There’s not much going on outside, but in the dining room, we have a new friend and more blossoms on the Christmas cactus.

And then, there is the bouquet, still going strong in the living room.


And then, there’s the new kid in town, a baby jade tree.




Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – November 23, 2016

Garry and I almost always shoot together, so it can be difficult to separate the pictures. So, I’ve made two separate small galleries, one for each of us.



Cee which way photo challenge



I know the holidays are really here when my two Christmas cacti bloom. I got both of them as cuttings from a friend years ago. The plants have stayed small, probably because I have not encouraged them to expand … but both of them bloom profusely from November through February … and often throw the odd flower all through the year.


The secret to making them bloom is putting them in a bright (not necessarily sunny) window. Water them only when they are dry. And let them do their thing.


The less you mess with them, the happier they are. If you have a window in a room where you don’t use much artificial light, all the better. These lovely cacti are sensitive the natural changes of light through the seasons. These natural changes in light will trigger flowering.

The reason so many people have trouble growing these is that they fuss over them. Cacti are not fond of fussiness.



The Changing Seasons: November 2016


The Cardinal has announced that this challenge will run again through 2017. I love this challenge. It’s my favorite, first and foremost, because living here in the country, the weather is our calendar. It surrounds us, engulfs us. Regulates what we do and where we do it. It has presence and power in our lives. But the other reason is that I know it’s coming and regardless of the weather or my mood or plans, I have to go out and take some pictures. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that will get me into my boots and overcoat and outside with the camera. It’s a wonderful motivation for a lazy photographer.


If you’d like a challenge that will actually challenge you — in a fun way — this is a good one. It’s also a challenge in which many of the participants are so much better photographers, it pushes me to try to be better, more creative. Find something new to say about a scene I’ve shot many times before.


It’s the final month of shirtsleeve weather before winter comes. It’s the month where you may get snow, but the roses continue to bloom. Autumn leaves have lost the bright scarlet and yellow of October and transformed to the dark red, rust, and bronze of November. Leaves still cling to oak and maple trees. The quiet waters of the river reflect the gold of the trees.

The late afternoon sun is amber and casts long shadows. The strange sunlight changes the colors we see, turning bronze to yellow. Our eyes do indeed deceive us … or the camera’s eye cannot capture the November hues.


The stores are advertising Christmas while families are still organizing their Thanksgiving invitations. Hurrying the seasons has become the standard. I understand the merchant’s need to sell, sell, sell. I hope they are equally understanding of how much we would like to get through one holiday before being battered by the next.



From Cardinal Guzman:

What’s this «Changing Seasons» blogging challenge?

«The Changing Seasons 2016» is a blogging challenge with two versions: the original (V1) which is purely photographic and the new version (V2) where you can allow yourself to be more artistic and post a painting, a recipe, a digital manipulation, or simply just one photo that you think represents the month. Anyone with a blog can join this challenge and it’ll run throughout 2017.

It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t join the first month(s), late-comers are welcome.

These are the rules for Version 1 (The Changing Seasons V1):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
These are the rules for Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

thechangingseasons_6367 large



It’s a black and white kind of day. Grey and chilly. Almost the complete opposite of the weather of yesterday and the day before. It’s the end of the best of the season. Cold is seeping in through all the cracks.

Black & White Sunday: Close up / Macro



Texture is everywhere.

It hasn’t been a big week for photography, but I did spend some times trying to get a picture of this old, Moroccan cache box. I think it was created originally to store incense. I had an incense burner in the same style, but I sold it a few years ago. I kept this piece. I just put it back into use to hold a bunch of small items that had been rattling around my end table.

I use many of my antiques. Old bowls to hold fruit. Ancient vases for flowers. As long as they are still sturdy enough to do their intended jobs, I let them be part of the world rather than putting them behind glass.

I’m not sure what you would call this texture.

It’s metal. Cold and hard. Not quite smooth, but not rough, either. Old metal. It’s been around. It is grooved, scuffed, and shows a bit of rust and abrasion. I’ve owned it since the early 1960s. It was an antique when I bought it, but the sellers didn’t know its history, only that “it is old.” Definitely right about that. It’s old. I think it was made in the mid 1800s, but possibly earlier.

It’s difficult to date brass. If anyone has an idea of its age, let me know, please. I think the handmade hinge on the back of the box may offer a clue.


Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Roofs

Technically, this is a ceiling, not a roof, but it’s sort of a roof, just wrong side up.

There are some wonderful architectural treasures on the tops of building in New England. It’s not easy to capture them. I am limited by my ground-side positioning. Nonetheless, this is a modest little selection from Boston and the Valley. Modern roofs aren’t all that interesting, but back around the turn of the century, roofs were amazing and intricate. Both on private homes and in public buildings, roofs were works of art.

cee's fun foto chall


Heron … with fish.

I do not fish, though obviously in a valley full of rivers and dams, other people fish. As do herons and gulls and divers (the ducks, not the Navy guys). I’m a little dubious about the quality of the water and what might be in those fish, but people assure me they’ve been eating them for years … and apparently no harm has come to them.

I, on the other hand, know what’s in that water, so I just smile weakly and wish them good luck and a pleasant dinner. I’m not that fond of trout anyhow.

Rather than fishing, I like making music. Not so much listening to it, though I do that too … but making it. Plucking strings, tinkling the (fake) ivories. Blowing my own horn. And it is in the service of making music that I now have a lovely little tenor ukulele.

Me and the ukulele have history going way back. I picked up my first soprano uke at Sam Goody in Hempstead when I was still in college. I was a piano student, but pianos are not portable. It was, after all, the folk music era and unless, as Tom Lehrer suggested you want to view the piano as an 88 string guitar, it just doesn’t make it as a folk instrument. To be fair, the ukulele isn’t entirely a folk instrument either, but it’s a lot closer than a living room grand Steinway.

I wanted a small, light, fun instrument I could take with me so I could, assuming I could tune to whatever key other more sophisticated pluckers were in, I could join.  There’s no instrument lighter, more portable, easier, and more fun than a ukulele. And what other instrument conjures dreams of diamond bright beaches and tropical sunsets? Powerful symbolism for a littler, 4-string strumming instrument.


Around the same time, I bought a guitar and more or less learned to play it, though I was never by any definition a good player. No idea what happened to my uke. I know I sold the guitar. Afterwards, I went home to the piano. My hands felt right on the keyboard.

Years rolled on. I sold my Steinway grand. I had no instrument in Israel, except a miniature electric keyboard that was more a toy than a real music maker. Then, when we were living in the Boston townhouse, Garry and Owen bought me the Yamaha Clavinova which has been with me for the past 23 years.


Until this past week. When I sold it to Owen’s friend, Dave, who was looking at it all dewy-eyed. He has M.S. and keyboards are the way he keeps his hands moving and useful, something I can relate to painfully (no pun intended) well. I have not been able to play my piano for a a couple of years. The arthritis in my hands has caught up with me. Unless I have further surgery — and it works, always a bit dicey — the pain of playing takes all the fun out of it. Who knew hands could hurt that much? I thought it was my wrists, that I had carpel tunnel problems, but it isn’t. It’s hands full of calcification of all those little bones.

Almost every pianist over the age of 60 has arthritic hands. Some worse than others and you can blame DNA for whether it’s completely disabling from a musical point of view, or just inconvenient. You don’t see a lot of old concert pianists … and that’s why. All that stretching and pounding from when you are just past being a toddler damages little bones and if you are, as I am, inclined to arthritis anyhow … well …

Meanwhile, the itch to get another ukulele has been growing. The uke is small enough to not put a lot of strain on me (or my budget). Nor does it require significant hand strength or dexterity — unlike the piano. A classy, hand-made solid wood ukulele is not cheap. I’ve seen some beauties that cost a couple of thousand dollars, but you can also pick up a nice little uke on which you can learn and which will sound pretty good to the less discerning ear, for around $100. Using a bit of the money from selling the piano, I found a nice, solid mahogany, tenor ukulele. It arrived a couple of days ago, and so began my ukulele adventure.


I had also bought an electronic tuner, a book of chords for beginners, a package of picks, and a hard case. I once had a nice guitar that some guest at a party kicked in, presumably accidentally. I never found out who done it, but live and learn. I buy protective cases for instruments.

Next step was to tune it. How exactly was I supposed to use the electronic tuning device? More to the point, to what part of the uke do you clip it? The “instructions” included with it were sheer poetry, and probably a direct translations from whatever Asian tongue in which they were originally written. Poetic, but uninformative.

I knew that you are supposed to clip the tuner to some part of the ukulele, but where?

“Position the tuner by clip on the part of the musical instrument which vibrates distinctly, adjust until you can see the LCD clearly.”

How about a picture? Diagram? Name of part?

I went back to the devices listing on Austin Bazaar’s website from which I bought it. Nothing. Apparently everyone but me already knows how to use it. So I went to Amazon and kept looking at electronic tuners until someone showed a picture of a tuner in use.


Aha! Mystery solved. I set the tuner to “U” for ukulele and began the tuning process. The tuner worked. When I get a string tuned to the correct note, the machine flashes neon green.


Took me about 15 minutes. New strings are stretchy, but I got it. Then, I took out the book of chords. I tried a few, then started muttering to myself. “That’s weird. The chords are all upside down. ”

Something was upside down, but it wasn’t the chords. I had tuned the strings upside down.

I retuned the instrument. It was easier the second time, especially because I was tuning the correct strings to the appropriate notes.


I learned three chords, realized I needed to clip the nails on my left hand or I wasn’t going to be able to hold the strings tight on the frets. By the time I finished that, it was time to cook dinner. The next morning, I dislocated my unhealed breastbone.

So the ukulele will have to wait awhile. A few days, anyway.

At least it’s in tune. Right-side up.

The next time I go fishing, I will bring the ukulele. If I sing to them, fish will rise to the surface and sing along. That’s what fish do, here in the valley. No, really, they do. (Not.)



Black & White Sunday: SUPERMOON SUNDAY

I was very happy that today’s subject is just “something you like.” Because this is the night of the full supermoon. To be fair, it just looks like a full moon. Nothing super about it and the trees have not conveniently moved out of the way.

And these are the pictures:

And, my long zoom camera finally gave up the ghost tonight, so it won’t be taking anymore pictures. It has been having problems for more than a year, burning up batteries in sometimes just a few frames. There’s some kind of electrical problem and what with exploding phones, probably it’s time for me to admit defeat and give it up.


Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Signs of Any Kind

I always take pictures of signs. It’s an old habit, a leftover if you will, from my working days. “Locator” shots made it easy to identify which video belonged to a particular story. Though I’m no longer working, I still take locator shots. And other interesting signs, too.

These were all taken at the same rest area in Wilmington, Connecticut.

Cee's Black & White Photo Challenge Badge