Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog

February 21, 2015

First shots with the 85mm

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karma @ 7:35 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I am thrilled with my new camera lens! I have absolutely no buyer’s remorse in the purchase of my Canon 85mm f1.8. Everything I read about this lens seems to be very true. Gorgeous sharp photos with lovely background bokeh. The descriptions said the lens is great for portraits and nature shots. Here are my first portrait “victims”:

Ted
Teddy

Daphne
Daphne

And probably my favorite of this group because I love the way Cedric’s fur frames his face:
Cedric

As for nature shots, I took these from my dining room window. Again I’m quite happy. The only editing I really did to these was to crop them tighter and up the contrast a little to bring out the detail on the birds against the snow.

chicadee
Black-capped Chicadee

chicadee

My favorite of this group, a female northern cardinal with snow falling – yes, more snow, grrrr…- I have to admit, however, I just love what this lens did with that snow:
female cardinal

I can’t wait to keep playing!!

February 20, 2015

I got it!

New glass

Woo-hoo it worked out this time! B&H had another one available used, so I have my 85mm f1.8 lens! Happened to glance at my email early Wednesday morning and had a notification from Canon Price Watch that one was available. I crossed my fingers that the link would take me to B&H so I could use my gift card balance toward the purchase. I got to the site and no one else had snapped it up just yet as has happened several times over the last month. I couldn’t believe how quickly it arrived – I received it early afternoon yesterday (Thursday)! I can’t wait to “play” – it is supposed to be a wonderful portrait lens (watch out my darling daughters!) and nature lens that creates gorgeously clear photos with beautiful background bokeh. Thank you B&H for super quick service, Canon Price Watch for the great notification system and Becky for telling me about this service!

I’ve been on school vacation this week and keeping myself busy with a variety of tasks, visits, shopping, exercise and the like. Snow keeps piling up outside, as I am sure you are sick of hearing about from New Englanders. Today we have the “joy” of dangerous wind chills. Current temperature is about 2 degrees outside with wind chill making it feel like -20. They are saying we are going to get another couple inches tomorrow – who can even tell the difference any more? – then rain and 40 degrees on Sunday and back down into the teens for temperatures for back to school on Monday. Sounds like a mess in the making to me!

I’ve got a few more bird photos to share. I remembered another bird feeder that I purchased last year that I thought did a better job of baffling the squirrels since it has a large “squirrel baffle” on the underside. But this morning, what did I find sitting in the feeder? Yeah, you know. But I didn’t think to grab a picture. I think the snow is so tall the squirrels are just leaping into the feeder! I did manage to get a couple shots of a Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal before all the seed quickly disappeared (have to go buy some more).
shecard

hecard

New to my feeders this year is a northern mockingbird. It seems to really enjoy the suet cake like the little downy woodpecker I showed you the other day.
northern mockingbird

I guess that’s all for now. Sarah and I will be on our way out to Worcester this afternoon to visit Meghan and go out to dinner. Need to figure out an interesting place to go. With any luck I will have not have to mention the “s” word to you again in my next blog post!

February 9, 2015

Guess what? It’s another snow day!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karma @ 10:46 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Looks like I called it right in my last post. I thought maybe you’d hear from me on another snow day, and here we are. Between the Martin Luther King holiday and snow days we’ve had, I’ve been to school on Monday only twice in 2015. And next week is February break from school, so perhaps February 23rd will be my next Monday at work.

In this post from a January snow day, I was playing with the lenses for my iPhone and I showed you my front yard with bird bath visible. Have a look at where the snow is on that bird bath now:
Snow piling up

Speaking of lenses, I was rather happy on Saturday morning when I thought I was going to get a great deal from B&H Photo on that lens I’ve had my eye on, the Canon 85mm 1.8. I received a notification from Canon Pricewatch that there was a used one available from B&H. I quickly went to their site and found it still available. I put it in my cart. Now B&H does not process web orders from Friday night until Saturday evening. According to the timer on the site, shopping checkout would be available again around 6:45pm. I left the site open all day and checked that the lens was still in my cart. I returned to start checkout around 6:50pm and the lens was gone from cart! I don’t understand this facet of doing business. Why was another customer allowed to buy something I had placed in the cart? Were multiple customers allowed to place the same item in their carts and the first one back to pay for it, gets it? If I had known that was the story, I would’ve been at the ready minutes before the checkout opened. I guess now I know better if I try again. Needless to say I was hugely disappointed.

Back to the snow day. Icicles are getting big
Icicles getting long

and temperatures are staying small.
Sigh

Birds have rediscovered my feeding area, enjoying what the squirrels leave behind. I found a cute little downy woodpecker on a suet cake yesterday.
downy2

downy1

But boy let me tell you, cabin fever is hitting me hard. Sarah just got back from Florida, my sister is on a cruise as we speak, and I know teacher-friends will be taking off for warm climes during the February break. I’ve been trolling Expedia daydreaming about making my escape. Anyone have any tips for scoring a great deal?

February 2, 2015

Another Snowstorm, More Musing

I’m starting to think I should make “Snow Day Musings” a regular feature around here. Snow days from school seem to be the days lately that I find the time to blog and share what’s been happening in my little part of the world.

The last time I posted, a snow day started off what was my last week as the long term sub for 6th grade math. I’m back to working as paraprofessional again, and let me tell you it takes some getting used to. I’m so very appreciative for the experience that I had as a teacher and now I think it is going to push me in the direction I think I need to take. I’ve been practicing and studying to get ready to take the teacher’s test for middle school math. If I can pass this test,(that’s a big “IF” at this point: the test has trigonometry and calculus on it!! Ay yi yi!) I can add being able to teach 5th through 9th grade math to my teaching license. I’m currently certified to teach 5th through 12th grade social studies. Those of you familiar with the Common Core are surely aware of the dismal view of the future of social studies classes. Opportunities for social studies teachers will become fewer in the future, I’m sure, as social studies blends into English Language Arts classes. That is the way social studies is treated by the Common Core.
Thinking of the future

In that last post, I also mentioned thinking about a new lens and trying to get back into photography this year. All the white I’m surrounded by lately has me less than inspired, but I have been researching the lens. The more I read, the more I want it. I’ve decided that if I make the investment, I will definitely go with the Canon lens. The Canon is the only one in this price category (85mm portrait lens) that has autofocus. Tack sharp focus is something I’d really like to work on in my photography and I don’t think buying a manual-focus-only lens to save some money will help me reach that goal. So I’m researching and scheming and watching a few places to try to get the Canon lens for the best possible price.

My area did not receive the worst of the snow from that last storm, but just 45 minutes away in Worcester where Meghan goes to school, they did. Worcester received 34.5 inches of snow from that storm. We have been lucky that the snow has been light and fluffy rather than wet and heavy. Meghan sent me a few pictures from around campus after the storm.
Snow drift
A snow drift taller than she is

On campus at Clark
Those piles will be getting taller today!

While I am talking about college, happy news came for Sarah this weekend:
Acceptance for Sarah
Wentworth Institute of Technology is the school we went to visit last summer that I told you about in this post. It turned out to be Sarah’s first choice of all of the schools she applied to. We have not heard back from the other schools yet, but I have a feeling that unless we are unable to work with this school financially, this is where she will be enrolling for the fall. It has been a great few days for Sarah. In addition to this wonderful news, she just came home yesterday from a wonderful trip to Florida. Sarah participated in her high school’s technology department trip to Disney World. They spent 3 days taking “behind the scenes” classes with the Disney Y.E.S. program as well as having free time to explore the parks. She brought me home this adorable Mickey pendant because, in her words, she thought I deserved something nice. :-)
Mickey pendant

Before all this snow arrived, we did have a peek at the sun yesterday. (Thank goodness Sarah’s return flight was yesterday and not today!) Daphne seemed to be enjoying it.
Enjoying a spot of sunshine
She is my solar-powered golden non-retriever after all! (Yes, I say non-retriever. Daphne has never been much of a retriever. She fetched a few balls in her puppyhood days but quickly decided that game wasn’t really her style.)

And oh yeah, there was a big game of some sort yesterday too, right? Yes, of course, the Super Bowl was yesterday and our local boys, the New England Patriots, are the champs. I am not a big football person at all but I’m very happy for the hometown team. After the dismal performance of my Red Sox last year, it is very nice to have the local team to be proud of. I don’t get invited to Super Bowl parties or have a big celebration, but I do use it as an excuse to have not-so-good-for-you food. For sitting in front of the t.v. yesterday I made Queso Fundido, chicken tenders (buffalo style for me, honey mustard for Sarah) and the Pioneer Woman’s Pizza Potato Skins
Super Bowl treat
They were delicious! I may have spoiled myself against eating frozen potato skins any more these were so good. Did you know they made little tiny pepperoni slices like that? I just discovered them yesterday when I went grocery shopping and they were perfect.

And now here we are, back to today and more snow. Here’s what I found this morning at my “squirrel proof” bird feeder:
"Squirrel proof" bird feeder

A fish eye view of the backyard:
Fisheye view of snowstorm

Well, that was a lot of musing! But who knows when you’ll hear from me next – maybe the next snow day! ;-)

January 12, 2015

Snow Day Musing

It’s a snow day today. I am bummed. This is my last week of teaching and I was hoping to be able to enjoy every last moment available to me in “my” classroom. I’m sitting here at home with about an inch of snow on the ground, nothing currently falling from the sky. Supposedly there is to be a “wintry mix” approaching late morning into afternoon, and I guess that is the reason for the cancellation – possibility of difficulties at dismissal time, but right now it feels like a waste, especially for me.

I am hoping to focus back in on photography a little more this year. I’ve been perusing photography books I own, trying to learn a bit more about using Lightroom, and contemplating whether putting my old Photoshop Elements 7 program on this computer (if I can find my disk, darn it!) would be worthwhile for other types of tweaks that might not be possible in Lightroom. Elements is up to 13 now. Anyone using that program? Looks like the upgrade (I’m assuming this is for owners of previous versions of Elements) costs around $80. Worthwhile expenditure?

I’m looking a little bit at lenses too. Considering an 85mm portrait lens. Photos with faces in them are often the most interesting, aren’t they? The lens that would fit my camera that’s kind of in my price range (but still expensive!) does not have autofocus. The Canon version with autofocus is about $180 MORE than the no autofocus one. If I decide to invest in a lens, I want it to be something I will be able to make good use of. Thoughts or opinions there?

Speaking of lenses, I received a neat little gift for Christmas.
Lenses from Photojojo
This is a set of lenses for my iPhone from Photojojo. There’s a telephoto, a wide angle and a fisheye.

To show you a little comparison, here are some shots of my birdbath out in the snow (yup, I forgot to take it in for the winter – so far it seems to be okay), taken from my dining room window
Without telephoto
tightest view available from iPhone zoom

Telephoto
Tightest with the lens attached

Without wide angle
widest view without and…

Wide angle
with the wide angle lens.

The fisheye is fun to play with!
Fisheye 1
The mess of the living room on Christmas

Fisheye 2
Christmas desserts

Fisheye 3
snowy yard

Fisheye 4
Teddy has a peek outside

January 1, 2015

My View of 2014

January 1st. A day for looking both forward and back. I spent some time yesterday looking over the photos I took in 2014, trying to mentally select some for one of those year-end reviews I usually do, but the format for how to do it just wasn’t coming to me. I think my photography lost some focus, figuratively and literally, last year as my focus was in other places. 2014 was a year of changes and struggles, but of triumphs as well. My photography became more about story-telling and memory-keeping than of creating technically good photographs. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. I do, however, miss having a lot of those moments when I sat back and reviewed my shots on any given day and thought to myself, wow, I really like that one.

These days I really am about moving forward and continually trying to discover and create a better me. However, 2014 had some moments I will chronicle here that were big and small parts of becoming who I am today, and who I will be as I continue to find my place in my changing world.

image
This book was the inspiration for my approach to 2014. I honestly did try to find as much joy as possible in the events of my life. There were definitely several days throughout the year where this proved impossible: the closing of our home away from home, our dance studio, finding out that I would not be a candidate for the teaching job at my school for which I had been hoping dearly for 9 years and, worst of all, learning that my best friend in the world since I was 6 years old had breast cancer.

I do believe that things happen for a reason, although I’m sure there will never be one for my friend going through this horrible experience. She is an amazing woman, currently undergoing chemotherapy. She is unbelievably strong, even keeping her wicked sense of humor that I love so much about her intact. We are counting down the days with her until chemo is done – January 27th is her last treatment. Celebrations will surely be planned.

focus.jpg (1 of 1)
2014 was a full year of taking better care of me physically. I began what I consider to be a new way of life, a new way of thinking about and experiencing health and fitness. I eat as “clean” as possible, meaning as many whole, one-ingredient foods or minimally processed foods as I can. I workout 4 to 5 days a week. As I result I’ve lost about 20 pounds and I’m feeling more physically fit than I remember for most of my life. Hopefully this work will result in a me who is ready to live fully and experience many new things as the future comes our way.

Our crew
It was a year of keeping connections with an amazing group of friends. I’ve mentioned before how much these people mean to me, and I do believe that what we have is unique for adults in our age group. The fact that this connection that began in the 1980’s when we were teenagers (earlier for some of the guys here) and continues to the new generation of our children, who are now becoming adults, is surely not something that happens every day.

My amazing girls
It was a year about discovering, defining and accepting my place and who I am to these two wonderful young women. My changing role as a mother has not been an easy one for me to come to terms with. The loving, caring about, trying my best for, doing whatever I can for them will never ever change, but I know now that I am no longer the director of their life experiences. It is now my job to support their decisions, offer guidance when asked for and be here for them whenever they need me.

image
It was the year I got to experience teaching in my own classroom, albeit temporarily, for the first time. My time as 6th grade math teacher is now winding down. I will have only two weeks left of this excellent opportunity when we return to school from this holiday break. I have no idea if this experience will lead me somewhere in the future, but I have loved every moment of it – the teaching, the planning, the kids, even the correcting.

The more that I scroll through my Flickr feed as I’ve composed this post, more I realize that I did have at least a few of those “aha” moments with my photography. As I said earlier, not necessarily in the creation of a technically good photo, but photos that bring me joy from the memory or the simple beauty of the moment. Here are a few of them.
Robins

IMG_0898

pool ducky

Applause

pipevine swallowtail 1

image

...and now

dragonfly face

IMG_1284

IMG_1294

Oreo cows!

Color and reflection

Reindeer dog

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015 full of promise and hope.

December 29, 2014

2014 in review

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karma @ 6:33 pm

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 28, 2014

A Little Nostalgia

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karma @ 3:49 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

As my mother was getting ready to leave my house Christmas night, we noticed one more gift still wrapped under my tree. Oh yeah, we remembered, my sister had dropped off a Christmas gift for my mother from her sister, my aunt Janet. The wrapping paper ripped a little as my mother went to pick it up, and she decided to open it then. Inside the large box were 5 smaller boxes and a note from my aunt. It read something like, “This isn’t really a gift, it is more a trip down nostalgia lane.” The 5 smaller boxes inside were addressed one each to my mother, my sister (who had unfortunately already left for the evening), myself and my two daughters. Inside each box, there was a pretty pink sack like this,

Pretty in pink

a copy of this photo of my grandmother
Grandmother
(my mother estimates this photo to be from possibly the late 1930’s or early 1940’s when her mother was around 30; my mom had not yet been born when it was taken)

and a handwritten note of explanation from my aunt.

My grandmother, Grace Marie, passed away in 2006 at the age of 98. She was a young girl when the Red Sox won the World Series in 1918 and was pleased as punch when they broke that 86 year drought and won it again in 2004. They won it again what would have been the day after her 100th birthday in 2007. But I digress.

Of a very different generation than the one that currently finds it acceptable to go out in one’s pajama pants, my grandmother always dressed up whenever she left the house whether it was to run errands or visit family. She loved costume jewelry and to match it with whatever she was wearing.
She left behind a rather sizeable collection of it when she died. My aunt decided that a nice way for her mother to be remembered would be to pass along some of the pieces to female members of the family. She sorted through and chose pieces for us, often picking ones that resembled our birthstones.
Antique costume jewelry

The four of us marvelled at the amazing thought behind this gift of nostalgia. There was much “ooh-ing” and “ah-ing” as pieces were tried on and questions asked by my daughters who do not remember her well, due to their young age at the time of her death.

I received these, since April’s birthstone is diamond:
For me

Meghan’s birthstone is an amethyst. There are some purple drop earrings here in the jewelry received by her.
For Meghan

Even Sarah, my tomboyish daughter, enjoyed receiving the glittery gift which included the green necklace close to August’s peridot. She thinks maybe she will be able to wear some of the treasures she received when she goes to the prom next June.
For Sarah

Thank you, Auntie Janet, for your thoughtfulness and this beautiful gift to the women of our family.

December 24, 2014

Twas the blog post before Christmas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karma @ 8:45 am
Tags: , , , ,

Time for my annual traditional blog post, with apologies to C. Clement Moore! (You can see the last three years’ Christmas poems here, here and here.)

Twas the day before Christmas
and there is plenty to do.
But my first thought this morning?
Write a blog post for you!

My day will entail
cooking and cleaning – no trip to the mall!
I’ve a long day ahead
but feel rather calm ’bout it all.

My yard has been cleaned
of all the debris.
I paid a guy
to do this for me!

Clean yard

I’m out of school for 12 days
on this holiday break.
A well deserved rest
students and staff we will take

Grinch

There’s no snow on the ground.
This Christmas will be green.
But there are other
fun sights to be seen.

Christmas Collie

When my gift wrapping began,
it was a bit of a fright,
Wrapping chaos
but I worked my way through
by the end of last night.
Ready to go

So now I face Christmas Eve morning
with a list long as my sleeve,
and a hope this bad poetry
won’t cause you to leave

before I’ve had the chance
with all of my might,
to wish you all Merry Christmas
and to all a good night!

December 9, 2014

Two Hour Delay

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karma @ 7:44 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I had absolutely no idea this morning there was any weather in the works that could call for a two hour delay to the start of school. I got in the shower at 5:30 am like I always do, and apparently shortly after that, the phone calls came in: one for the district I work in and one for the district I live in – 2 hour delay for icy roads due to some freezing rain in the wee hours.

Too wide awake to go back to bed at this point, plus I was already showered (wet hair), dressed and had put make up on by the time I discovered the calls on my cell phone. What to do? Make a cup of coffee (darn it no half n half or almond milk in the house, have to go with regular milk) and sit down to write a blog post.

That crazy-busy time of year is in full swing. Did LOTS of shopping this past weekend plus Amazon will be making regular deliveries to this house over the next few days. The tree is up.
Tree '14

I missed having Meghan around so much last year when we did the tree that this year I used “FaceTime” on our iPhones so we could have a video call while we decorated. Sarah and I picked out some ornaments for Meghan to “hang”. Here’s a couple of them:
Hers
Snowman on the left has her name on it and the one on the right is in her birthstone color. There were various others that were considered “her” ornanments and we showed them to her one by one on the phone and then pointed the phone at the tree so she could choose where to put them. It wasn’t the same as having her here of course, but it was nicer than last year when I was really feeling her absence.

Christmas time also includes regular embarrassment of my dogs:
Yearly dog embarrassment
Daphne was a good sport about it long enough for me to get a photo. Teddy was less cooperative. He had the hat off before I could focus the camera.

Remember my post where I talked about changing traditions? Two of my Christmas traditions seem to be going by the wayside this year. I don’t know if they are permanent changes or just temporary. I don’t think I will be sending Christmas cards or putting up my Christmas Village this year. I usually make photo cards with cute pictures of my daughters and dogs on them in November. Time has gotten away from me. I know it isn’t too late to make them, address them and send them out before Christmas, but I feel like it is one added “pressure” to my time these days at this point. So to any family or friends who may be reading this who normally gets a card from me, don’t feel I’ve dropped you from the list! I feel the same way about the Christmas village. It is a huge labor to set up and to take down. Perhaps I will find some space here and there around the house to display a few favorite pieces.

How is your December going so far? Holiday hustle and bustle for you?

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