Sunday, March 27, 2011

And today... Osprey

This amazing bird of prey hangs around our pond. Today I was able to photo him! We watched as he dived down, plummeting into our pond like a missile as he searched for fish... and then Noah saw him catch one and we watched him eat it in the tree outside our kitchen window. Nature is sure gruesome and awesome!

Sign of Spring: The swan returns

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A break from Winter

This past weekend was warm in the Northeast. It would have been lovely to tramp around the countryside discovering all the budding and blooming flowers, hearing the cacophony of singing frogs in the forest.

Except, we went to Florida. The trip to a tropical clime was much needed after this long cold winter. We began thawing out immediately, soaking in every ounce of humidity and sun we could handle. I, of course, brought my camera to capture some of our trip.

Our good friend Emi got married at Epcot Center this weekend, which was why we went to Florida in the first place (aside from the thawing out). We had a wonderful time at her wedding, and she let me take photos of her and her sister getting ready that morning, to add to my portfolio. Here is a sampling of those photos:

And here are a couple photos at the ceremony...

We took it real easy at the resort, went to Epcot one afternoon, but mostly just laid around by the pool. It was lovely. At one point we took a series of buses to get to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the resort connected to the Animal Kingdom Park. We ate a wonderful vegetarian lunch there and then spent some time watching the animals that live at the resort. It was better than the zoo :)

The rest are the photos I took at Epcot. The light was fading, so I had to work fast. :) We had a good time, though. It was nice to be with friends and in the warm weather and sunshine. Just a little shot of vitamin D to carry us through until it warms up for good here at home.

It snowed again this morning.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I will get over it eventually, I'm sure, but... we just weathered our first Connecticut winter after moving from California... and I'm a little bit excited. :) I love watching the earth wake up after her long dark slumber... it's magical!

Today Noah and I took a hike with Tag at a place called Trout Brook Preserve. I brought the camera along because it was such a lovely day.

The snow has almost melted all away, but there were still slippery patches around along with the mud and slush. The rains we've had the past week have melted a lot of snow and caused the rivers and streams to overflow with water. It's been exciting in not such a good way. But our house is up on a hill, so not prone to flooding... and we were prepared to slog through the runoff where we had to today for a bit of exercise in the fresh warming air.

A Noah in his natural habitat.
The creeks were indeed full, and there were lots of puddles, but nothing too bad.

Near the end of our hike I spotted this lovely lady peering at us from a tree at the edge of the clearing.

Female Eastern Bluebird
We came home and opened the upstairs windows to let in some fresh air and let out the winter mustiness. The cats love staring out the open windows... no pictures of them though. It'll be time to start my spring cleaning when Noah and I get back from Florida next week.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On pretending to be a writer

I haven't written much lately. Apart from scribbling down a couple of lines based on a story that friend/roomie Lori was telling about her high school days (it was just too good to pass up!), I haven't done any substantial creative work in the past 2 months. So much for new year's resolutions... I blame that snotty French child that gave me the crud when we were in the airport smashed together for so many hours. Or maybe I blame Air France for cancelling my flight and forcing me to share air with that snotty kid... or maybe I blame the French weather... or the Connecticut weather... any way you look at it, not much has happened on that front of late.

I keep expecting that to change any day. I just need a wild hair of inspiration or a motivator or something like that... I've been reading like crazy. I know it doesn't look like it based on my little book list widget, but that's because the book I'm reading now (A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth) is GIANORMOUS!!! I'm 300 pages from the end... and that's saying something!

I have my fingers crossed that next month's venture will change things. You see, I've booked a trip to Scotland. I'm going... at probably not the BEST time of year to travel there... to the Orkney Islands! I have wanted to go to the OI for years now, as attested by this previous post. I realize I only posted that a year ago, but the obsession has been growing for some time now... and now I'm going! I'm very excited to be able to spend a few days lurking about the islands. I hope to talk to some of the locals and see, rain or shine, the standing stones, the North Sea battered shore, the rugged landscape... all in the name of a novel idea I had last year.

This photo has nothing to do with the Orkneys... I just wanted to share it with you.

I came up with an idea... I won't talk about it yet... for a novel set in the OIs. I hope to see the story build, strengthened and infused with the local lore (which I've been web stalking for a while) and now hopefully with some first hand experience as well!

After going to the OIs, Lori and I plan to drive down the length of Scotland, visiting Loch Ness and driving through the highlands as part of our journey. The last leg of our journey will be spent in Ireland, also a place I have been dreaming of visiting!

Believe you me, I will be packing at least one journal and a lot of sweaters. And I will be masquerading as the thing that I have a sneaking suspicion I actually am... a writer.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I went to a barn today

No, I don't have pictures of this barn that I went to today. I thought it might be a little presumptuous of me to jump right into photographing people I just met in the kind of way that I'd like to continue meeting them... it would have been... awkward...

In California, until we left 9 months ago, I rode pretty regularly... twice, three times a week. I had my issues with riding... see here. A lot of anxiety related to going to the barn that melted away pretty quickly after I got on a horse... although sometimes it didn't. I had my share of meltdowns. I had some good friends at the barn, too... which meant that coming to CT and trying to motivate myself to go to a barn I don't know to live out my anxiety around people I don't know was doubly hard. Explanation as to why I haven't unpacked my riding gear? No? Well for some people it's not a good enough explanation, but that's the one I'm sticking to...

Anyhow, I met this woman by chance last summer, we'll call her Horsewoman. She has a cute collie mix named Ralphie and she was walking with Renee, who I walk with regularly while Tag chews on and chases her labrador Tilly. Horsewoman manages a beginner barn not far from me (she also lives right up the road from me) and offered that I should come visit her. I procrastinated for months. One thing led to another and it was Winter... and Winter was not a time to start at a new barn. Gross, cold... snowy... plus the horses are way more spunky in the winter and that's no way to make a first impression for someone who has mild anxiety related to riding ... sigh...

But now it's spring (well almost). I've been watching Leslie's videos about her lessons and loving her progress with Winston the wonder horse... and I've been missing it... missing being at the barn... missing being that girl who rides horses...

So when I saw Horsewoman the other day on a walk with the dogs and Renee, I mentioned that I would like to come visit her at her barn this week and when would she be able to show me around. So I went. It's a nice barn, not a big piece of land, but big enough for small riding rings and one bigger ring... green barns... I will take photos at some point, promise. Horsewoman showed me around and introduced me to all the lesson horses. I fed apples I had cut up this morning and ingratiated myself with them all (and the ponies, too). We talked about how their lesson programs work. They teach a lot of children, actually. They go to shows, learn how to jump and do dressage, ride ponies or horses depending on their height, weight, comfort and ability...

Horsewoman and I talked about my anxiety and my goal, which right now is just to be comfortable in my own skin with horses, handling them, understanding them... and she suggested that I just come volunteer some time... help with the spring shed (all the horses are furry from winter right now but will be losing all that fuzzy fur for summer in gobs very soon)... help with the lowest level lessons... learn from herself and from Other Horsewoman whom she said is very good at helping people understand horse body language and building confidence.

They were all so wonderfully welcoming, friendly, completely easy with me and where I feel like I'm at. I really liked that. I wasn't too sure I'd find a place like that here. CT seems a bit uppity at times and I feel out of place. But I felt at home there. It's not a shiny fancy barn like Willow Creek was. And it's missing the sweeping grandeur of space that Stallion Station had... but it makes up for that, I think. I'm going back early next week to trail around after Horsewoman again... before Noah and I go to Orlando for Emi's wedding... and then I'll go again when we get back... and we'll just see where it leads.

With any luck I'll be back in the saddle in no time.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring is almost here!!

I woke this morning to find that last night's rainstorm had left me some Mergansers...

There are mallards and hooded mergansers to go along with the common ones here, but the common mergansers are new to my experience of our backyard pond.

Also, the rainstorm melted a LOT of ice and snow. It's hard to believe that just yesterday there was still a complete layer of ice covering the pond... that has been there since December!! It's almost clear enough for Noah to pull out his canoe again!

The snow berms that made our driveway feel so big when you had to shovel but so small when you had to park two cars in it have all but disappeared! The ground is soggy and green, but there are still little snow flurries in the air. It's not quite spring, but it's not far off.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Moroccan style veggies and naan!

This post is for Swaroopa if she's reading...

Look! I made Naan!

I also made these yummy vegetables to go over couscous in the style of the couscous houses in Paris. It was actually pretty good. I got the Ras El Hanout and Harissa (specific spices needed for the flavor) at Williams-Sonoma. The only other way to get them was to order them on-line, but I'm an instant gratification kind of girl.

I had to tweak the recipe that I found on-line seriously, for vegetarianism and to make it more authentic and my sous chef cut the veggies smaller than you get them in the restaurant :) but they still tasted great! Added a pot of mint tea to the table and complete success!

Here's the stewed veggie recipe for anyone who wants to try it:

2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
3 ounces tomato concentrate
5 carrots, peeled and sliced (about 1 pound)
3 round turnips, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons couscous spices (Ras el hanout)
1 tablespoon Harissa (this is enough to make a very spicy dish)
2 zucchini, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 small can chick peas
8 cups cooked couscous

Add vegetable broth, tomato concentrate, carrots, turnips, couscous spices and the harissa.
Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 30 minutes turnips and carrots are well done.
Stir occasionally to get everything mixed together.
Add the zucchini and chick peas, cover and continue cooking until the zucchini is tender - about 8 minutes.
Prepare the couscous according to package directions.

Makes 8 servings.

Sorry, but for the naan you're going to have to buy the book "Artesian Bread in Five Minutes a Day". I'm a huge fan of their bread making technique, especially as it helped me to make naan successfully!

If you do decide to try it, let me know how you like it!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The eBook User's Bill of Rights (copied from Librarian in Black)

I have been interested in the current debate going on about eBooks and digital sharing and information, especially as regards libraries and their ability to access and distribute eBooks, etc. I asked my library friend what she knew about this situation, including the current boycott of Harper Collins Publishing (HC has decided that an eBook can only be loaned out through a library a certain number of times before it has to be purchased again). My library friend pointed me to this blog: and this blogger encouraged people to share her post on our own sites. I felt this was a good use of my space here. Please read and comment!
The eBook User’s Bill of Rights is a statement of the basic freedoms that should be granted to all eBook users.
The eBook User’s Bill of Rights
Every eBook user should have the following rights:
  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks
I believe in the free market of information and ideas.
I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.
Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.
I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.
I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks.  I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.
These rights are yours.  Now it is your turn to take a stand.  To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others.  Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.
To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Photos from the city

I walked a lot this past weekend in NYC. It was cold and rainy the day I went to the Statue of Liberty, so I didn't bring my camera. I wish I had, because she's such a spectacular statue... but I'll have to go back again to get those shots for you.

The next day was much less cold and wet. Here are some images from my walk around.