Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bad Weather = Good Cooking

Today's weather was cold and rainy, very dreary, thanks to Hurricane Kyle. The good news is that Kyle stayed out in the ocean and went further north, missing us by a good distance. Not such good news for our friends up in Nova Scotia - they're getting 75-90 mph winds and drenching rains.

Bad weather usually means I'm home for the day, and since we've had several days of rain, I've pretty much accomplished my list of things-to-do. That means it's baking time, and I've spent a happy afternoon baking biscotti and - a new recipe for me - cream biscuits.

Both turned out well. But the cream biscuits were tender and wonderful. I altered the recipe slightly, adding grated cheddar cheese, as I had about a cup of cheese left over from another dish and wanted to use it up. Worked great - the cheese added a bit of dimension to the biscuits, and they taste lovely by themselves with a touch of butter, or could be used for small sandwiches (ham is the first thing to come to mind).

If you are looking for a quick, easy recipe for biscuits that only take a few minutes to pull together, try this one. You can skip the cheese - they're great without it.

Quick and Easy Cream Biscuits

Makes Eight 2 1/2-Inch Biscuits

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for the counter
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
optional - 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

1. Place oven rack to upper-middle position, heat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.

2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the cream with a wooden spoon until dough forms, about 30 seconds. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball. Knead the dough briefly until smooth, about 30 seconds.

3. Shape the dough into a 3/4-inch-high circle. Cut biscuits with biscuit cutter into rounds, or cut into wedges. Place rounds or wedges on parchment-lined baking sheet. (The baking sheet can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 hours.) Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking.


Unlike traditional biscuits, cream biscuits benefit from relatively rough treatment. This biscuit, which was kneaded for 30 seconds before baking rose higher compared to biscuits which were handled gently and kneaded only a few times.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cool Clocks to add to your Website or Blog

Just discovered a really neat clock to add to my blog, courtesy of my friend Melanie, who is using it on her blog cher*ished Treasures.

The name of the site is ClockLink, and it's a freebie. There are many different clock styles available - just click on the Gallery tab to see them all. You can change the time zones, and there's even a World Clock that shows all the different countries in the world as a graphic, with their respective time zones.

I wanted something simple, so the hand-drawn clock was perfect. But you can get animal clocks, transparent clocks, digital clocks, and some really god-awful animated clocks - there's lots and lots of choices.

Unfortunately, I also tried to add it to my WordPress blog, but it wouldn't accept the code.

Thanks, Mel, for sharing!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Vintage Photography - Pinbacks and Mirrors

Not only do I love being a photographer, I also enjoy vintage photography, especially the 1880s through 1940s time period.

So much can be learned from early photos - the clothing people wore, the work they did, the homes they lived in, what was happening in their lives. Photos were sometimes used as "jewelry", like the pinback photo button above.

Just after the turn of the 20th century, it was common to see photographs made into these buttons. I've had pinback photos of men, women and children - sometimes they are even hand-colored. They are usually of a single person, although I've had one very rare pinback which showed two young sisters. The children pinbacks are the most popular, and they seldom last long in my shop.

Pinbacks are becoming harder to find, and I buy just about every one I'm lucky to stumble across. They're a wonderful image to collect, since they are usually small and easy to display. The one shown above is a bit over one inch in diameter.

Below is a bit more unusual type of vintage photography known as a Mirror Back photo. They were popular during the 1920s, and were often used as gifts. I have a small collection from one family that shows several different daughters, the photos being taken around the engagement and wedding times of one of the girls. One of these mirrorbacks is shown below.

The wreath-style framing details added by the photographer are lovely - this mirrorback's style is classic 1920s, from her clothing and jewelry to the floral wreath used for framing the image. For those interested in historical information, the photographer's studio name and address are identified on the front of this mirror.

The mirrored back of this button is in excellent condition, showing good age in the glass. Often these mirrors are not found in good condition - over the years these buttons often ended up tossed into the backs of drawers or into sewing boxes, bumping up against all sorts of things that can cause breakage.

These different kinds of vintage photography are such a joy to own! They're inexpensive, one of a kind miniature works of art. If you find one, don't pass it up, for they are certain to be even harder to find in the future.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I love cufflinks!

Can't really explain it, but I sure love cufflinks.

And I don't even own a blouse that uses cufflinks!! But I've gotten so hooked that I'm constantly on the hunt for them. They must be vintage, and so far I've had good luck finding some really nifty ones. I have several sets in my on-line antiques shop - "Red Moon Antiques" at Ruby Lane.

This pair is a bit unusual, showing a rider and horse jumping over a fence. Especially nice to find them in brass, which - because they are old - shows that beautiful glowing patina. The three dimensional design helps too - these are really stand-out cufflinks.

Anyone thinking Christmas present???

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Unique Pictures" - Entertainment Photography?

Discovered this blog site the other day and thought I'd share it. It's called "Unique Pictures", and offers just one thing - different and interesting photos found on the Internet.

Well, actually it offers two things - the daily photos, plus a connection to a website which promotes "common and practical information for the young, independent person." The site asks for article submissions on matters of money, food, people and technology.

The Unique Pictures blog shows a disclaimer which specifically states: "The pictures below have been found on the Internet and we do NOT claim property of them. This is for entertainment purposes only." Unique Pictures also has two mirror sites, called Random Pictures and Awesome Pictures, with the same photos showing on all three blogs.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Learning at the Horse Show

Having never been to a horse show before, I decided to enjoy a morning of camera, horses and kids. Primarily I was there for practice, and after shooting nearly 150 photos, I ended up with just a handful of decent shots, none of which are stock-worthy.

Fog and low-light really made it difficult to shoot, and I tried both inside the show barn and outside in the show ring. But keeping in mind that this was a learning experience, I tried different ISOs and f-stops, and played with various shooting angles, trying to get more light into my camera. Still had lots of noise, since I started shooting at 1600 and moved downwards towards 200 on the outside shots.

The photo at left is a young girl - such a cutie with her pigtails with pink ribbons! - psyching up for her turn in the ring.

Photo at right gives you a perspective of how small these girls are compared to big horses!

Bottom pix are of young ladies and their mounts, one waiting to be called to the ring, and the other just finishing her round in the fog.

The photos seen here have been cleaned up with Neat Image, but they aren't as sharp as I'd like them to be. Had a great time, but still learning, learning, learning . . .

Friday, September 12, 2008

Picasa 3 Now Available

Just downloaded Picasa 3, the free Google photo program, and was pleasantly surprised with it's new additions. Though not really meant for stock photography work, Picasa is a fine photo program for those who want to organize their images, but don't need the professional designer tweaks that Photo Shop offers.

I had fun playing with the new Text editing feature. I'd been planning on ordering new business cards from VistaPrint (my favorite cheap business card company), and the new Picasa offered an easy alternative - I could take any of my photos, add the text I wished, and quickly upload it to VistaPrint. Picasa 3 also offers a variety of font styles, colors, and even outlined fonts, just to give your text a bit of spice.

Here's the photo I've been playing with - that's Streak, being hugged by her favorite human, Tom.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9-11-08 - A day of reflection

The past several years, I've used September 11 as a day of personal reflection. I specifically plan not to do anything in particular, but instead spend the day outdoors, peacefully thinking about what's happening in my life.

Doesn't matter what the weather is - I still go off on my day's journey, never knowing what the day will bring. It's my clear-thinking time, with no limitations - and considering how 9-11 initially started, it's definitely an opposite to all the violence and pain that sad day brought to so many thousands and thousands of people.

Today started with a lobster roll at my favorite carry-out shack. It wasn't cheap at $16, but it was packed full of just lobster, no fillers, and it was on a perfectly grilled Nissen bun. I meant to take a photo of it for stock, but was so hungry I forgot about it until it was three-quarters eaten, which definitely wouldn't have made for a good photo.

Then I wandered the shoreline, heading for one of my favorite think-places. ( I have several of them.) The first photo is of the Rachel Carson tidal pool down in Chamberlain, a regular haunt for this author many years ago, and named after her in 1970 .

This tidal pool is so peaceful, especially if you're lucky enough to be the only one there. I avoid it on weekends when the tourists are there, also in the early summer when school groups use it for their field trips just before school lets out.

Other times, there's usually only one or two folks there. One day I sat there for hours, watching the tide roll in, hunting for sea glass, loving the solitude, getting a really sore butt from sitting on rock.

Today the skies were gorgeous, the temps perfect at 70 degrees. There was a guy in a wet suit trying to scuba dive just beyond the pool, but he kept slipping on the seaweed and rocks. I finally gave up trying to shoot him, as every time I had him in focus he fell down again. I was beginning to feel guilty, like I was jinxing him.

The second shot is a few miles away, near New Harbor, off a backroad the locals use to get to a small bay of ocean, granite ledge and trees. Another great place with few people - today there were just a couple of artists, painting.

Don't know if I came to any magical conclusions today. But it was good for my head, and I came home feeling calm, serene, quietly content.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Good Walking

As part of my progress after my stroke, I've been walking. Nothing really strenous - it's more "feel-good" for my head than anything else.

Recently I ran across a book in my library about foraging for wild mushrooms. Fall in New England is an excellent time to 'shroom hunt, so I decided to take a walk off the beaten path.

Since I still have some walking issues with stability, I've only been walking on flat, paved surfaces. The call of the 'shroom was strong, though, and I headed towards a nearby forest preserve.

It was late afternoon, making for lots of shadows on the trail. That meant I had to be extra careful not to trip on the many tree roots and rocks found about every 3 feet down the trail.

The good news was that this trail was marked 'easy'. The bad news is that there was no mention of the rock walls one has to climb over, or the boggy areas you cross using open, 12-inch wide walkways (no railings, thank you).

Managed the short rock wall - very carefully.

The planks across the boggy areas were a bit more challenging, since they are only 12 inches wide. There's no railings. And the damned thing wasn't straight either, and was more than 100 feet in length. To me, it looked like an extra-long balance beam, just waiting for me to fall off and land in six inches of mucky bog.

But, again going slowly, I did it. My balance held and I walked the length of that plank path without falling in.

Wandered the first half of the trail for about an hour, took my time, didn't fall once!! It was great to get out in fresh air, talk to the birds, and search for mushrooms. Found several different kinds, but not the edible ones I was looking for. Still, I had a wonderful time, and now feel much more confident about my slow but sure walking.

And there's still mushrooms waiting out there for me!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Audri and Jim Lanford's 7 Photography Questions - Interviews with Top Photographers

Not too long ago, I stumbled across the site 7 Photography Questions with Audri and Jim Lanford. This free site offers all sorts of digital photography information, and especially, tips and ideas from recognized photographers.

They cover many different topics - lighting, nature, pets (some good stuff on dogs), children, fashion, just to name a few - and they have a new one coming up on shooting kids at holiday parties.

I've listened to several of their podcasts, and have picked up some good tips.

They offer a free email sign-up, and they're pretty regular with their offerings - I usually get a few a week. Some I can use, some I'm not so interested in, but I scan them all, since it's good info. Best of all, they don't spam you - no advertising is included in their emails.

Take a look - there's bound to be something useful to you!

Friday, September 05, 2008


For those who enjoy selling photography on micro-stock websites, there's a really good forum to share ideas and information on a site called Talk Micro.Talkmicro

The site is TalkMicro. It's a place where photogs can say what they think, get good input from those who have been there, and can learn all sorts of great techniques.

You don't have to sign up as a member, although you'll be glad you did. Joining TalkMicro is free, and allows you to directly participate in the forms. Take a peek!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Blue Angels Let Me Down!!!

Something's missing in this photo.

It sounded like such a wonderful opportunity. Local tv news stations reported that the Blue Angels Navy flying team had come into Maine a few days early before their scheduled show this weekend at Brunswick Naval Station, and would be doing a special fly-by near three different Maine lighthouses.

It isn't everyday one has the chance to shoot the magnificent Blue Angels low flying past the most historic lighthouse in Maine. The Pemaquid Lighthouse is so important to Maine history that it is featured on the new Maine quarters.

So I headed down to the lighthouse, a 30 mile trip, even got there a bit early so I could pick a favorite spot. A hundred people were there, but it's a big place and there was plenty of room. The estimated time of arrival was 10:30 - 11:30 am, not particularly great for lighting, but beggars can't be choosers, so I just waited and played with various settings.

And waited. And waited. Several hundred more people showed up. Families, tourist, dogs (with owners in tow), seniors, mothers with babies, people in wheelchairs, just about every kind of human you can imagine had arrived. I found that it was not only getting really crowded, but that I needed to stand in one place to reserve the spot for my shot; I even moved a couple feet in various directions, otherwise my spot would be filled with a zillion people. After all, a free Blue Angels show was a really big deal for rural Maine, even if would be a 30 second show.

Of course, I had no way of knowing if the Blue Angels would be flying by the lighthouse at the specific angle I needed to get the shot. But I'd carefully chosen a place that covered the lighthouse up close yet still allowed a lot of sky, and then kept my fingers crossed.

After two hours, still no Blue Angels. The officially designated hour had come and gone, and all those people were still patiently waiting. Toddlers were tired and whiny, dogs were having spats, and people were becoming grumpy and unfriendly. Finally, a man with a megaphone came out of the lighthouse's guardhouse, and politely announced that the Blue Angels would not be coming, something about a fuel issue. (And then he quickly ducked back into the guardhouse, probably anticipating things being thrown at him . . . )

A few boos and hisses, plus a lot of very disappointed commentary - and then everyone rushed for their cars. The weather was beautiful, and if the Angels weren't coming, they knew they all had other places to be.

So now I have a whole lot of test pix of the lighthouse, but no Blue Angels.

Dear Angels - you let me (and hundreds of fans) down!!!!