Sep 28, 2013

Two Girls, a camera, and getting locked in a garden

“Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of time to take pictures”, I said to Kelly when she and I arrived at the Botanical Gardens that fateful Sunday afternoon.  I looked at the clock on the wall and it was 3:30pm.  We bought our tickets and went inside. I thought that we had an hour and a half to take pictures.  When we went through the doors into the first garden area, the humidity blew into our faces like an oven, which I had completely forgotten about.  Kelly sweats profusely when it is over 70 degrees and she started having a meltdown immediately.  Often she will have two fans blowing on her at work when the air seems stifling.  I could already tell that this adventure was going to be a challenge. I just didn’t know how much of a challenge it was really going to be. 

When I started my blog, Until Morocco, my interest in photography was piqued. I really didn’t take many pictures before that because my camera was a Kodak 110 that cost about $20.00 and it produced very poor quality photographs.  By the time I returned from Africa, the camera was literally taped in various places to keep it from falling apart. I immediately tossed it in the garbage when I returned home. So, I used the camera Aziz had brought with him when he came to America.  Sometimes the button would jam whenever I tried to get a shot of something.  I spent more time trying to take photographs than actually acquiring them.
 Aziz noticed how much I enjoyed taking pictures and bought a Canon PowerShot. When it arrived, I claimed it immediately as my own.  It was the most expensive camera that I had ever used and thought that it was great at first.  That is until I started trying to duplicate what I saw others publishing on the internet.  I would have to take on average 10-20 pictures of the same pose just to get one good shot.  Most of the time I was sadly disappointed, and yet I kept trying. 

Kelly is a young woman that I work with.  She has thick light brown highlighted hair with big brown eyes and is quite lovely when she is all made up.  She came prepared for a professional photo shoot with a change of clothes and extra makeup. I was surprised to learn that she went to modeling school when she was younger and I didn’t really have to tell her how to pose, which was a relief to me.  We had been talking for several weeks about taking pictures of her for an on line dating site that she wanted to join.   Kelly had been divorced for a while and she wanted some new pictures of herself.  I warned her that my camera didn’t produce the best photographs, but I was willing to give it a try. 
We started the photography session in an area that looked like it was from out west.  There was a wall that was painted bright blue with a wooden bench which was surrounded by flowers.  She sat down, tilted her head, and then she smiled. Click. She turned her back to me and then twirled around and faced me, another click.  After going through all of the indoor gardens, we decided to go outside where the air was much cooler and Kelly wouldn’t sweat so much.  Zoom in, zoom out, sit down, stand up, and twirl, so many poses, so many pictures.  I think that I took about 400 photographs that day and then it was time for us to go. 

We hadn’t noticed that there was no one in the garden with us. When we were done, we made our way to the door of the facility. I pulled on the handle, but the door wouldn’t open.  I knocked on the door multiple times.  No one came.  We went back out into the garden to try and find a way out. By this time, I was beginning to panic.   I glanced around and noticed the street.  The gate is surely close by, I thought to myself.  After walking the entire perimeter of the garden, I finally located the gate.  It was padlocked.  By this time, Kelly too, was starting to become anxious.  “What are we going to do?” she asked.  “It figures, the first time I go out on a photo shoot we have to get locked in the place!” I cried.  “Why do things always happen to me?” It was late and, I too, had sweat a lot and was in desperate need of a shower.  The only thing that I could think about was clean undergarments and my strict 24 hour change rule.  I noticed that there was a fence around the garden. However, in some places the fence was very tall and other places it was nearly chest high.  “Kelly, I think that I can make it over the fence. Once I get over, I will help you.” I told her.  There were spikes on top of the fence.  One slip and I would have an extra hole somewhere in my body, for which I was not too keen to have.  Carefully, I swung my leg over the fence, while holding on for dear life, and gently placed my foot on the other side being careful not to touch the spikes.  Then I swung my other leg around. Once secure, I jumped onto the grass. What a relief.   “Ok, now it’s your turn.” I said.  Kelly hesitated. She was wearing very tall wedged bottom shoes, which were very unstable. When I was growing up we called them platform shoes.   She kept looking around for a better place to try for her escape.   Unexpectedly, a man came out of the back door beyond the padlocked gate.  “Hey!” I shouted, “My friend is still locked inside.  Can you let her out?  He looked at us in disbelief.  “Where were you five minutes ago before I climbed over this fence?”  I demanded.  The man insisted that he had checked the garden before he locked the door.  We knew better.  He must have poked his head outside the door and then went right back in. Once the gate was unlocked, we thanked him profusely.  I called my husband and told him all about our ordeal.  Then he met us at the Hilton Hotel for more photographs.  You would have thought we would have given up after that ordeal. Like the paparazzi, all I thought about was the next shot. 

Sep 24, 2013


I was at my local library this evening and saw a moving ceremony by a few Buddhist monks. They used various colors of sand to decorate a board and then when the art was complete it was destroyed. They say that it is because beauty doesn't last.  While there I saw this young man praying as the monks chanted. It was a very moving sight.  His hair was pulled up in a bun on top of his head and he was adorned in a tunic with loose fitting trousers and plain brown leather shoes.  I could hardly take my eyes off of him.

Sep 22, 2013

Jessie McCallum's Plain Shortbread

I've never been much of a cookie baker.  However, this recipe is very simple, plus delicious.  My neighbor, Margaret, gave me her Aunt's recipe who is from Scotland.  Of course, I had to try and make it. The sad thing is I don't follow directions well.  The shortbread is supposed to be cut into strips or squares and I used cookie cutters because I didn't have a tin pan to press the dough into. The taste is still the same no matter how you cut it. Please don't tell Margaret.


14 oz  (about 1 3/4 cup) all purpose flour
2 oz (about 1/2 cup) corn or rice flour
1/2 lb buter
4 oz (about 1/2 cup) caster or granulated sugar

Cream butter and sugar, then gradually work in sieved flour until all is used up.  Press mixture into a greased tin and flatten with a fork and mark, about 1/2 inch thick.  Bake in a preheated oven at 275 F until golden,not brown. 

When baked, leave in the pan a bit to cool and while it is still a bit warm cut into strips or squares.  Then you should be able to lift out easily with a knife and cool properly on a wire rack and to harden.  Enjoy! Serve with tea. 

Sep 20, 2013

Go to the light. Just go to the light.

For some odd reason this picture reminds me of the afterlife.  I took it the other day at the park.  All of the geese gathered together and were gazing into the sunset.  I've been spending a lot of time practicing taking pictures of animals and friends.  And yet, I still want more. Better camera, bigger lenses. The human condition is never satisfied.

Sep 12, 2013

What is their name in heaven?

I've always heard about Jane or John Do, but had never encountered one until just recently.  My friend Jim and I were out photographing tombstones for our project.  After photographing three sections, we decided to finish up and made our way over to Babyland in the cemetery.  As I peered thru the tiny square on my camera my eyes focused on the name. There is no name, no date, only nothingness. An overwhelming feeling of abandonment flooded my being. He was all alone. Still. I nearly lost my composure. I lowered my camera and stepped back. Tears started to well up in my eyes. Then a strange thought ran through my head.  What does God call this little one?  I am sure that he is precious in the eyes of the Creator, even if the parents couldn't see his value. A childless photographer wanted to desperately hold this child and to whisper sweet words of love in his ears. I picked up the camera, snapped the picture of his grave marker, then I moved on. And yet, my thoughts lingered at the tiny grave of this unknown baby boy.

Sep 8, 2013

A Memoirs Kind of Summer

In the spring, I bought four memoirs. Each one is very different from the other. Only one of the books is new, the rest have been out for a while. Lately, I have been drawn to real stories about people who are just like you and I. Some stories are about love, others about tragedy, and then there are ones of the strange kind. And yet, we are drawn to them like the moth to the flame.

I watched the movie Running with Scissors not very long ago.  It was recommended by one of my bipolar memoirs classmate to read the book before I saw the movie, but that didn't work out for me.  The book is based on Augusten Burroughs childhood\early manhood part of his life.  His mother is bipolar, the father is alcoholic, and in the middle is Augusten who is trying to find himself amidst all of the chaos.  I once had a counselor tell me that my family was the most dysfunctional family she had ever known. In a strange sort of way, I am comforted in knowing that there are others whose lives have been by far worse than mine.  And yet, Burroughs came out the winner. All of his life people would tell him that he was a writer.  He never thought about it. His journal was his best friend and he often spilled his guts onto the page.  There are five sentences in the book that touched me and I underlined them. He wrote, "And I walked around in a trance, daydreaming about Manhattan.  Trying to see if I could picture myself there among the skyscrapers and hot dog vendors. And I could see it...I threw the meat in my cart. And moved on."  Even though this is a bizarre story of which I really cannot relate to and at times unsettling; I found Burroughs memoir interesting and well worth the read.

My next memoir was The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison. It is the story of a girls loss, the loss of a father's love.  Only to be regained in the most unnatural way.  Kathryn's parents divorced when she was young.  She grew up with an emotionally distant mother. When her father re-enters her life in her teen years, Kathryn's whole existence takes a dramatic turn. Incest is an ugly, depraved act that not only is vile but severely damages the soul.  Both the perpetrator and the victim try to justify in their minds what is happening. I could honestly spit fire at the father regarding the injustice for things like this. People who think solely of themselves and not calculate the damage it will do to the victim. I've yet to figure out if it is sex or power that factors in the scenario. Nonetheless, it is very disturbing. Even if the subject matter was difficult to swallow, I found it hard to put the book down and read it within a few days time.   


The third memoir is by Kristy Robinett called Messenger between Worlds. I find anything paranormal fascinating. But I do have my comfort limit when it comes to this subject. I like the way Kristy wrote her memoir. She let the reader into her private life and I felt like I was right there with her. My own life resonated with hers in so many ways. Psychics have been given a very bad reputation because of so much deception.  To have this gift would be fabulous and horrible at the same time. Being open minded is one of the biggest pluses when reading about mediums and all that they do. The fact that many psychics\mediums work with the police department proves that their gift is viable whether we want to embrace this kind of spiritual arena or not. There is so much that I personally don't understand about the unusual goings on which happen so frequently on this vast plane where we live. It is not for me to try and figure it out.  The chapter entitled Voices spooked me a little but it didn't deter me from finishing the book.  Moreover, I am glad that people are stepping up to the plate and sharing their lives with those of us who are open to read about them.  

The fourth memoir was The Flying Carpet of Small Miracles by Hala Jaber. This is a deeply moving story of a journalist who is covering war torn Baghdad in 2003.  She came across two children,  three year old Zahra and newborn Hawra, who suddenly become orphans when a missle hits the family vehicle killing everyone except the two girls. Ms. Jaber, a native of Lebanon, is married and living a dream life in the west with her husband Steven. For ten years they try to have children. But it is not meant for her to conceive.  Trying to take her mind off of things, Hala goes into war zones to report on the recent unrest. She wanders from hospital to hospital, looking for just the right little girl that the world will fall in love with and hopefully be willing to help those in desperate need of medical care. This is not a story solely about orphans, war, or the Middleast, but about coming to terms with our lives.  I was deeply touched by the ending of this book.  It was not a fairy tale by no means, but a story of understanding both sides of the matter.  

Memoirs never really existed much until the last century.  What do you think about people who write about the good or the bad things that happen to them and then publish their writing? I agree that some things need to be exposed for what they are. But are we going too far by exposing things of the most intimate part of our lives?  

Sep 6, 2013

Eagle Marsh with a Macro Lens

In the past month, I bought two lenses, a zoom and a macro. I am still playing around with both of these lenses. Not very far from where I live is a nature preserve called Eagle Marsh.  A friend and I have gone over a couple of times to scope it out and to take pictures. 

The macro lens was only about $100.00, which is relatively cheap in my book. It is a simple lens that screws on top of my zoom lens. So far, I really like the results. The above picture has two bugs mating.  I feel like I have intruded on such a private moment with the creatures. Look away if you must.

I kept walking around and found a red bud.  Not sure what kind of flower it will be. I liked the red and focused on that portion. The result was rather nice, at least, I think so.

Then I found the sun reflecting on a flower stem where all of the petals had fallen off. It was as if it was reaching for the light. 

This picture, too, had the reflection of the sun. Everything in the background is blurred out except the flower.  I think this is really cool, as we used to say in the 60's. 

 A golden flower.  I really like how the middle of the flower has great detail. Since purchasing the lenses, I have had my head stuck in bushes with bees swarming all around and was very close to bugs that I would have rather not been within 20 feet of. Sometimes, a girl must be do some silly things to get a good shot. 

This is me, taken yesterday by my brother's girlfriend.  She did a good job.

Sep 3, 2013

Mustard Greens and Rice Stir Fry

Here in the States greens are eaten frequently.  There are mustard greens, kale, spinach, and collard greens to name a few.  The problem with greens is the bitter taste.  Then there is the use of bacon fat or ham hocks to help mask the bitterness. Overall, greens are good for you.  I had some in the fridge waiting to be used.  I thought that I would stir fry the greens and then mix with bismati rice.  I was really pleased with the result and surprisingly the greens were not as bitter.


1 cup of bismati rice, cooked according to package directions
2 TBS sunflower oil
1 TBS clarified butter or plain butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups of greens, chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
salt\pepper to taste
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin 

Cook rice according to package directions. Set aside.  In a large wok or skillet add the oil and butter.  When hot, add the onion and stir fry until translucent or golden brown.  Then add the garlic and stir fry for a couple of minutes.  Next, add the greens and mix well.  Stir fry the mixture for about 8-10 minutes or until the greens have wilted.  Add the salt\pepper, bouillon cube, and cumin.  Mix well. Add the rice to the mixture and toss well.  Last of all, add the turmeric and make sure it is mixed thoroughly.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Cooks Note:  You can use a mixture of greens if you don't want to use just one. 

Sep 1, 2013

Downton Abbey Creamy Crab and Celery Salad

This is a creamy, crunchy, and wonderfully delicious salad. I saw this recipe in the book, The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines. Since it is Labor Day here in the States, it would go very well with our traditional barbeque. Here is my adaptation of the recipe.


3 cups of medium shell pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 - 8 ounce packages of imitation crab meat or the real thing if you prefer
3 green onions, cut into small slices
1 rib celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp fresh lemon or lime juice.  I used the juice of 1/2 lime.
1 tsp orgeano
1/2 tsp basil 
1 tsp of rice vinegar or white vinegar
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

Bring a large pot of water to a boil,  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, approximately 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Whisk the mayonnaise, sugar, garlic powder, basil, oregano, vinegar, and lemon juice together in a large bowl. Add the pasta and mix well. Next, add the crab meat, cheese, carrot, and celery.  Mix thoroughly and chill up to three hours or overnight.  Adjust the seasonings to your taste. Enjoy!