Summer Reds

Honestly, does anything evoke summer more than fresh strawberries? We hit the farmers market recently and were wowed by these beauties:





The peppers weren’t too shabby either.


Well, I made it through the first week without Rocky. It was pretty tough at first, but each day gets a little better. He’d been at my side for such a long time.
I am so grateful for the private emails, cards and texts. They really do help. Even the vets sent us a sympathy card.

Hope your week’s going well so far.


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Sad News


I’m sorry to say that my 17 year-old baby, Rocky, died on Sunday. He developed back problems and was in a lot of pain. The end was swift and peaceful, but our hearts are broken.

The photo above was taken four years ago before Rocky got cataracts and lost his hearing. It’s the way I want to remember him.


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A Bistro in Gamla Stan


I thought this bistro in the Gamla Stan (Old Town) section of Stockholm was so lovely. I didn’t know it at the time, but Under Kastanjen means “under the chestnut tree,” and that is indeed a chestnut. Would love to go back and spend more time there.

Great weekend, everyone!


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Travel Scan: Paris Window Boxes

On one of my trips to Paris I took the shot below. I loved the window boxes, the lace curtains, geraniums and petunias, and the Paris street sign.


I haven’t uploaded it to the blog before because my current photographer self can only see the flaws. If only I’d raised the camera to include the entire street sign! I was shooting film and thought I knew what I was doing. Nowadays it’s awesome to see what you’re shooting instantly.

Let this be a teaching moment. Take your time framing shots and make sure you’ve focused on the right spaces. Sometimes it’s OK and actually better to leave stuff out, especially with food photography. But a scene like this needs more symmetry. The space above the sign should be more equal to the space below the window box. No one cares about a white wall. The equipment in the upper left corner can be easily removed with Photoshop, but that doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the cut-off sign.

I’ve decided to paint this one day so I can “fix” it. No, I don’t have OCD, but I’ve acquired higher standards since I started taking photography seriously. I’ve also had a lot more practice. :)

Hope your week’s going well so far.


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Evening on the Pier

A couple nights ago we met my niece and her family for dinner at the beach. A long fishing pier was nearby, so we walked it and found the following:


I love old beach cruisers, especially when they look all rusted and stuff. Can you tell it was really cold and windy that night? I had on a jeans jacket, but it was barely enough to keep me warm. We’ve been having pretty bizarre weather lately–cool, cloudy and humid. Probably the aftereffects of tropical storms in Mexico.

Then there was this creature:


I’ve never been this close to a pelican! I inched closer and closer, hoping he wouldn’t take flight. This was taken with an iPhone, no zooming, so you can see how near I was. Right after I took the shot, the pelican took off.

Hope your week’s going well so far.


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Drottningholm Palace

One of the side trips I took from Stockholm was to visit Drottningholm Palace. It was built in the seventeenth century and is the permanent residence of the royal family.

Drottningholm kind of paled compared to the palaces in St. Petersburg, but I’m glad I got to see it. No photography was allowed inside, so all photos are of the exterior and grounds.

This was my first glimpse:


The back of the palace. I didn’t get a chance to shoot the front because it started to rain just as we were leaving. I’ll have a Google image at the end of the post for you.


Another view with the fountain and statues.


My memory’s getting a little hazy, but I believe this is the chapel.


More statues and flowers.


See that shiny thing in the porthole?

It belongs to this guy:


Pretty cool helmet, huh? People were trying to make him smile, but he wasn’t havin’ it.


The palace is located on an island, so of course there’s water nearby.


A great place for ducks to hang out.


I liked the planters that were placed throughout the grounds.


Another kind of guard.

Finally, the front of the palace:

Google image

Google image

Hope your week’s going well so far. I am really enjoying watercolor painting, and am now learning Adobe Illustrator. Nothing like a challenge. :)


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Pink Ranunculus

I didn’t make it to the Flower Fields in Carlsbad this year. (You can see photos from two years ago here and here.) But I found some beautiful pink Ranunculus at Trader Joe’s, of all places. I was never a huge fan of this flower, but I’ve gotten to love them. They’re so photogenic, no matter the light or the angle….




The Ranunculus is in the same genus as buttercups.


The name Ranunculus is Late Latin for “little frog.”


Hard to believe these flowers are poisonous. Be careful when handling.


Ranunculus is also used in traditional medicine to treat rheumatism and fever.


Great weekend, everyone!


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Travel Scan: Krak des Chevaliers

Krak des Chevaliers is a Crusader castle in Syria, first inhabited in the 11th century by a settlement of Kurds. It was first known as Hisn al Akrad, or “Castle of the Kurds.” In 1142 it was given by Raymond II, Count of Tripoli, to the Knights Hospitaller. It remained in their possession until it fell in 1271, then became known as Crac de l’Ospital. The name Krak des Chevaliers was coined in the 19th century.


This is the only photo I have of the place. The castle was built with limestone.

The reason I took only one photo was because we had an unsettling situation when we arrived. The castle was in the middle of nowhere and no other vehicles were in the parking lot. There was one old man sitting in the doorway, so we figured it was open. While getting our gear together, I looked out the windshield and saw that a crowd of young men had formed. They looked to be from 15-20 years old. They were just standing there, staring. Intently, without blinking. Being a friendly guy, my boyfriend waved and smiled. They didn’t move.
I’m sure we must have looked pretty strange to them, two tall blond Americans sitting in a German Post Office van. But they continued to stare for seconds, then minutes. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Somewhat unnerving.

We’d driven a long way and really wanted to see the castle, so took a chance and got out of the van. Again, no one moved. We went inside and were given a brief tour by the old man. My boyfriend didn’t feel comfortable having the camera out, so I took my one photo really fast and he put the camera in his backpack.

When we came back to the van, the guys were standing in the same spot, still staring. We had planned to camp overnight there (it was in our camping guide as a safe place to stay) but the hairs were standing up on the back of my neck and my boyfriend agreed it was time to go.

We had more than a few close moments on that trip through Europe and the Middle East, but someone was looking out for us. The only bad thing that happened was when our van ended up in a ditch in Greece, but a truck driver happened by and pulled us out.

While researching the castle for this post, I was dismayed to learn that the Krak was shelled in August 2012 by the Syrian Arab Army. It was damaged again in July 2013 by an airstrike during the Siege of Homs. So sad.

Here is the castle before:

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

and after:

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

Lawrence of Arabia once remarked that Krak des Chevaliers was “perhaps the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world, [a castle which] forms a fitting commentary on any account of the Crusading buildings of Syria.”

Hope your week’s going well so far.


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Missing Downton Abbey?

Try this….

Netflix photo

Netflix photo

Gran Hotel is a Spanish TV series that ran from 2011-2013 for just three seasons. In my opinion, it’s more entertaining than Downton, especially now. For me, that show died along with Sybil and Matthew. Dame Maggie Smith is wonderful, but she’s not enough to save the program.
What is it about the third, fourth and fifth seasons? The first two are fantastic, then the writers seems to run out of ideas or something. Call the Midwife was so good until they went off the book. The only exceptions for me are Breaking Bad, Mad Men (so sad it’s over) and Parenthood.

Anyway, the leads in Gran Hotel are ridiculously good-looking:

Netflix photo

Netflix photo

These star-crossed lovers get into more scrapes (why isn’t Julio caught or dead?) and it’s very entertaining.

There’s a witty police detective and his hapless sidekick, two really scary madres who’ve perfected the face slap; conniving house maids and a truly repulsive husband. I watch this on my iPad while working out on the elliptical and it makes the time fly.

Oh, the setting is beautiful too–the Palacio de la Magdalena in Santander (see top photo). The time period is early 20th century and the costumes are great.

Netflix photo

Netflix photo

I took a couple years of Spanish in college, so it’s fun for me to try and understand the dialogue. I usually get the first and last words in a sentence. :)

Love the cinematography too.


Check it out! On Netflix with subtitles under “Grand Hotel.” I have not been compensated for this blog post, just sharing a fave.

Great weekend, everyone!


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Rain in May

We’ve been having really unusual weather lately. Cool and windy and now, rainy. I never thought I’d be happy to see rain after years in the D.C. area, but we’re in the middle of a drought. While walking Rocky, I took these shots after a brief rain shower:


Red Bottlebrush. The name fits, doesn’t it?


Common Day lily.

Monday is a holiday here (Memorial Day) so I’ll be back in a week.

Great weekend, everyone!


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