Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

August 1st is tomorrow and the dog days of summer are upon us. According to Wikipedia, the phrase Dog Days, or "the dog days of summer", refers to the hottest, most sultry days of summer. This is clearly evident tonight. Outside the air is absolutely still and oppressively humid. Thunder rumbles in the distance and it has just begun to rain. This has been a daily weather pattern this week.

After a four week hiatus, my photo buddy Darlene and I braved the humidity and 90 degree temps for a walk around the pond at Madison Park. It was eerily quiet. Hardly a bird was heard or seen, the once abundant dragonflies were conspicuously absent, and the sky was thick with dark rolling clouds. We could see the heavy clouds dump rain in the distance, although we made it around the pond with only a few cooling drops.

Walking along the path I spotted a busy bumble bee. His wings and back were laden with yellow pollen.

A gaggle of Canada geese have made the pond their home since our last visit. I hope this will become a regular stop in their migratory pattern. If it is, we may find baby goslings next spring.

I've missed the pond. I'm looking forward to fall– my favorite season – and the colors of the various deciduous trees and vegetation. While I'm not rushing the summer season, I love living in a geographical area where we experience all four seasons. Winter in Georgia can hardly be called winter by northern standards, but we occasionally experience snowfall and temps get quite cold. The winter season is short lived and we have been known to have temps in the 80s during the Christmas holidays. In the mean time, I am happy to experience the summer season in all its hot sultry beauty. What is your favorite season?


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Gift To You

A single rose can be my garden... a single friend, my world. ~ Leo Buscaglia

I Survived Beading 101

Remember this post? Well, I did it! I finally succeeded in creating not one, but TWO beaded necklaces and a pair of matching earrings. Considering all the bead supplies I bought in the past week, each necklace has a net estimate of about $450 each!

I become obsessed when embarking on any new hobby (see my previous blog for photos of my scrap room). Seriously – the clerks at JoAnn’s and Michael’s recognize me by name. With four granddaughters and their moms, I have a constant supply of birthdays and holidays to keep me beading gifts for a long time. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it ;)

Do you have a hobby that keeps you awake at night? Do you appreciate home-made gifts? What’s your obsession?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Flickr Slideshows

A common question I am asked is "How do I link a Flickr slideshow to my Blogger post?" Here is my attempt to list instructions to complete such a link. If you have questions, please leave a message in the comment section and I will do my best to explain. It's well worth the effort! If you haven't already created a Flickr account, you will need to do this first. Creating a Flickr account is free; however, you are very limited by the amount you may upload each day. It's worth the small amount of change to expand your account if you're going to use Flickr often.

  • Upload Photos or Video

  • STEP 1: Choose Photos and Videos

  • Select the photos you want to upload (usually from your hard drive)

  • Allow the default “Public” if you want your photos to appear on Blogger

  • STEP 2: Upload Photos and Videos

  • STEP 3: When your photos have finished uploading, click on “add a description”

  • Either Add To A Set or Create A New Set (typically you are going to create a new set)

  • Name your new set; click on Create Set

  • Your set isn’t saved until you scroll all the way to the bottom; click Save This Batch
  • At the top of the screen under Your Photostream, click Sets

  • Click on the new set you just created

  • In the top right corner, click Slideshow

  • Highlight the entire address that is the URL for your new set; right click then Copy. The address of your Flickr set has been saved to Clipboard

  • Return to your blog

  • Create a new post or edit one you've already created

  • To link to Flickr, you may either say “click here for a photo slideshow” or upload a photo into your post and link the photo to your Flickr set. To do this, highlight the word “here” or click on your uploaded image and click the link button

  • In the pop up box, right click and paste the address to your Flickr set

  • Save your post; view blog

  • Congratulations! You’ve linked your Flickr set to your post. Woo hoo!

To demonstrate linking a slideshow set to an image, click on the photo below to view a slideshow of my scrap room. To view additional photos of my scrap room, click here. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Breakfast In Bed

Check out the curlywurlygurly blog here and post your comment to win breakfast in bed, compliments of Natalie. I doubt it includes a chef or delivery service, but you can win good stuff to make you and your significant other a wonderful breakfast. It's good enough to make your toes curl, so give it a wurl, gurl (excuse my bad attempt at humor -- it's getting late). Go quickly and leave a comment before the contest ends. What are you waiting for?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Photo Contest: "White"

Cruising around on Chronicles of a Country Girl, I found myself on a blog that Kate recommended for an Arte y Pico award... Wine On The Keyboard. Kacey's photography is lovely! Be sure to check out her sister blog (click here for the link) for helpful hints and tips about blogging (there's always room for improvement, right?) Anyway, Kacey has a contest for best red, white, or blue photo. You may select one color for your entry, and only one photo. I had a difficult time choosing just one photo with white as the main subject. I have several photos of white dogwood and white magnolias. After much deliberation, I chose the white bradford pear blossoms below. What do you think?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Brillante Weblog Award

Today marks the end of a brutal week for me. TGIF! I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I live for the weekend (click here for a related post). As I am reminded by Kelly (Half Dozen), I haven’t posted in almost a week. This is unusual for me, but I feel I’ve earned a reprieve after the hellish week I’ve had. Congrats on the successful closing on your new home, Kel! This solidifies you as Californians – a long, long way from life in Michigan. Having picked up Doughboy at the airport tonight, this is my first opportunity all week to catch up on reading my favorite blogs. Imagine my surprise when I saw my name listed on Chronicles of a Country Girl as one of seven recipients for a blog award. Woo hoo! This is my first award! Thanks much to Kate for gifting me with the Brillante Weblog Award. I humbly accept this honor. Thank you!

Below are listed the rules for receiving this award:

1) Place the logo on your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded you
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on yours
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs

So now I share this honor with the following friends and fellow bloggers that inspire me everyday!

Jamie at Our Crazy Life…she introduced me to the wonderfully creative world of blogging and is my constant source of inspiration. I love her candid stories about life in the Payne household, as well as her photography, recipes, and hobbies.

Janette at Stop And Smell The Flowers…she motivates me to be a better photographer. My favorite subjects are Sammy and her lovely garden.

Scrappy Sue… her blog about life in New Zealand is never dull. You never know what she’ll write about which keeps me coming back for more. We also share a common interest – scrapbooking. Thanks for the inspiration, Sue!

Chere at Miss Priss’ Follies…she is just plain crazy! Check out her blog mascot. We really need to help her give him a name other than mascot.

Judy at Judyann’s Fun Blog…as a fledgling blogger, Judy is a talented photographer, busy mom, and fellow scrapbooking Diva. Most importantly, she is a terrific friend and one of the people I most admire in life on so many counts.

Deb at Drivin’ 55…I enjoy her eloquent posts about driving around the country with her hubby and two cats, living in an RV, and being a new grandmother.

Kelly at Half Dozen…no one has more emotional range than Kelly! Her posts are about family, challenges of a busy career delivering babies, and the roller-coaster life that only she can describe in dramatic detail.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Serene Saturday

Saturday is my favorite day of the week. It usually means sleeping in until 7:00 a.m. (a treat from my usual 5:30) and hanging out with Doughboy. I love the serene quality of Saturdays when the day progresses at a leisurely pace and time has no meaning. We're on the down slide of summer; the season is half gone and fall is just around the corner. Fall brings art festivals and weekends exploring the small towns of Georgia, such as Dahlonega, Helen, and Warm Springs. We spend nearly every weekend in the pool, and today was no exception. I'm sure we'll squeeze in a late night swim later, under a near-full moon, before calling it a night. In the mean time, here are a few photos I shot in our back yard today.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Never mind that I already have a full and busy life. I have a demanding full-time job, take care of two homes with two swimming pools, am Mimi to two grandsons living 8 minutes away, mom to three fur children, wife to Doughboy, and am obsessed with two hobbies – photography and scrapbooking. Why would I add yet one more hobby to my already jam-packed schedule??? I must be absolutely, unequivocally, certifiable INSANE! Arghhhhh! Everyone knows I have no self control. Never one to take a slight interest, I jump in feet first with all the gusto of someone possessed. Linda Blair would be pleased. Quick! Someone please call a priest!

It all started innocently enough when my friend/co-worker/fellow Diva offered to teach a group of us how to make beaded jewelry. I have always admired the beautiful hand crafted necklaces and earrings that Pam perfectly coordinates with all of her fashions. It looks easy enough. But wait! I failed Beading 101! Yes, I nearly burst into tears when my strand of beads slipped from my fingers just as Pam was helping me tie off the end. The beads clinked against the table and rolled in a kaleidoscope of colors all over the floor. I had spent the past 1-1/2 hours carefully crafting my creation. My eyes nearly popped out of my head and my mouth gaped open and shut looking very much like a fish out of water. However, I quickly collected myself and pasted a forced smile on my face as I jokingly brushed off the incident. But I don’t give up easily. I am retaking Beading 101 next Wednesday and, if I fail again, Pam will most likely place me in remedial Pre-Beading. Hmmmmm…I wonder if she provides private tutoring.

I will NOT give up! Stay tuned…

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Changes and Challenges

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”— Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)

Doughboy and I began our married life together living in the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin. Six months later, we were faced with a life change – accept a promotional opportunity with his employer that would take us to Chicago, or stay in Wisconsin and risk losing any future promotional opportunities. We jumped feet first into an uncertain future and ended up living happily in a western suburb of Chicago for 11 years. Sure, we had some bumps along the way. But we faced them together and grew stronger in our relationship as a result.

Over the years our comfortable life became stagnant and we tired of the mid-western winters. We discussed our options, but like most discussions, we didn’t actually put plans in motion to change. On a cold January Sunday, Jamie was searching through the classified section of the Chicago Tribune looking to make a change of her own. She spotted a career opportunity with an Atlanta based company that would cover all relocation costs and provide temporary housing. It sounded like the perfect opportunity for me and Georgia was one of our target destinations! Do I send a resume? Would they contact me? Was I prepared to uproot my family if I received an offer? I eventually sent my resume and was surprised to be interviewed by the CEO himself. Mr Big traveled to Chicago in mid February to interview seven candidates. I was his first interview. He didn’t give me any clues and I walked away from the interview thinking it didn’t go very well. Oh well…nothing ventured, nothing gained. Of the several hundred applicants, I was pleased to have been one of seven interviewees. I heard nothing again until late April. I was invited to travel to Atlanta to meet Mr. Big’s executive team and tour the facility. Again, I heard nothing after my visit until June. I was invited to travel to Minneapolis-St. Paul to interview with the newly hired VP, Human Resources. Over four months after my initial interview, I accepted a job offer – taking me 900 miles ALONE and away from everything comfortable to me – and began the next chapter in my life. That was nine years ago. Mr. Big didn’t last, but I did. After 32 years with the same employer, Doughboy joined me in Atlanta and started a new chapter in his career. He has been successfully and happily employed by a Pittsburgh based company for 8-1/2 years where he will undoubtedly stay until his retirement. Choosing to move closer to her Wisconsin family rather than move with us to Georgia, Jamie met and married the love of her life, Jason, and made a life-altering change when they moved to Atlanta 3-1/2 years ago. Learn more about Jamie and her family by visiting her blog "Our Crazy Life". A year ago brought tremendous change and upheaval for our daughter Kelly and her family. Visit Kelly’s blog "Half Dozen" to learn about their life-changing experience moving from Michigan to the west coast.

The point I attempt to make is that change is inevitable. You can either face the challenge head on, or sit back and allow life to pass you by. Either way, the experience has changed you. For every positive change, there are consequences and trade-offs. After 13 years of marriage, I made the gut-wrenching decision to make a new life for Jamie and me. Without that change, I wouldn’t have met and married Doughboy – my soul mate and love of my life for almost 2o years. But one decision, made wrong, would have left me without him. We quite literally met by chance. Someday I will write about it.

As we approach our ninth year living in Georgia, I can’t imagine ever living anywhere else. All the anxiety and uncertainty of moving here had vanished long ago. I hope that whatever challenges and changes are ahead of us, they are mild in comparison. Whatever the challenge, it won't be without the love and support of our family and friends. Because of their strength, we can handle anything. Isn’t life exciting?

I dedicate this post to Country Girl Kate who is facing a significant life change of her own. Best wishes and luck to you and your hubby, Kate!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Baby Girl Times 2

I'm looking at a miracle,
God sent to bring us pleasure;
Another chapter in life's book,
Bringing joy beyond all measure.
There's nothing like a grandchild,
Especially a little girl;
She wraps your heart with heartstrings,
And captivates your world.
She dances into your very soul,
All ruffles, dollies and lace;
You melt into a puddle,
With one look from that little face.
She wraps you 'round her finger,
And plays with you like a toy;
But that's the reason God gave her,
To bring her grandparents joy.
This heritage of our heritage,
This blessing all giggles and fun;
Was sent by God as a special gift,
Our precious little one.
Allison Chambers Coxsey

Before Doughboy and I met and married, I was a single mother of a beautiful girl. Not only was I fortunate to fall in love with the most wonderful man imagineable, I inherited a son, Chad and daughter, Kelly. Our girls are only six months apart in age. The girls grew up as sisters and confidants from the age of 11. That I didn't give birth to Kelly does not diminish the love I feel for her. She is just as much my daughter as Jamie. Kelly is now a happily married wife and mother of three, with another on the way. Her dad and I have anxiously waited for news of her ultrasound and to learn the gender of the child she carries. Selflessly, Kelly didn't tell us that we are expectant grandparents of a baby girl because she didn't want to "steal Jamie's thunder".

Our pleasure is indescribable! Our newest grandchildren, both girls, will be born mere weeks apart. Our only regret is that Kelly and her family live miles away on the east coast in San Diego. It would be our greatest dream come true to have the girls, Jamie and Kelly be close, and their families be near to us. We love you with all our heart, Kelly! Congratulations on the exciting news of another baby girl to add to your family of five. We are so very, very proud of you!

Visit Kelly's blog "Half Dozen" for more news about her family and our 7th grandchild (Jamie's third baby, scheduled to arrive a few weeks after Kelly's, will be our 8th grandchild).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wind In Your Sails: Part V

On the third day of our adventure we left Cooper Island for beautiful Virgin Gorda. The BVI offers the most consistently ideal sailing conditions for sail charters. Trade winds blow on the norm from ten to twenty knots throughout most of the year. More important than wind speed is the wind direction. The wind blows almost constantly from the east down in the Virgin Islands. Sailing into the Sir Francis Drake Channel the wind will be blowing on your left ear as you look ahead. The Sir Francis Drake Channel is approx 9 miles long and 4 miles wide. Blocking the Atlantic Ocean is the island of Tortola, and shielding us from the Caribbean Sea swells are eleven other islands. This geography makes for perfect sailing conditions – a lively 2-3 foot chop and constant trade winds. It is very sunny here (about 85 degrees), but the winds keep it comfortable.

One of the most awesome sights to behold when sailing the British Virgin Islands are The Baths at the southern tip of Virgin Gorda. There are conflicting theories as to how these incredible rock formations came to be. Some say The Baths resulted from a meteor shower, others credit volcanic activity. There appears to be some evidence of lava flows which could have happened centuries after a meteor shower ... but what do I know? I’m not a geologist!

Okay, so The Baths are just a pile of "really big rocks" on a beach ... but when sailing up to them, you'll understand. They really are simply magnificent! Snorkeling is pretty good at The Baths too. There are marvelous Elkhorn coral formations and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.
From the beach we followed the trail to the elegant but casual Top of the Baths restaurant whose open air verandah has magnificent panoramic views atop the hill. Fortified by a leisurely lunch we spent several hours exploring The Baths. Our next destination is the uninhabited Seal Dog Islands. To be continued…

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Lesson In Clouds

It is a typical summer day in the south – blistering hot temps in the mid 90s with suffocating humidity. The heat and humidity build throughout the day producing powerful summer storms. But not today. You have only to look up into the sky to try your luck at weather forecasting. Clouds give us a clue about what is going on in our atmosphere and how the weather might change in the hours or even days to come. Each type of cloud forms in a different way, and each brings its own kind of weather. Click here for a weather forcasting cloud chart.

Each evening when I come home from work, I give our plants and flowers a spritz of water while the pups sniff around the yard. The cicadas are audibly louder tonight as they cry for rain. The noise is deafening. Our black Scottish Terrier, Dianora, wilts in the heat while her canine counterparts high-tail to the cooler interior of the house. Wimps.

I watch the sky as clouds build and roll in the distant west. Stratocumulus clouds are low, puffy and gray. Most form in rows with blue sky visible in between them. Rain rarely occurs with stratocumulus clouds, however, they can turn into nimbostratus clouds. We need rain. But it looks like we won't get lucky tonight. Already the clouds have dissipated as the sun slowly sets in the west and the day loses its heat. Maybe tomorrow...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Why God Made Little Girls

God made the world with its towering trees
Majestic mountains and restless seas
Then paused and said, "It needs one more thing
Someone to laugh and dance and sing
To walk in the woods and gather flowers
To commune with nature in quiet hours"
So God made little girls
With laughing eyes and bouncing curls
With joyful hearts and infectious smiles
Enchanting ways and feminine wiles,
And when He'd completed the task He'd begun
He was pleased and proud of the job He'd done
For the world, when seen through a little girl's eyes
Greatly resembles Paradise.

Today my little girl's dreams came true. A baby girl will complete her family of five. Big brothers Ayden and Jameson will be their baby sister's protector and defender. Sweet baby girl, you are already loved more than you know. I can't wait to hold you! Click on Jamie's blog "Our Crazy Life" for the latest news on Baby Bean's progress.


Cattails grow in marshes, swamps, ditches, and stagnant water—fresh or slightly brackish—worldwide. Finding them is a sure sign of water. The cattail’s every part has uses. It’s easy to harvest, very tasty, and highly nutritious. It was a major staple for the American Indians, who found it in such great supply, they didn’t need to cultivate it. The settlers missed out when they ignored this great food and destroyed its habitats, instead of cultivating it. Cattails and their associated microorganisms improve water and soil quality.

As a young girl, my mother went through a phase when she collected all kinds of weeds – mostly Queen Anne’s Lace, Mustard, Indian Pipes, and Silver Dollars – and dried them for use in floral arrangements. One particular time she trudged into a swampy area and cut cattails and brought them into the house to dry. If you have ever seen mature cattails, you would know that the soft brown stalk dries and turns to seed. My mother didn’t know this. Her cattails eventually dried and spewed seeds all over the house. It was a colossal mess! But, it was funny – very, very funny. She never brought cattails into the house again :)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

This Needs No Words...

Photo taken August 28, 2007. I remember taking this picture. I took it because I didn't believe gas prices would ever get higher than this. Less than one year later, gas is $4.04 a gallon at our local RaceTrac. I have to leave have a good cry...

After The Storms

The heavy rain-laden storm clouds have passed and a glorious blue sky emerges. With only a couple hours remaining of Doughboy's vacation, I begged to take a ride on the path. We are very fortunate to have 78 acres of green space around us and about 3 miles of paved paths winding in and out of the woods. Our grandchildren love to go for rides on the golf cart. It's not unusual to see a wide variety of birds, rabbits, and an occasional painted turtle or deer. But today was quiet. No children. Just us...and the birds and bugs. It was a nice change from the past few action filled days.

July 4th Traditions...Old and New

While I typically shy away from making our blog a diary, I can occasionally bend the rules since I am the author. As I write this, it is storming – a much welcome respite to Georgia’s continuing drought. It has been a quiet day – a winding down of a busy week and holiday weekend. Independence Day was our traditional family event consisting of swimming in our pool, taking a ride on the golf cart, and culminating with dinner. Every year we grill olive burgers and hot dogs, topped off by Jamie’s homemade potato salad and festive holiday dessert (see photo below).

Included below are a couple photos taken around our back yard and while on our golf cart ride.

This July 4th marked a momentous occasion. Our 3-year old grandson decided it was time to spend the night with his Mimi and Bumpa. We have asked Ayden for months about spending the night with us. Every time he said “not yet”. As he nears his 4th birthday, he declared himself big enough to spend the night away from Mom, Dad, and younger brother, Jameson. Ayden arrived with his little rolling Cars suitcase and never had a qualm about saying goodbye to his family. After a bubble bath in Mimi’s spa tub, he snuggled on my lap as we watched a movie of his choosing. We lit sparklers (another first for Ayden) at dusk. He asked to go to bed around 10:00pm and went straight to the top bunk bed and we never heard from him again until morning. We ate breakfast together, and acting very much like a future politician, he declared my scrambled eggs as the “best eggs ever!”. We experienced another first with Ayden – we went to a move theater to see Kung Fu Panda. He settled in with his popcorn snack and did quite well until about 20 minutes from the end of the movie. With a promise to take him on a golf cart ride if he behaved, he sat on my lap until the movie ended. As promised, we allowed Ayden to ride his new hot wheel bike on the cart path while Bumpa and I drove at a safe distance behind. His little legs were working overtime. Each time I asked him if he wanted a ride on the golf cart, he would hold up his hand and declare, “I can do this”. We had to give him tons of credit for his tenacity. As Ayden struggled up a hill, I could hear him talking to himself… “I’m a hard working man…I can do this!” I was so proud of him! He never faltered or gave up. What a big boy. I’m sure this is a first of many more sleepovers. I remember the days when I was a young girl and begged to stay with my grandmother. Someday Ayden will have the same sweet memories of his grandparents. Another family tradition continues…

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The World Through My Eyes

Beauty is in the eye of the photographer. Never has this had more meaning to me than today. Walking along the path at Madison Park, I was struck by all the wonderful details that the average eye would overlook. Then it hit me. My camera lens has become my eyes!

The camera lens is an invention that attempts to duplicate the operation of the human eye. Just like the eye, the lens sees an image, focuses it, and transmits its colors, sharpness, and brightness through the camera to the photographic film, which, like our memory, records the image for processing and future use. After a lifetime of viewing the beautiful world around me, I began recording it through the lens of my camera. I use Photoshop as sparingly as possible, adjusting levels, brightness, color balance, and contrast only to bring out the actual image I saw at the time of the shoot.

Walking slowly, I scan the path to the left, then right, and up, and down. Sometimes I use my lens to “see” details I would otherwise miss. All my senses are on high alert. I listen carefully – the buzz of bees, hum of beating dragonfly wings, sweet sound of a song bird, splash of water as a fish jumps in the pond – with my camera always ready. I quickly alternate between my two cameras – a Nikon D200 with a 105mm macro lens and Nikon D300 with a 300mm zoom lens – depending on the detail I want to capture. Arriving home from work, I was excited to tell Doughboy about all the wonderful sights I photographed today. He responded with an unenthusiastic, "Oh let me guess. More butterflies, dragonflies, and flowers". Well, yes. But they are different. Everytime I see a miracle of nature, whether I've seen it once or 100 times, I get excited. So my response was, "If you don't want to see more butterflies, dragonflies, and flowers, then don't open the Flickr link". So there.

Whether or not you are a photographer, view the world around you as if you were looking through a camera lens. You’ll be amazed by all the detail!

Click on the photo below to view a slide show of today's treasures. Enjoy!

P.S. Welcome to all the new visitors to our blog and for your kind comments. I hope you enjoy the time you spend here and choose to return often. I especially want to thank my new friends, Kate and Janette for their encouragement and inspiration. Both are accomplished photographers with an eye for the unique. If you haven't already done so, please visit their blogs to see their talent for yourself. Happy Canada Day, Janette!