WEEK 25 – ODDBALL PHOTOS ARE BACK!

CEE’S ODDBALL PHOTO CHALLENGE WEEK 25

This was a good week for oddball photographs. Lots of pictures that have no reason to exist except I just saw something and tried to capture it.

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Successful pound cake with copper kettle

My pound cakes came out well. Baking them was something of an accomplishment since I can’t remember the last time I made one. But Garry wanted pound cake. He said he would just go buy one. I said if he’d never had homemade pound cake, he’d never had pound cake at all. Now, I think he would agree.

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Collecting ingredients for the pound cakes triggered a trip to the farm around the corner to get fresh eggs. You need nine eggs for this recipe (some call for as many as a dozen) and I thought I’d like to use the best possible ingredients.

Eggs fresh from the hen

Eggs fresh from the hen

And while we were there, I bought some milk. Their milk is nothing like grocery store milk. It’s as thick with cream as half and half and you have to shake it to keep from skimming it.

Cows chatting in the pasture

Cows chatting in the pasture

Maybe it’s so good because these have to be the happiest cows in the world. They ooze contentment.

ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS

As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place.

I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).

I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will produce movies I like, though sometimes, much to my delight and surprise, they release something I like a lot (remind me to tell you about “Quartet,” the movie Dustin Hoffman directed last year). I’ve stopped trying to like new music and most television shows.

Some stuff gave me up. Other things I gave up voluntarily, but in the end it comes out the same.

When anyone asked me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was on religious grounds.

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No one has yet asked me what I mean by that. But just so you, my faithful readers, know the secret …

I don’t mean anything at all by it. It’s just a way to end a conversation. Since no one wants to offend me by asking about my religious beliefs, I can make pretty much any conversation go away without having to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

It’s very similar to (but different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!”

99.9% of the time, this does the job. Give it a test drive yourself. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

I’m fine. For religious reasons.

ON MY SHELF – JAMES LEE BURKE

Off the Shelf - Take a look at your bookcase. If you had enough free time, which book would be the first one you’d like to reread? Why?


A few days ago, I finished “Wayfaring Stranger,” the latest, greatest book by James Lee Burke, one of my top five favorite authors. It was a good read. Maybe a great read. It made me hunger for more of that special JLB magic.

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So there I am, looking through my bookshelves and I realize I have every hardcover edition of the past 20 years of James Lee Burke, many of them signed by the hand of the Master.

I’d like to reread at least a few of them, maybe start the Dave Robicheaux series from the beginning. Read them in hardcover and paper and sniff the ink, feel the binding give just  a little. It would be a trip back to when books had heft, a feel, a scent. I sometimes miss that. I love my Kindle and my audiobooks, but sometimes … I miss the smell of printer’s ink.

VISITING THE FARM

Garry wanted pound cake for which I needed eggs. Our half and half was going “off.” With pound cake, we obviously will want coffee, hence we need fresh half and half. I wanted new pictures; Garry needed a photo airing too.

We accomplished it in one fell swoop (click here for a history of fell swoop), merely by driving around the block.

fresh eggs at the farm

It’s a dairy farm. Milk, eggs. Sometimes local honey. Today they had homemade jams and organic lip balm. The eggs come from the chickens wandering around the yards and are often fertilized. The milk is from the happiest bunch of cows I’ve ever seen. They loll around the green pasture which lies along the Blackstone River.

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There are several pastures. The pasture further down the road has a small creek running through it. They take the cows there in very hot weather so they can wade in the cool stream and graze on the wildflowers and weeds along the banks. It’s shady there. The calves have a pasture of their own and graze together along a hillside on the other side of the barn.

The milk isn’t homogenized or pasteurized, which means it’s very close to half and half, but you have to shake it before using because the cream rises to the top.

cows in pasture on the farm

I splurged on a jar of homemade elderberry jam. They had fresh corn, but I don’t need corn today. Maybe I’ll go back Monday, get some corn then. We don’t eat a lot, so I try not to over-buy things that will spoil and end up getting thrown out.

elderberry jamAnd we got pictures. I haven’t downloaded most of them yet. These are the first batch.

Here’s my recipe for pound cake. I’ll be baking as soon as the butter softens.

  • 1 pound (3-1/3 cups) flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 sticks softened sweet butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use the real thing)
  • 9 large eggs, lightly beaten.

It makes two cakes in standard loaf pans. I’ll freeze one. We will happily devour the other. I can feel my hips expanding as I write.

The elderberry jam is delicious. And 2 pound-cakes are baking in the oven. The smell is … wow.

A LIBRARY LESSON – RICH PASCHALL

A Reading from the Book of Harry Potter by Harold, an organized man

All morning it sat on the table calling to him in a fantastical sort of way and Harold did his best to ignore it. It wasn’t really “calling” of course, but Harold could not get “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” out of his mind. It was the library copy that kept stealing his attention and he was tempted to head out to the library a bit early to resume the tale. He knew leaving early was unacceptable to his schedule, so the story of the boy wizard would just have to wait until early afternoon.

He picked up the copy on Tuesday and after reading a little of the book, brought it home so he would have it for the next library day. Now that Thursday had come around, he could not help himself but feel a little anxious to resume what he had always considered a children’s book. Most of Harold’s library time had been dedicated to technical manuals and other works of non-fiction but some impulse pushed Harold off course and now he was reading a fantasy. He hoped his library visit would only be filled with adventures of wizards found on the pages of the J.K. Rowling novel and nothing more.

When the appointed hour came and Harold was satisfied that everything was organized and properly put away, he grabbed the library book and headed for his car. Before he got in, he shot a quick glance down the street in search of his neighbor, Bill, another assassin of his time schedule. The street was absent of people as the Florida heat and humidity were on the rise.

Harold was fortunate to find a spot very close to the front entrance of the town library. He was pleased with his good fortune as he hurried through the heat and into the comfort of cool temperatures and rooms full of books. There were some empty tables and chairs as well as a few oversized comfortable chairs alongside small tables. Convinced he would be relaxed at one of the tables, Harold went and picked out a seat. Relaxed was not actually a term that fit Harold, nevertheless that is how he would see most of his choices.

His library card was acting as his bookmark and Harold found the next chapter, “The Journey From Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.” Everything he read up to this point must have just been background material. Now he thought the real adventure was about to begin. He had barely read one page when he felt the presence of someone at the table, sitting directly across from him. He looked up to see who it might be, only to discover a small boy.

The boy smiled at Harold before our well-organized man and lord of the library realized it was the same boy who sat down by him just two days earlier. “I am trying to read, young man,” Harold said to the little one. The boy just nodded with a quizzical look attached to his face. “Well, do you mind?” Harold added and the boy just shook his head.

“Shhhhhhh!” The librarian rebuked Harold for talking. He was now left with nothing to say as the little boy stared at the picture of Harry Potter flying on a broom as shown on the front cover of the book, and Harold stared at him. “What now?” he thought. The little one wasn’t actually do anything and he certainly was quiet so Harold thought he would just continue despite the intrusive stares of the child.

Harry_Potter_british_booksThe small drama was not unnoticed by the librarian’s assistant who sought to be helpful. She came over to the Harold and whispered, “You and your little one can go into the children’s reading room, if you like. I can get the key and open the door for you.” Off to one side was a room of children’s books and toys.  The wall that faced the librarian’s desk was glass on the top half so everyone could see in. It had been used for a variety of activities until there were budget cutbacks and no one left on staff to monitor the room. Now it was usually locked along with Grumpy Bird, Mrs. Frisby, Puss in Boots and Winnie the Pooh, not to mention an illustrated copy of Harry Potter himself.

The assistant was off to the front desk before Harold could object and returned in a flash. She took Harold under the arm in order to help the old-timer up and said in a hushed tone, “Follow me,” just as if they were going to sneak down to a secret chamber. A stunned Harold was led to the children’s room with the little one skipping along behind. Once inside the assistant declared, “Now you boys can talk all you want. The room is very sound proof.  Mrs. Craig designed it and used to come each week to read to the children. She had a stroke, you know.”

Harold just shook his head like he knew Mrs. Craig. In truth, he knew no one at the library. “There are plenty of books here you can read to the little guy if you don’t want to read him that one,” the assistant said. “If you like reading out loud, maybe you could fill in for Mrs. Craig for a few months.”

“NO!” Harold declared in a tone that startled the young woman.  “I mean, I just don’t have anytime for that sort of thing.”

“Oh, I see,” she replied and left the two guys standing in the center of the reading room.

“Hi,” the boy finally spoke, “my name is Harry,” and stuck out his small hand so that Harold would shake it.  “Harold,” the time master replied, which the little one found amusing.

“Can you read that book to me?” little Harry asked.  Harold looked back at him in a panic as if he had just seen a three-headed dog.

PURPLE PHLOX

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As part of Betty’s Garden, the phlox stands almost a foot taller than any other flower. I’ve always loved phlox. Sturdy perennials, willing to tolerate shade, drought. Insect resistant and colorful.

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They look like wildflowers and come in a whole rainbow of colors. Purple and white are traditional, but I have seen them in shades of red, pink, and blue.

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SILHOUETTES AND BACKLIGHTING

Silhouette

Creating a silhouette is an easy technique to learn and useful in a lot of different situations. For obvious reasons, it doesn’t work well if you are trying to create a portrait … but in nature and architecture, you can create a little bit of magic with very little effort.

Silhouettes may make photographs appear “black and white” even though they are in color. The effect is easily achieved with the light source behind your subject.

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dreamcatcher silhouette

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All you need to do to get a silhouette is take your light reading on the brightest part of the scene or object. The dark part will got even darker and you can slightly increase contrast in post processing if you want to make it a true silhouette with no detail.

Voila! Silhouettes!