Friday, December 17, 2010

Photographic Color Essay Number 2: Orange

Is there any juicer color than orange? Doesn't it looks great paired with other warm colors like hot pink and mauve? I also love bright orange in contrast to cool colors like lime or turquoise. Here is a look at some of my favorite oranges from the past year.

Goldfish swimming in a tank at Humber Nursery, Toronto.

Annual Begonia, Humber Nursery, Toronto Ontario

A Tiger lily in my July garden

In my front garden, a common orange daylily paired with a pink spirea 

Frans Hals Daylily

Bright orange berries on the Euonymus in my garden

Locally grown carrots at the Farmer's Market in Ottawa, Ontario

A closer view of the rainbow of carrots


A gerbera daisy at the Ottawa Farmer's Market

Chinese Lantern (Physalis alkekengi) Invasive, but interesting.

Orange Maple leaves in the fall sunshine

Birdhouse with a snow covered roof

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Amaryllis as a Cut Flower

We tend to think of amaryllis as flowering bulbs, but they also make great, long lasting cut flowers. I purchased three stems at the grocery store and have enjoyed watching the large, trumpet shaped blooms open over the last few days.

In case you are wondering, no, these aren't a new yellow variety of amaryllis. I usually try to photograph flowers in natural sunlight, but with rain, then snow and now grey, bitter cold, sunlight has been in short supply. These were shot on my kitchen counter, where an energy efficient bulb casts a yellow light. The flowers are actually a lovely ivory color.

It is interesting that when the flowers first open, the enlarged anthers thrust forward intent, no doubt, to temp insects to the flower.

Then the anthers shrink in size and pollen is visible, as you see here.

Tall and stately, they look great in my tall, cylindrical glass vase. Now fully open, the sweeping curves of the flowers are simply beautiful.

For an interesting visit to a Prins Grow Inc., an amaryllis grower in the Niagara area, check out this short video segment: House and Home Television. The clip runs a short 4:59 minutes and includes many tips for arranging and enjoying amaryllis over the holidays. When the link takes you to the new window, just click the center arrow and the show will play, after a brief commercial.

For all you bakers, there are also short video segments on Mexican Wedding Ball cookies and Gingerbread cookies.

Mexican Wedding Ball Cookies. Photo by John Cullen. Prop & Food Styling Saha Seymour. Canadian House and Home Magazine November 2010.

Go, take a look when you have a moment.  

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Quest: 5 Waterfalls and Counting

For me, a "quest" or journey of discovery is a compelling idea. The object of any quest, wether the best pizza in your home city, or some rare species, is less important than the journey itself. Discovery is the thing!

This particular quest began with a simple brochure that I inadvertently picked up along with a few area road maps and summer event listing from the local tourist bureau. The  fanfold "Cascades and Waterfalls of Hamilton" brochure, with its striking picture of Borer's Falls, informed me that: 

"In a year long scientific study, the Hamilton Conservation Authority identified 65 waterfalls within her boundaries, so Hamilton could well be known as the City of Waterfalls."

Wow! Who knew that we were living in close proximately of so many natural wonders? And I had always thought of Hamilton as an industrial city. Just think of what we had been missing in our brief, cursory explorations of this nearby city!

I turned to my husband and partner in crime, who was driving at the time, and said, "Did you know that there are 32 accessible waterfalls all listed in a chart in this brochure! You know...", I unfolded the brochure to see the chart more fully and continued to outline my quickly hatching plan, "it would make for an interesting project to visit every waterfall on the chart and photograph it. We could do the photo series in, say...", I paused to calculate, "the course of the summer." 

I looked over at him and did my best to sound convincing, "It could be kind of fun!" 

While I did succeed in signing us both up for this waterfall odyssey, we did not manage 32 waterfalls in one summer. In fact, that was 2 summers ago. The quest continues to this day. 

So far we have seen and photographed 6 waterfalls. Here today, are the first 5.

Our first stop in this post, is Albion Falls. A large waterfall with a cascade of 19 meters, Albion Falls tumbles down a series of shale steps to a gorge far below. 

There is no organized walkway or staircase, and I can tell you, we had to call upon all our very best mountain goat skills to make our way down the steep, muddy slope. (A good set of hiking boots and a walking stick for balance and support are definitely recommended for all these sorts of adventures!)

On the left: a view of the valley below. On the right: Pancakes of shale lie stacked on top of one another.

Huge boulders of shale, which have broken off and fallen down the gorge, lie at the bottom of Albion Falls.

2. Borer's  Fall lies at an unassuming bend in a secondary road and we would never have found it without extra assitance from area residents. Above, you see the falls in the spring, and below in the winter.

In winter, the outer surface of the 15 meter curtain freezes into a huge column of ice. Underneath this translucent pillar of ice, you can still see the shadow of water, as it falls from the top of the escarpment

3. With a crest of 30 meters, Webster's Falls is one of the largest, most stunning waterfalls in the Hamilton area. The couple seated on a park bench on the upper left can give you a point of reference as to the magnitude of the scene. In the background, you can see a stone bridge that crosses the Spencer River and surrounding park.

There is a steep staircase that leads to the bottom of the Spencer Gorge. The figures on the upper right can again give you some perspective as to the grandeur of Webster Falls.

In this view, you can see the falls in the depths of winter.

The forest trail leads between Webster Falls and its cousin Tews Falls, provides some amazing vistas. In the picture above, the city of Hamilton is just visible in the distance. 

Below is another view of the steep terrain that lies along the edge of the forest trail that meanders between the two waterfalls.

4. Logi's Creek tumbles 41 meters over the escarpment to form Tews falls. In the winter months, water seeping through the thin layers of rock form long, sharp icicles. 

5. I've left one of the best waterfalls, (so far anyway) for last! Sherman or "Fairy Falls" is not the most spectacular in terms of size or depth, but the setting deep in a secluded, wooded ravine, is unsurpassed.

So, 5 down, 27 waterfalls to go! The quest continues...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

All that Glitters

In the early fall, we began a renovation of our living room in hopes that the revitalized room would be ready in time for Christmas. From the optimistic vantage point of early September, the project seemed basic enough: install a fireplace flanked by built-in bookshelves, cover up exposed heating pipes with a drywall box, add crown molding and paint the room. 

As there is no money in our bank account for a suitable team of professionals, this like all our projects, squeezes snugly into the category of do-it-yourself weekend endeavors. Busy schedules and the inevitable delays caused by unforeseen problems however, find us now in mid-December with a house all topsy-turvy and a living room filled with tools, loose baseboards and drywall rubble. 

Our living room furniture is currently keeping the dining room furniture company in the dining room. 

In summary, the house is a mess. 

Given the state of things, I can't bring myself to decorate for Christmas, except in the most basic of ways. 
I am doing a few simple displays to keep things festive. For our third floor loft, I have done an arrangement of white branches in a silver urn. 

Every year we add a few paper decorations to our collection of home-made ornaments; an assortment of items that stretches back to include the paper chains we made out of construction paper the first year we were married and marches forward in time to encompass the paper birds, angels and Santas our son Daniel made every year he was in elementary school. Always a sentimental about handmade things, I have kept almost all of these treasures. 

The balls above are made from circles of two-sided card stock (scrapbook paper). Both were made using a single circle paper punch. 

On the right, four circles of card stock were stitched together using a needle and thread (the stitching results in a central vertical seam). Then the sides of the circle are folded out from the center seam to make a ball. Easy!

The ball on the left is also easy to make, but a bit more complex to explain in a short blog post. If you want, I can email you instructions.

The golden snow flakes are from Lowlaw's Superstore, the icicles and white Santa are part of the Debbie Travis ornament collection for Canadian Tire stores. The silver pine cones and white bear I had already.

In the front hall, I have covered one of my small silver feather trees with birds and a set of long brownish-burgundy glass ornaments.  The small silver trees in the background are simple decorations from the dollar store.

Above the hall table, I hung a wreath I made a few years ago. It is a simple project, easily replicated by using a twig wreath as a base and adding glitter covered fruit with a hot glue gun.

This is one of my oldest birds, which I found at a flea market. Originally, it looked a bit forlorn having lost its tail feather. With the addition of a new white gull feather, it is as good as new!

Among the most exotic of my bird ornaments is a pink flamingo, an owl and the swan seen above, with its tiny gold crown.

All I need now is to add a few decorative touches outside of the house and we are ready for the holidays.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bird Brains

They're back and I am convinced that they are having a ceilidh! 

The "they" I am referring to are tiny, brown sparrows, thirty or so of them. They decamped last spring when the warm weather arrived, but now that it is cold again, they have returned to the forsythia bush at the the front to the house. It seems that they come every year to spend the winter in the tangle of the over grown bush.

Small birds are rarely thought of as intelligent, hence the derogatory expression "bird brain" for someone who is behaving foolishly, but I for one, am impressed by the fact that these common sparrows have enough smarts to remember each fall that my forsythia is a great place to spend the cold winter months.

In the morning, I can often hear their noisy chatter as they flit back and forth from the protection of the forsythia to the copper feeders just inside the back gate. A "ceilidh", at least by my Nova Scotian understanding of the Scottish word, is a kitchen party with lots of village gossip. Sometimes, when I am making breakfast in the kitchen, this gang of brown sparrows are so cheerfully talking to one another that I am convinced that there must be an awful lot of things to gossip about in the bird world.

Chickadees are also regular patrons of our bird feeders. They are so tame that they will land and take seed from the palm of our hands.

News spread quickly when there is a special treat waiting in the copper feeder. The sharp, urgent cries of the jays echo back and forth through the tree tops as they called out to one another. 

Jays are smart too- I watch them sort through the peanut pile. They scoop the peanuts up, examine them, reject the unworthy nuts and then fly off with their carefully selected prize. They don't eat them all at once either, but rather, stash some of the best nuts away, so they can retrieve them later.

 I hope that you have a great weekend!