table.
I'd like to be able to name all this for you - I did sample practically everything on the table - but alas, I was more focused on eating than writing.  In the foreground is deep fried semolina dulche (might be mixing my languages here - oops) which was amazing. In the morning at the market I had noticed that a lot of the zucchini came with the flower still attached and that formed the focus ingredient of the dish to the upper left of the semolina dulche; the zucchini flower was gently enveloped in a dough and then quickly deep fried for a wonderful couple of bites of bliss. There were also tiny pastry rolls, baguette sandwiches of prosciutto, pizza bites, two bite burgers and then at the end they carried out the spectacularly simple fried sage leaves.

With experience we knew we had better not totally fill up on all that deliciousness because more was to come.

 Our first plated course was vitello tonatto -  we had been able to have this at least a couple of times earlier in the week but it is so good that it was no problem at all to clean the plate. Notice how the plates are decorated with tiny sprigs of assorted herbs. This delicious menu item is thin sliced veal stuffed with a sauce of mayonnaise, tuna and anchovies as the main ingredients.
 The pasta course was, I  believe, agnolotti al plin. Earlier in the week we had watched a demonstration of how this is made; tiny bite sized portions of fresh made pasta wrapped around a meat paste (rabbit,veal and ?? - they called it a secret recipe although they had said which three meats were combined). Again a herb garnish, this time a sage leaf.
 And we finished with dessert; a semi freddo version of tiramisu.

All so very delicious! But with an early pickup next morning we were keen to get an early night.
 This had been the view I was greeted with each morning.

 And this was my first breakfast back home. Not quite the same. But the memories from My Excellent Italian Adventure will be with me for a very long time. It was a very special experience and exactly "what the doctor ordered" to cheer me.

I have only given you a small portion of my photographs but keep checking because I'm sure I am not done yet with images from my seven sensational days in Italy.