Sunday, May 3, 2015

Beach Days....

When I was a child growing up in Central Florida, the Atlantic coast was about an hour away through sparsely populated countryside.  On beach-going days, I'd awaken to the smell of chicken frying and eggs being hard boiled, the sounds of pickle jars being opened and the creak of the picnic basket lid.

New Smyrna Beach then was a flat stretch of strand with hardly any people enjoying the sun and surf.  There might be a busy spot right at the main entrance to the beach, but the rest was left to lone fishermen and small family groups stretched out over miles of sugar sand.  To get to this beach we drove through several small towns  - Sanford with it's cabbage and celery fields, across the St. Johns River, then through Osteen, Mims, and other "wide places in the road."  Old rural Florida at it's best to my mind and eye - a Florida that barely exists except in memory.

This isn't an old photo, but one I took recently of an old farm building then "doctored" 
A recent photo but of a single track road winding through palmetto scrub - the kind of road we used to see frequently.

When I got older and could drive the family car or ride with friends, one morning in spring, I'd wake up and it would, without a doubt, be a BEACH DAY!!  Mother can I have the car?  Then the phone would ring and somebody else would already have gotten permission to borrow their family's transportation.  No frying chicken now - no time..... pack a PPJ, a banana, some Fig Newtons® a couple of bottles of soda, a thermos of cold water and we were off.  Towels....check, hat....check,  flip-flops and bathing suit on.... CHECK!!  And don't forget the old white T-shirt to wear on the drive home - soft and comforting to sunburned skin.....

Now I'm seriously OLDER and yesterday morning was definitely a BEACH DAY!  What is that transitory quality of light and air that ignites those old sensations of excitement and possibility?  Whatever, since I live just four miles from the beach, it is the Gulf of Mexico instead of the Atlantic Ocean now, I no longer have to pack a picnic unless I want to and the drive is past mobile home parks and strip malls, but ..... OH!!  When I reach the shore, it is still the same feeling of freedom, of adventure, of limitless possibility.

I have no photographs of childhood trips to the beach at New Smyrna, and only a few from my high school and young adult days.  I treasure them in a way too mysterious and complicated to describe.

These days, with a digital camera, it's easy to take photo after photo - yesterday was a birdwatching day - a few gulls, but mostly Elegant and Sandwich Terns in a mixed flock as well as a couple of Black-bellied Plovers.

The terns were busy in two different flocks - all chattering and angling for position - swooping into the water for small fish to eat, doing a little pair-bonding, preening their already perfect sleek feathers.....

Please click on photos for a larger look

And here's a Willet, tail up, with his beak in the waves.... 

The Elegant Terns have the orange beaks, while the Sandwich terns are a bit smaller and have black beaks.

During Spring and Summer, parts of our beaches become protected nesting sites for Black-bellied Plovers.  

The sign......

The section of beach......

And one B-B Plover - they're skittish and this was as close as I could get even with the zoom.....

 All-in-all a most satisfying morning spent at my favorite place with the salt-scented breeze, the shush the waves and a gentle sun beaming down.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

More Postcards!!!

Following the hosted postcard swaps described and photographed in previous posts, I'm also side-swapping with several of the folks I "met" through those swaps.

Here's a beauty from photographer Louise Mamet - on the back of the postcard she tells about this ship "graveyard" - sad that the fishing industry in her part of coastal France is so diminished that theses ships and others like them are put out to pasture so to speak (how's that for a really mixed metaphor!!)

And from PraisePatchProductions in New York comes this absolute beauty.  
"S" is for Susan, silver, super, and shiny buttons.....

So, is postcards swapping taking over my life??  Far from complaining, anything that gets me to my art table every day and puts happy surprise mail in my mailbox is a good thing, so I'll stick with this current hobby awhile and see where it leads.......

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Post Cards!!!

And more postcards.....

Received the following two on Tuesday.  The first one from a friend, Chris in California, and the second from a new swap pal, Nancy in Orlando.  I love them both!  Thanks, ladies....

 This one from Chris is a fabulous Birthday card.  A nice did she know?  We've never met, but have a friend in common so the date got shared.

And this card from Nancy is a compendium of some of her favorite things - click on the photo for a closer look to see all the goodies she loves.

This third card arrived yesterday and is from my dear friend, Lois, who also lives in California.  We can't spend time together any longer since she moved, but we're keeping the USPS in business!  Lois has been experimenting with a super thick embossing powder, and I think she's definitely mastered the technique, don't you?  It's gorgeous!

With postcards flying back and forth across not only the content but the Atlantic ocean, I decided I'd better get busy and make a few of my own to send out.  Sometimes I have a short stack ready to go, but various swaps have used up that little stash.  It's no hardship, however, to head to my art table and play for an afternoon!

This one will be going to Chris in California

 This one to Nancy in Orlando

 This one to a gal in New York I "owe" a card to... (the fun at heart/art card from a couple of posts ago)

 And finally, one to Dave in  Delaware.  He sends me one of his photos from time to time.  I haven't included his photo here because I'm not sure how he feels about copyright issues, but you can find more of  Dave's photos HERE.

Added news April 24.  Dave says to go ahead and post photos of his postcards so here's the most recent one I've received.  A little house made from a train car!!  Forgive if my photo of Dave's photo isn't perfect.....

Dave is a fine photographer, while I just play around with my point and shoot, but still, I like the moody appeal of this dawn scene I photographed on Anna Maria Island.

Still need to get a couple more cards made and in the mail, so as the old cartoon used to say, "'s all folks......." until next time.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pastry Rosettes....

This is going to be a first folks, so please bear with me.  A couple of days ago a YouTube video went live on Facebook (at least it was new to me) and being a fancy baker in what spare time I have, I absolutely couldn't resist following the recipe and method to make these tempting and beautiful dessert morsels.

The "first" part comes in because although I've been baking and creating fancy desserts for more years than I care to count, I've never been organized enough or remembered to take photos as I went.

When I Googled 'pastry roses' I came up with quite a few hits - several with recipes, some links to blogs, a whole raft of images, etc., so what you're going to see in the photos that follow isn't new, nor is the recipe mine, but I wanted to try my hand at both the baking and creating the tutorial as I went along.  So.... here goes!

This first photo is of the basic ingredients - one puff pastry sheet (nationally known brand) two apples, some lemon juice and a little cinnamon...  Oops, I forgot to put the apricot preserves in the photo..... more about them later.  And if you want to see larger photos just click on each one for a closer view.

Here are two nice crisp apples cut in half cored, then sliced crosswise into the thinnest possible slices you can manage.  Mine were a bit thick and later in the process I discovered why very thin slices are best.

Apple slices in a microwave safe bowl with enough water to almost cover and a few squeezes of lemon juice.  The recipe calls for fresh lemon juice but I used the kind in the little plastic lemon that sits waiting in the fridge for when you just need a little lemon juice.
I microwaved the water and apple slices for the three minutes the recipe called for, but with my thicker slices, could have gone to three and a half minutes.

I drained the slightly cooked apple slices for a few minutes and then turned them out onto several layers of paper toweling to cool and dry out a bit.

And now for the pastry!!  Follow the directions on the package to thaw one sheet of puff pastry.  This takes about 40 minutes.  I rolled it out to a shape long enough to cut six strips of dough each about three inched wide.  Be sure to use plenty of flour!!!

Now for the apricot jam - about two tablespoons mixed with two teaspoons of water and microwaved for one minute.

Spread a little of the jam mixture on each of the six strips of dough - a few lumpy bits of apricot are OK.

Lay the cooled apple slices (about 5-6 per strip) along one edge of the dough.  Sprinkle with a bit of powdered cinnamon or a bit of cinnamon sugar and fold up the bottom edge.  No need to be fussy neat here.
 And now is as good a time as any to start pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees.  

Starting at one end, roll the dough and apples slices around and around until you have a little rosette.  Pop each one into a greased muffin cup.   Here are my six ready to bake.  

And here they are about 45 minutes later...... watch carefully the last few minutes as the apples may start to brown too much and we don't want crispy/burnt apples!

Remove carefully to a cooling rack..... and admire your handwork ;-}

Here'a a side view.....

The rosettes are thoroughly cooled in these next two photos and I couldn't resist doing a bit of amateur food staging.  A paper doily on a pretty dessert plate, a little bit of greenery (non-toxic of course!) two raspberries or other fresh fruit and a sifting of 10X sugar.  Voilá!  

This project takes a bit of time but is really quite easy and the results are very "uptown" as they say in the American Midwest.  Pretty tasty too and a nice light dessert after a heavy meal when you just want a bite or two of something elegant and sweet.  Bon appétit!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

And so it goes.....

I've been stealing moments here and there to visit as many of the LYA blogs as possible.  I'm just blown away by the creativity, the heartfelt sharing of talent and appreciation, the beauty of the images (with some humor thrown in to keep us smiling...)  I've left a few comments and received several back - thanks all!

And out of the blue yesterday I received this cool card from Nora in Kalispell, Montana.  It isn't part of the Liberate Your Art swap but was sent as a thank you for another swap I did recently through Karen Isaacson's Mail Me Some Art blog.

Please click for a larger image

Unfortunately, Nora did not include an email or snail mail address so I can't thank her for this clever use of repurposed cardboard packaging, the sunglasses washi tape, and words both stamped letter by letter and cut from maybe a magazine?

When I first started blogging I had just moved to a new town and was newly retired.  I missed my old friends and the camaraderie of the workplace.  The virtual friends I made were wonderful!  But as I became acquainted with nearby flesh-and-blood friends that I could actually go to movies or have dinner with, the blogging fell a bit by the wayside.  It had worried me a bit that I was spending so much time on the computer.

Then a few months ago, I began trading postcards through Postcrossing.  This lead, through the magic of hyperlinks, to Karen's MMSA and also to Kat's LYA site. And the rest, they say, is history.

Well settled with plenty of new local friends and cyber pals as well, I've decided it's good to have a balance of both.

Hope you have a  "Blue Duck" in your day today!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Final Reveal!!

In the continuing "saga" of the recent Liberate Your Art postcard swap, we were asked by the hostess, Kat, to create a post about our experience with the swap.  She has put together a blog hop - a virtual visit of the postcards we swapped and any additional info we may have garnered from the exchange.

She also sent each of the participants one of her own cards as a thank you. You'll see it soon ;-}

Anyway..... I've enjoyed the swap - received some interesting cards - more photos than I'd thought -but photos, altered or not, are art too!

I sent an email 'thank you' to each of the five fine folks whose cards I received, but have only heard from two of the folks who got my cards.  Did those missing three cards get lost in the mail?????  Or did the recipients just hate my art???

If Kat does this again next year, I'll be happy to participate.  I think she's amazingly organized even to contemplate such a wide-ranging exchange, much less actually to follow through and complete such a swap.  Let's hear it for KAT!!!!!

If you'll scroll back through previous posts, you can see an individual photo of each card but here's one of all five together.

Please click on image to view larger

 And finally...... Kat Sloma's own photo card - I love it!!  Her style is dreamy yet the images are precise in detail - a winning combo in my book.

Click to view larger image

Monday, April 13, 2015

Postcard Swap

This one isn't part of the LYA swap - but a fun one from a new swap pal in western New York.  She's a talented artist and a nature lover and the words on this card make a nice little poem.  The words, cheery colors and bright flowers make me happy every time I look at it ;-}

Please click to view larger

Thanks, Ms HC!!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Orchids in Bloom!!

Hooray!!  It's definitely Spring here in Florida when the orchids bloom.

These are three in my yard.  Sorry I don't have botanical names for any of them for you aficionados of orchid culture.

The bright orange is called a ground orchid because it likes to grow in real dirt instead of in sphagnum moss.

                                                          Please click to enlarge

And here are the other two beauties.  Both plants are loaded with buds, and, as each blossom lasts for quite a long time I'll have them too enjoy for several weeks to come.

 Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Friday, April 3, 2015

Liberate Your Art # 5

Hooray!!  All five cards have found their way to my house ;-}

Here is Debbie's from the UK.  I'm a fan of funky collages and layering, so this one is perfect for my taste.

                                                      (please click to enlarge image)

One more card to go - that will be the one Kat makes and sends out to each the participants.  Keep checking and I'll post again when all of us have received our cards.  Kat is also going to prepare a slide show and create an online "blog hop."  Looking forward to both of those myself, so stay tuned!!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Liberate Your Art #4

Kris from Texas took this wonderful photo for the LYA swap.  I'm a country girl at heart and lived on a farm in Oklahoma for several years, so this rusted pipe with it's spider webs brought back some nice memories!!  I really like the soft colors in the shot and the way the grasses are all misty while the pipe is sharp and in total focus.

In the swap instructions, it was suggested that we photograph the cards we receive in a home setting so folks can see where their cards landed.  The first post about the cards shows the card with one of my cats, but you can barely see the card.  I'm preferring to just take a photo of the cards themselves so everyone can see them.

Scroll on past the photo of Kris' card to see a photo of "home" in Florida.

                               (Please click to enlarge so you don't miss the beautiful spider webs!)

and "home"..... where the LYA cards have ended up ;-)

Two more cards to go - one from the swap itself (remember we shared five) and one from the hosts, Kat Sloma.  And don't miss the slideshow in a couple of weeks as well as a clever blog hop.  Hope everyone participates!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Art Liberated # 3 !

Here's another interesting photo in the Liberate Your Art series I'm receiving from the swap described in previous posts.

This one is from Laura in Portland, Oregon.  The scene is of a geyser in Iceland where she visited about this time last year.

Thanks Laura for this stunning view of a world few of us get the chance to see!

                                                         (please click for a larger view)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Hooray!  A second "liberate your art" post card made it to my mailbox yesterday.  All the way from David in Delaware - Thanks to Kat for hosting the swap and to everyone who is participating ;-)

                                                          (please click on photo to enlarge)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Art Liberated!!!

Several weeks ago, I participated in a special online postcard swap.  You can read about it here!!

The mailings have begun and postcards have started arriving mailboxes all over the world.....

I received this gorgeous Valentine-themed card from Susan in Kneeland, California, yesterday.

(please click to enlarge)
And, just a few  minutes ago, I received an email from Louise in France saying that she had received a card from me!

If the postcards are sturdy and the mail systems are efficient, we will receive a total of six cards.  We mailed five and should get five back from different people plus one from our fearless hostess.

Watch these posts for further messages about the swap......... And you can bet I'll be watching my mailbox for the remaining five cards ;-)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

THE Blue Duck!

And here s/he is!!!!!

In my first post I told you that I had seen the ceramic duck in an antique/collectibles shop.  What I didn't say is that the shop is an hour's drive from home.  I regretted not buying the duck when I saw it, and a couple of days later called every shop I thought I'd been to asking if they had it in their stock.  NO LUCK!!  And then I got that pesky bronchitis so a trip to check for myself was out of the question for about three weeks.

Several days ago, however, I awoke feeling fine and the weather cooperated to give me a lovely country drive over to Arcadia, Florida, home to quite a few antique and collectibles shops.  Actually, the entire old downtown is a haven for those who like to poke around looking at ceramics, coins, old tools, vintage clothing and costume jewelry, and so much more.  I began to retrace the steps I thought I'd taken, looking in each shop for the blue duck.  NO LUCK.... ;-(  Several shop owners remembered that I had called (and I think they thought I am a little crazy to be so obsessive about this duck, but we'll let that pass...) but none had seen a blue ceramic duck.  Hmmmm.... one more shop..... and I turned a corner past a display of truly wonderful old ladies' hankies (all tatted, and lacy of course) and  finally, before my eyes, the object of my search!

Now, this duck is from an outfit in Canada called Blue Mountain Pottery.  You can read about it HERE.

I remembered when I saw it that the price was pretty steep, so maybe that's why I didn't buy it to begin with.  In true shopper fashion I asked if the stated price was the "best they could do" and the fellow gave me a little discount - Hooray!!!

So now you know.  I put 157 miles on the car (doing some additional sightseeing while in the vicinity of Arcadia) getting this silly duck!  But isn't she beautiful?  And is it a 'she'? No name springs to mind....... Will keep you posted ;-)

If you're ever in SW Florida between Sarasota and Lake Placid, do stop in Arcadia.  It's the closest thing to Old Florida that is still in existence.  Sure there's some newer business on the east side of town, and I saw a couple of chain restaurants, but over all, it's a sleepy haven.  The citrus industry was big here once and indeed, I saw a couple of small orange groves.  There's a gorgeous old courthouse and in one part of town are beautiful restored Florida Cracker-style homes and even a painted lady or two.  Definitely worth a look.......

And how about you?  Have you had any Blue Duck Days lately?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Drama in the Skies!

Many years ago, when I was sitting with a friend at lakeside in Maclay Gardens State Park outside Tallahassee, Florida, a Great Blue Heron landed near us and posed, seemingly, especially for us.  "One show per customer." my friend said.

I've never forgotten that feeling of being allowed a unique glimpse into the life of a fellow creature.  And a glimpse not seen by a crowd, but only by myself or shared perhaps with one other person.

I live in an area quite close to lots of water on the west coast of Florida somewhat south of Tampa.  I frequently see the large wading birds (Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and others) and Ospreys fishing.  Each species' methods are different, of course, but when that beak or those lethal talons suddenly sport a glimmering fish I feel a moment of triumph as if it were I who had done the capture.  I cheer for the bird and some atavistic part of myself feels nourished by the bird's success.

This morning as I headed out on my usual route to the grocery store and post office, I chanced to see an Osprey low in the sky approaching from my left.  The bird had what looked like a fish clasped in its talons, and sure enough, as it flew closer I could see the glitter of scales.  There wasn't much traffic so I was able to slow down and keep an eye on the bird's activity.  Suddenly though, disaster struck as the weight of the fish became too much for the bird to hold.  DOWN fell the fish (a good-sized one about 12 inches long!) flopping onto the roadway.  A quick glance in the rear-view let me know that no one was immediately behind me so I slowed still further.  A couple of on-coming autos zipped by, fortunately missing the fish.  My heart was in my throat.  Surely the Osprey wouldn't risk a recapture from the road.  But..... would he go for it or give up the prize?  Using both the rear-and side-view mirrors and craning my neck around in a way almost guaranteed to cause an accident, I watched as the Osprey circled the scene while deciding on a plan. There was a slight break in the traffic, the bird made one more small arial circle and against all odds, dropped like a stone out of the air and grabbed the fish right off the pavement!  With no place to pull off the road, I had to keep moving and indeed, suddenly there was a car behind me so I'll never know if the bird managed to keep the fish a second time.  The last I saw, Osprey and fish were headed off into the blue.

This all took place in a matter of seconds - much faster than I am able to type and tell.

For most of us, our daily meals are events with no such drama.  Tidy canned goods, neatly wrapped cellophane packages, meat that has already seen the ministrations of the butcher in his sanitary white apron and latex gloves.  Even our vegetables have been cleaned of soil and wilted leaves.

How hungry would I have to be to dash out into the traffic to retrieve a morsel of food?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Day Two.......

Bronchitis - not a great way to wake up, walk, lie down or sleep.  But it is curable and for this I am grateful.

Yesterday was the antithesis of a happy Blue Duck Day - or was it?

Amid the waiting at the doctor's office, two trips to two different pharmacies to pick up prescriptions and a zoom through the grocery store to stock up on soup and gingerale plus my favorite comfort cookie treats I met more nice folks (who were also waiting) and received helpful info from both pharmacists, as well healing wishes from the couple of neighbors I bumped into while I was toting purchases from the car to my front door.

That's the secret, making every day a Blue Duck Day in some small way.  Not to put a Pollyanna spin on everything, just look for those silver linings and be grateful......

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Work in Progress!

A trip to a nifty thrifty/antique store last week gave me the idea for this blog title and its contents.

Sitting on a shelf in the store was a ceramic duck resplendent in a cobalt blue glaze.  Immediately I thought, "what a great name for a restaurant that would be." - the blue duck - well, a restaurant with that name isn't gonna happen, at least not through my efforts, but the idea rolled and rolled around in my mind.

As a casual observer of the passing scene (hope I'm not treading on the toes of a column by that name that appeared in the New Yorker magazine years ago) it occurred to me that we all have blue duck days.  Days when a chance meeting or view of an object or scene sparks a train of thought that fizzes in our minds like Champagne.   Surprise happenings that are not only serendipitous in the sense of coincidence, but which send our thoughts in an entirely new direction.  Hence, from now on, I'm going to be on heightened alert for blue duck days.

The antique shop is an hour away from where I live and I need to get back to the town, find the shop, buy the duck (or at least take a photo of it!) so I can have a ready reminder of my intention.  A talisman. an inspirational icon.  Be patient, I'll get there!