Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Trying to Get My Best Shot

Mr. Tennis gave me the best anniversary gift this last weekend. A new camera!  One that doesn't shut off randomly while I'm trying to take a picture.  So I've been busy practicing by taking some shots around the house of just stuff.

Remember my rusty bin?  This is what I've done with it so far.

Panda likes it so much she's decided not to destroy it.

Then I had to try out some inside shots.

This is one of our side tables in our family room.  My dad made these cabinets a looooong time ago.  They used to have sliding doors on them, but I decided to remove them and use the top shelf for display and some baskets below for storage. 

 My dad made the little lamp on the table too when he was in high school.  The shade on it is from IKEA.  I love birch bark trees and although it doesn't look too spectacular in this shot because of the sun behind it, I love how this painting shows just the trunks of the trees.  It too was from my parent's home.  The Maven made the little pottery bird house.  It was her first attempt and I've always thought it was so cute.

 The little pitcher on the shelf was my grandmother's.  It is a hot chocolate pitcher.  There's a wooden bowl next to it from Panama, birthplace of Orlando Grandma, and it is filled with rocks from North Carolina, one of our favorite places to visit.  I have, for some reason, placed a 1960s relish tray in back.  I'm amazed that the colors are still so vibrant.  It was my mother's and I remember her serving celery sticks, olives and that weird mix of jarred vegetables that they sell in the pickle aisle.

These things may not be treasures to most people, but I've always loved to have things in my home that have a story behind them.

Here's a really random shot of part of my living room.  The clock was my aunt's.  It's never worked for me and I would like to sell it, but am stumped about what to ask for it and where to sell it.  The Windsor chair next to it was hers as well.  As you can see I've been bad and piled stuff on it.  The etching above is from my dad's art collection.   The china cabinet it filled with my grandparent's china, my mother's tea cup collection, various other breakables from various sources.  Not my best shot, but I'm working on my technique.

Did I mention that this camera has a panoramic picture feature?

I can capture the excitement of our sectional couch on a Sunday morning.


a good portion of our backyard.  Which is in need of some TLC at the moment.

This fancy camera even has a "smile sensor".  You point it at your subject and it will take the picture when the person smiles.  We tried that out and it works. 

Although I think that smile looks forced, guess the camera can't tell the difference.

So, I'm still practicing and have to watch the online tutorial, but hopefully my pictures will improve in quality and I will know more of the camera's abilities by the time Thelma & Louise hit the road in May.  I know that panoramic feature is going to be awesome when we hit New Mexico and Arizona! 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Slight Spring Fever

Yesterday was an exceptionally beautiful day here.  This kind of weather is perfect for doing yardwork and getting inspired about planting and changing things up around here.

After I mowed and edged yesterday I took a drive to a closeby garden center to pick up some plants that I hope to put in the backyard.  The colder-than-usual winter weather this year did in some of my less hardy plants, such as some small banana trees, so I have a space that gets a lot of sun and needs filling.

I've never planted Plumbago before, but it's very popular around here and always seems to do well and grow quickly.  I am going to try to get these into the ground today before the rain comes.

While I was at the garden center I couldn't resist these Gerber daisies.  I just love them and they fit perfectly in this wire vase I found at the thrift store for about $2.  I filled the base up with our ever-present Spanish Moss and I think it looks quite welcoming by our front door.

What's that black leg next to the daisy, you ask?  Well it's none other than Mr. Tennis' alter-ego, a gift to him from The Maven,  who received a much needed face-lift yesterday with some black and some green spray paint I had around.  His spruced up look is a nice welcome as well as he resumed his usual spot by our front door.

During my little burst of activity I cleaned out an area by our backyard shed and came up with a metal tub we used to use as a fire pit.  Time has taken it's toll, but I findly it oddly attractive and feel like I should keep it inverted and have a flowering plant come up through that rusted bottom. (And yes, the oak leaves are still coming down, but slower - the end is near)

Any suggestions? (Besides, clean those bricks!)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rita the Staghorn Wren

I was outside this evening listening to a beautiful aria by a bird sitting on our electrical wires. Spring is definitely here because we are serenaded each morning and evening by various avian vocalists.  In the front yard we have a wren.  I like to think it is Rita, the Staghorn Wren from last year.  The wrens come back every year. 

 Sometimes they nest on top of a pillar in our carport. 

Other years they thrill me by nesting in my special "nesting pots" that I bought during a trip to Williamsburg years ago.  The Colonists would attach these to their houses so birds would nest and then feast upon mosquitoes, thus pest control.  I thought they were so clever and, well, I just liked them.

But last spring Rita the Wren decided to build her nest in Bananas, our Staghorn Fern.  It was over a month of careful monitoring by Mr. Tennis and I (and our bad cats).  We saw Rita sitting on her eggs. Then she would fly off (because we tried to take a picture) and then we saw the eggs!  How exciting!  I kept the cats away after I heard the baby birds cheeping.  I was afraid to take a picture of them, Rita wouldn't have liked it at all.  Then one day I looked out the back window and Rita was giving flying lessons and it was over.  Just like that!

This year Rita has chosen a grouping of palms we have by the side of our driveway.  She's a smart cookie to keep moving her nesting spot.  But she's also a loud cookie every morning.  Sometimes she sits on Mr. Tennis' side mirror on his car and wakes us up.  I have yet to get a picture of her doing that, but I will.  Oh yes, I will.

To Rita!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring is in the Air!

And in my kitchen.

This is a simple thing that I have done, but I'm very pleased by the outcome.  Can you guess what I used to make this valance over my kitchen sink?

It's a table runner that I came across at Home Goods.

What a fun store that is to shop in or just browse, without breaking the budget.  I had been scratching my head about what I could put up here to replace an old beige, boring window treatment I had here before and this provided the perfect solution.  Now perhaps I will be inspired to do some real spring planting on the outside of the house.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Maven Turns 21!

Yes, it's true, our little Maven is officially legal in all respects!  Who would have thought she ever could have given up clutching her blanket for security and comfort?  What an incredible journey she has taken us all along on with her.

Grandma Hughes had just come back from a trip to the Amazon and wasn't due to arrive at our house for a couple of days when she received a panicky call from The Boston Lady.  Could she come a couple of days earlier please, I had a feeling things were going to start progressing sooner than predicted.  So Grandma H got on an evening train and arrived in Orlando about 10pm on March 15, 1989.  The Writer had long gone to bed and Mr. T and I sat up until about midnight talking with Grandma.  Two in the morning I woke up with "indigestion". I never had early labor with The Writer so I didn't know what early contractions felt like, but Mr. Tennis said indigestion does not come in 5 minute intervals. He had secretly been timing my complaints! Called the doc. Woke Grandma H up, much to her surprise and amusement. Bleated out last minute Writer-care instructions and drove to hospital.

Long story short, The Maven made her appearance at 8:34am March 16th and life has continued to be a whirlwind ever since.

Grandma Hughes and her first and only granddaughter on the day she was born.  Mr. Tennis went home to get The Writer and Grandma H.  The Writer always recollects that he thought they were going to stop by a popular hamburger place on the way to visit his new sister since The Maven shares the same name with that place.  Mr. T and I didn't decide on her name until the drive to the hospital. So unlike us.

Orlando Grandma with her new bootied granddaughter. That head of hair (The Maven's) eventually lightened so much that it looked like she hardly had any her first year of life.  No matter how much pink I dressed her in, people would still say things such as, "that's a handsome little fella you have there". Uh, "he" is wearing a dress!

The Maven at 6 months

First birthday for our girl. Hair starting to come in!

The Maven was always up for anything, especially if The Writer was doing it. She was  fearless when it came to keeping up with him. At first she just followed him with her eyes, then she rolled after him, crawled next,  progressed to lurching steps, then just graduated into running from there. 

At 18 months the apt student listens to her teacher.  This was obviously before the "cardboard backseat separator" was necessary.

Maven the Clown and The Great Zacharini, Halloween 1992.

Real or stuffed, The Maven loves animals. Here Cheetah looks like she is still in shock from having her household disrupted yet again by one of "those loud two-legged creatures".

She lost some teeth at age 7, but gained a hamster. I think this is Goldie, but there have been so many that it's hard to keep track.  She still owns a hamster to this day because as she said, "I wanted to be able to come home to my apartment and say hello to something with a face" - I wonder how her roomies feel about that statement?

The Maven developed  many interests and skills over the years. Playing basketball was a big part of her life, but she also played soccer, took piano lessons, was a girl scout, played trombone in Middle School, was obsessed with horses for a number of years, became a student sports reporter for the Orlando Sentinel and worked on the high school yearbook staff.  Now she attends college fulltime at UCF, works parttime at her theme park job and plays guitar, even writing her own songs. In her spare time, she and her roomies keep themselves pretty busy and entertained.

It may have been a short-lived interest, but I have the picture to prove it was real! 7th Grade Maven.

Now, this is a skill and talent she has stayed with and loves.
Melrose guitar studio 2009

The Maven always loved the water and was an excellent swimmer and enjoyed snorkling from the young age of 3 in the Florida Keys. If there was an adventure presented to her, she wanted to be part of it.

At the age of 3 in the Florida Keys.  Same trip she started snorkeling with her dad.

16 years later she's still at it. And so are we. That's a stingray, by the way.

Here's a proud Mr. Tennis with the apple of his eye, or as he likes to call her "Sunshine". A very accurate nickname as she has always brought a certain lightness and happiness to our family. But don't let that sunny disposition fool you.  The Maven has a very strong and resilient inner strength.  She is one tough cookie when it comes to facing obstacles thrown her way.  The same stubborn determination that drove her to keep up with her big brother and Dad has served her very well as she has gotten older and faced some challenges that would have bested the most experienced adult.

Another animal friend for The Maven. Cruise, June 2006

Same cruise, same Maven, and The Writer. This picture defies description beyond that.

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall."

A fitting pronouncement from a wise philosopher in regards to one of my personal heroes.  My daughter.  She and I may have our less stellar mother/daughter moments from time to time, but we know we can count on each other when the going gets rough.  Bring on the next 21 years, I say!!

And just because I know she will laugh when she sees this picture that I hate of myself, I will post it.  Because there's no more wonderful sight than seeing The Maven laughing (even if it's at me!)

New York City, March 2007.
 I think she likes this picture because she appears to be controlling me. 

Happy 21st Birthday to The Maven!

13th birthday. You know who they are.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's the 7.44s against the 1.0s and 1.2s

Sadie, a 1.2?

Susie, a 1.0?

These numbers have prompted much discussion and renaming of the creatures living in our house this week.  It all started with an article that appeared in our local newspaper over the weekend.  Due to the tragic loss of a Sea World trainer, our newspaper has had extensive coverage on Killer Whales the last several weeks.  The article in question was about the intelligence of the dolphins, whales, sea lions, etc. that live at Sea World.

This particular article was doing a brain to body ratio comparison and using that as their measurement for a species' potential for intelligence.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at these type of things, we humans did rank highest with a brain/body ratio of 7.44.

Can you guess which animal had the next highest ratio after us?

Not suprising to me.  I knew these special mammals had to be close to the human B/B ratio to humans. They register at 5.31.  There was a time in my life that I majored in Zoology and aspired to be a dolphin trainer, so I had an inkling of their high intelligence and large brain size. No wonder they always have that "we will take over the world one day" smile of their faces.

The next two in this ranking are the chimpanzee with a B/B ratio of 2.49 and the Rhesus Mondey with a ratio of 2.09.  Elephants are next, 1.87, then the whales, 1.76.

Our dogs have a B/B ration of 1.2 and the cats are 1.0.  At first this started a "dog person" vs. "cat person" mentality in our household.  Mr. Tennis was quite smug that "his team" is a mere .2 points above "my team".  First of all I was not on a team, I was simply defending the "dumb" cats in the household.  You know the ones that tell the dogs what to do, clean up after themselves and have trained us 7.44s to feed them on schedule and let them in and out when so instructed.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think the dogs are dumb.  They too have trained us to anticipate their every need and have even taken over the new bed without any resistence from us so-called superior beings.  Why is it me, the 7.44, twisting my body into various contortions throughout the night to accomodate the 1.2s? And the 1.0s too, for that matter?  And should my foot or elbow graze one particular 1.2, I get attitude.

The 7.44s in the house have now actually bonded together in the last week to work together against these lesser beings and have begun referring to them in snarky, yet subservient snippets: "Uh, I guess the 1.0 wants to come in again after just being let out 30 seconds ago, better open the door for her", "Hey, we'd better go out and throw the tennis ball for the 1.2s or they will get really wound up from being cooped up inside and sleeping all day, but don't let their feet get wet, they don't like that" or "OMG, we are out of 1.0 food, They'll throw a hissy fit. Let's hurry out in the torrential rainstorm and get their food before they notice".

There's something not quite right about how this household is being run. Would we change it? No. We can't risk making them all mad at us. Afterall there are four of "them" and only two of us.  But at least collectively their B/B ratio doesn't match up to even one of ours.

 Again, why are "they" still in charge?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Beautiful Day

We Floridians, even the ones who miss the cold weather from up North, are basically wimps when it comes to a little chill in the air.  As you can see from the above picture, we have finally peeked our noses outside to breathe in the beautiful, almost-spring air this weekend.

Today it hit 70 degrees and Mr. Tennis and I ate lunch at an outdoor restaurant and then walked around a local park. It was as if people had been cooped up for months while winter raged on outside.  The park was absolutely packed with picnickers, sunbathers, dogs and lots and lots of children feeding birds.

Blue skies, lovely cypress trees draped in spanish moss.

Don't worry, to those who wonder what has happened to The Boston Lady who usually complains about the hot, humid Florida weather and the oak leaves.  She'll be back, but today she enjoyed a beautiful Florida day.  I hope everyone else had a good weekend too.

Gotta go, almost time for "my Superbowl"!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Speaking of the Oscars...

...and Oscar winning performances and films.  Here's a partial cast picture of a little gem I'm willing to bet most people never had the pleasure of seeing.  It had a very limited release, but it did make it to one big screen here in Orlando. We, of course, are talking about the underappreciated, first feature-length film of a then, little known auteur, The Writer.

That's him on the right. Chris S. on left and Joey D. in middle.

It was the summer of 2004, The Writer was home from college. He and his posse decided to spend the summer creating the masterpeice known as "ARRRR". In case you couldn't guess, it had a pirate theme. Who needs Johnny Depp?

There was a cast and crew of thousands involved, or at least thats how it seemed as our backyard and property in general was often part of the set for filming.  Rain or shine, filming went on. Day or night.  Weekday or weekend.  There were location shoots and just about everyone in The Writer's circle of friends and acquaintances was involved in one way or another.  And yes, to answer your burning question, I, his mother had a small, but pivotal role - well, at least that's how he sold me on playing the part.

After the filming was complete, the lengthy editing process began and luckily one member of the posse had editing experience from working summers at a local TV station.  Complicating the editing process was a little thing called Hurricane Charlie.  It's hard to edit film without electricity.  Fortunately the editor was able to convince his parents that their generator should be used to power the digital editing equipment instead of their refrigerator or fans.  We are grateful for their sacrifice to this day.

And I know you all think I'm just some starstruck, fangirly type who would fall apart if she ever attended The Oscars or a movie premiere, but I've got news for you. I. have. already. been. to. a. movie. premiere. In fact two! So there!

Other-movie-by-The Writer premiere I attended:

No, not "Nemo". Puhleeze. THAT little scrap of a movie?
No, the one above it:

Mr. T., The Maven, Orlando Grandma and I attended the premiere of this movie in Gainesville. However, the carpet was blue.

Back to "ARRRR". I'll have you know I did not scream at the stars as they arrived at the downtown Orlando theater. I did not pester them for pictures or autographs.  I didn't need to lower myself to that level.  Besides, I already have plenty of pictures of them all. Proof:  first photo in this post.  And another thing:  I was one of the "pivotal" characters in this film, so I was one of them. 

Tension was palpable as there were technical difficulties with the projection equipment initially.  There was the threat of more power outages as we were just days away from being whomped by Charlie.  But that Tinseltown magic held, and the world (well, 50 citizens of the world) got it's first glimpse of a little summer project ,that grew into a huge summer project, and then into a very fun memory of my son and his friends.  And a fine film, at that.

Now all together: