Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog

August 3, 2011

Flowers of Linden Hill

Gorgeous arrangement #1
On Saturday of my weekend in Pennsylvania for Big Summer Potluck, we were taken to a place called Linden Hill Gardens.  This was where all the main events of the day took place.

My first shots were of the lovely flower arrangements placed in the windows of the barn.

Gorgeous arrangement #2

When we had the chance to tour the grounds, I was fascinated by the jumbo-sized flowers on huge lily pads at the pond:
Giant Lily pad flower

They were enormous, and had these unusual centers that reminded me of shower heads:

Strange centers too!

It is hard to see the scale of these flowers in these shots.  The closest I got to showing their size is in this shot with my sister in the background:
Jennifer and lily pad flowers

I should have taken a picture with Jennifer’s head right next to a bloom, because that is about how big they were!

This next shot isn’t a flower, or perfectly focused (autofocus was arguing with me again about where to focus, so I shut him off) but I love the sparkle of the dragonfly’s wings:
Dragonfly visitor

Black-eyed susans provided a great opportunity for a fill-the-frame shot:
Endless Black-Eyed Susans

After dinner, I took an chance to slip back down toward the pond for a few more pictures in early evening light:
Dahlias in the evening

Lilac-y hydrangeas?

And one more of those unusual lily pad flowers, this time a bud:
Lily pad flower bud

but a bud the size of a large man’s fist!

A few more shots that I took of the flowers are posted in this set on Flicker.

I loved having the opportunity to take these photos, especially since the recent harsh weather in this area has done a number on my plants.  In addition to the damage done to my veggie garden that I showed you in this post, my hanging baskets of flowers are not looking very healthy either 😦 .  Sadly I will not have lots of lush flowers decorating my deck for Sarah’s birthday party this weekend.  We had another hail storm this past Monday (thankfully no power outage this time around) and I just don’t know if the flowers will be able to recover this time.  Thank goodness the tomatoes are relatively unharmed!

ETA: Michaela of The Daily Click correctly identified those lily pad flowers as lotus!  Thanks Michaela!

August 1, 2011

Big Summer Potluck from the Non-Food Blogger’s View

Last summer, my sister went to a food bloggers’ event called the Big Summer Potluck.   She asked me if I wanted to go with her, since it was a 4 1/2 hour drive to Buck’s County, PA.  I was relatively new to blogging at the time, and definitely not a food blogger, so I declined.  She found a friend to accompany her and came back raving about all the wonderful food, wonderful presentations and wonderful people.  When she learned that the event was to take place again this year, she again asked me if I’d like to go along.  I hesitated at first, still not sure with not being a food blogger, but she reassured me that it would be fine since I do write a blog mostly dedicated to photography, and hey – I do  throw a food post out there every now and again.  This time, I accepted.

What was a one day event with about 40 people last year, expanded to a full weekend with about 70 people this year.  Our weekend began with our arrival at the beautful home of Three Many Cooks:
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One of the nicest parts of the evening for me was finally meeting Erika of the Ivoryhut in person.  My interaction with Erika goes back to the days of the small photo community that formed around the now seemingly defunct Shrew’s Daily Shutters and when the Ivory Hut was still a little WordPress blog like mine!  She gave me a nice warm hug. I don’t know if it was 8 seconds or not but it definitely helped raise my seratonin levels! **wink to the BSP-ers**  Erika and Maggy, from Three Many Cooks, were the main organizers of the event.  I snuck a little photo of the two of them from the windows while they were having a little photo shoot :

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Speaking of windows, I think it is impossible to take a bad photo at this house due to all the huge windows and the amazing light.    For example, here is the appetizer spread from Friday night:
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I’m having difficulty keeping all the names and faces and blogs straight of the people I met this weekend, but I am pretty sure I recognize Karen from The Peche and Tracy from Sugarcrafter in this shot.  If any other BSP-ers are reading this post and find yourself in this or any of my other pictures, please leave me a comment to let me know.

Colleen from Souffle Bombay made these for Friday night:

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Individual frozen chambord margaritas! LOVED!

For dinner we had chicken or veggie enchiladas:
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One of several fabulous desserts was my sister’s Raspberry Mojito Sorbet!

The full day of events on Saturday took place at Linden Hill Gardens.  The morning was already warm and sunny when we arrived for breakfast:
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The names that I think I have correct in this shot are Ethan from Tastes Better with Friends, Ken from Hungry Rabbit NYC, Brian from A Thought for Food and Amber from Bluebonnets & Brownies.

Our scheduled events for the day included keynote speakers Shauna Ahern, Gluten-Free Girl, who spoke about writing blogs and not being afraid of being real, and award-winning photographer Penny de los Santos, who spoke with beautiful emotion about finding the moment in photography and regaled us with amazing stories of her photography assignments.  Additionally, we had time to explore the lovely grounds of Linden Hill (I will have an entire separate post with many of my pictures from the gardens), and a chat with Pam Anderson, cook-book author and one of the Three Many Cooks and Justin Schwartz, an editor who has published many books by famous chefs.

The days’ events took place in this large barn on Linden Hill’s grounds:
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We were treated to cocktails and munchies later outside the barn:
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Wendi, of Bon Appetit Hon figures prominently in the middle of this shot as she seems to contemplate what she should eat next!  The next thing most of us ate was paella with chicken and sausage cooked in an enormous pan over a fire:
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While we waited for dinner to finish cooking, I amused myself taking pictures of the unusual chickens in the coops behind the barn.  Unlike Brian and Ken, I chose to stay outside of the coops while taking my pictures, so the slight blur you see in these shots is from shooting through the chicken wire:

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After dinner, there was more time for picture-taking and socializing before we headed back to the hotel for the evening.

For breakfast on Sunday, we were invited back to the beautiful Anderson home. After good-byes and hugs, Jennifer and I began our trek back home.

It occured to me that it was a very rare occurance for me to be west of the Berkshire Mountains, so I pulled out my camera and took a few shots as Jennifer drove, and we approached our home state:
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So, my impressions as a non-food blogger at a food blogger event? Wonderful presentations – check!  Wonderful people – absolutely.  Wonderful food – yes, with this caveat: it was a gluten-free event, most likely due to the fact of having Shauna as our guest speaker, plus the additional gluten-free bloggers who were probably attracted by this fact.  I did feel that much of the wonderful creativity of food blogger baked goods that were raved about from last year were stifled by the gluten-free approach.  It was a kind-hearted attempt to allow everyone to partake in the food offerings, when in reality there were still people who could not nosh on many of the main foods, due to other allergies.

Am I happy that I attended?  For sure.  It was a wonderful opportunity to go to a place I’d never been, meet new people, try new foods, pick up some blogging tips, spend time with my sister and take, or in Penny’s words, make lots of pictures.  Thank you for this experience to the wonderful folks of BSP2!  (And no this blog post is not SEO optimized, under 250 words or monetized! 😉 )

July 28, 2011

Stuck in a Whirlwind

I’ve had better weeks.  I try not to use this blog space to complain, but please forgive me as I vent a bit about what happened to me over the past few days.

On Monday, the dreadful heatwave that had plagued most of the country had finally broken in this area, so I decided it was time to finally get out and mow the lawn.  I was trying to get it done quickly as it appeared that rain was eminent.  I was nearly finished when zap,zap,zap, OUCH!!!!  I had run over a yellow jackets’ nest in the ground and gotten stung several times in my hand and elbow.  I ran, swearing like sailor, into to the house to run them under cold water and make up the paste of baking soda and water to salve the stings.  To add to my indignity, upon sitting down to catch my breath for a moment, I discovered one yellow jacket had made the trip inside with me…in my shorts!  I was stung an additional three times you-know-where!

Tuesday dawns bright and sunny, comfortable temperatures.  Just a few errands in the plans for the day: Sarah having a friend over for a sleepover, getting my haircut, driving Meghan to and from the library where she was volunteering to help with a children’s art project.  It was the first time I had seen my hairdresser since the tornado on June 1st, so we were chatting about where we were and what happened.  Sadly her house sustained some damage.  We commented on what a nice pleasant day we were having that day.  I left the hairdresser’s and drove to the library to pick up Meghan.  I browsed books while Meghan finished up and noticed the darkening skies.  I hadn’t heard any thunderstorm warnings that day, but I had been busy puttering and cleaning and going about my business.  A huge clap of thunder rumbled outside and I could hear the screams of a few shocked children.  Meghan came out of the room where she had been working and I remarked we should try to get home before the storm opens up.  We live about 5 minutes from the town library, so I thought no problem.  It was gently sprinkling as we walked out to my car.

As I turned off Main St. to Springfield St, the skies opened up.  Torrential downpours and marble sized hail pelted my car.  Visibility quickly reduced to virtually nothing.  I saw blurry tail lights of the cars in front of me, and then nothing but a gray sheet of water across my windshield as traffic came to a standstill.  At that moment, a tree fell directly in front of my car, grazing the hood and grill as it went down, and another fell directly behind my car, tapping the bumper.  We were trapped.

I started trying to make phone calls.  Tried my husband first.  Couldn’t get through right away.  I tried 911; nobody answered.  I called directory assistance to get my local police department’s alternate number.  They told me to stay put in my car, they were getting dozens of calls and would do their best to get to us.  Hubby got through, told him what had happened, but by that time there was no way for him to get to us.  We were stuck in a triangle of streets that had all been blocked by trees and downed telephone poles in a matter of minutes.

And so we sat in the car and waited, not knowing what to do.  Were there downed wires? Was it safe to get out of the car?  Were more trees going to fall? Was it safe to stay in the car?  I opened my car door several times trying to  look around in the driving rain to determine what the dangers might be but I couldn’t make a decision.

When the rain finally let up somewhat, another trapped motorist stopped to check on us.  He told me there was another tree dangling perilously close to the roof of my car and that we’d better get out.

This is what my car looked like when we got out:
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It was still drizzling at the time, and another family invited us to sit in their car with them while we waited for the firemen to try to get to our area.  I thanked them and sat for a while, now soaked to the skin.  Feeling restless, I got out of the car and walked around a bit, wondering exactly what our situation was.  Other people were out doing the same.  There were about half a dozen cars trapped in the same general area with us.  Finally, we heard the chainsaws of the fire department on one side of the fallen trees.  Four firemen came through to check on people and assess damage.

They confirmed what I suspected.  We were really stuck.  There was no where for the cars to go.  Trees had fallen in all three possible directions of travel (for any locals who could be reading this, I was stuck on Springfield Street at the intersection of Faculty St.).  I’d been in contact with my husband who had been offering to drive as far as he could and then hike to trade places with me, so that he would wait with the car and I could take his truck home.  I didn’t like the idea not knowing what the situation was like beyond my immediate area, fearing he would end up stuck somewhere and leave my younger daughter and her friend home completely alone.

After we’d be stuck waiting for over 2 1/2 hours trying figure out if a way would be cleared that evening, I made a decision after talking to a fireman.  I asked if it was possible to get to our town hall on foot, which I knew was only a few hundred yards away, and according to my husband the road was clear at that point.  The fireman said yes, as long as you were careful to walk on the edge of people’s yards and stay away from downed wires.  I called my husband and asked him to pick us up at town hall and Meghan and I made a wary trek under and around fallen trees and telephone poles.  My poor car was abandoned for the night.

After trying multiple times to get back to my car the next day, we finally made it back and hubby tried to assess the damage.  The grill was cracked and the radiator appeared punctured.  The car started but the temperature soared quickly as I drove it to our local autobody, where it now sits awaiting an insurance adjuster.

Meghan and I are fine.  Maybe a bit shaken up, but no damage to us!  I wish I could say the same for my garden.  The driving hail made the garden appear as though someone attacked it with a machine gun:
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Some of the veggies are even scarred:

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My geranium which recently looked like this:
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now looks like this:
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My yard is loaded with fallen branches, hail-shredded leaves and a lawn flattened by the small lake that passed through, but with the exception of my car, we sustained no damage.  Meghan and I are feeling very lucky and thankful considering how close to being hurt we really came.

Rumors of another tornado hitting this area are unconfirmed; funnel clouds were reported but official weather-type people are yet to determine if there was touchdown.  Strong thunderstorms with hail and 50 mph winds were confirmed.  I don’t know what the whirlwind I was stuck in the middle of was actually called; it doesn’t really matter, it was scary as hell!

Power was out again for about 30 hours.  It happily came back on last night.  I will be dealing with the task of figuring out which food in the fridge is still good and what has gone bad.

As I said, I’ve had better weeks.  I’m hoping it is going to get better soon.  This weekend I will be attending Big Summer Potluck 2011.  It is an east coast food blogger event, for which I am tagging along with my sister.  We are leaving tomorrow morning, so this will likely be my last blog post until Sunday evening at the earliest.  I hope your week was better than mine and that a wonderful weekend is on tap for us all!  (Thanks for letting me vent!)