Showing posts with label Mary Beth Granger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mary Beth Granger. Show all posts

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Review of Photography Scavenger Hunt Game

B=Butterfly

 At our last photography meeting we were told to meet at a local park.  When we arrived we were given a sheet of paper with rules for a photography scavenger hunt.  I wasn't sure about this game, but it turned out it was a lot of fun and really got our creative juices flowing.

Rules for Scavenger Hunt




The sheet of paper we were given had place to enter our full name at the top.  We would then circle 7 letters from our name.  Below that were ten lines each starting out with a box for the letters we had chosen.  We entered the 7 letters from our name and then added three additional letters of our choosing.


My Letters and Photos


The letters I chose from my name were: M-Y-B-T-H-A and R.  The three additional letters I chose were L-D- and S.  When we chose the letters we were not sure what we were going to do with them so they were pretty random.  After we chose the letters we were given the rules and then we had an hour to go through the park and find something to match each of the letters.  I found the first few letters to be easy.  I took a photo of a tree for the T, a bench for the B, a house for the H and a sculpture in the park for the A (art).  I got down to the M and Y and really struggled to complete the last two.  I ended up photographing a yellow flower for the Y and mulch for the M.  I finished in about 35 minutes and then took some additional photos that could also be used with the letters.  I found it a fun activity to wander the park with a purpose and take photos.  It will be interesting to see what photos everyone took when we share them at our next meeting.

Photos Taken  during the Game



B-Bench

Y= Yellow Flower

Amazon Products on Scavenger Hunts



This one looks like it would be great for children to spark their interest in photography.




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Thursday, July 8, 2021

Review of My New Air Fryer

 


My brother and my neighbor have both been telling me about the wonders of their air fryers, so when I found a great sale on Amazon I decided it was time for me to buy one and give it a try.  I had been getting in a real rut with my cooking and in fact I dreaded to have to cook meals each day.  Well, I will tell you with my new combination air fryer griller I am looking forward to each mealtime and deciding what I can make next.  The possibilities seem endless.  So far I have made shrimp, chicken wings, waffle fries, grilled sandwiches, donuts, apple chips, and reheated toasted ravoli.  All were very easy and what was really great was how easy it was to cleanup the fryer.

Features of my Power XL Grill Air Fryer Combo

The air fryer that I choose has 12 different cooking modes.  Although I don't anticipate using all of them, I can see where several will come in very handy.  There is a separate lid that I can use when I want to slow cook, steam, saute, rice, simmer, sous vide, fry or keep warm.  When I want to use the following modes: air fry, grill, bake, or roast I use the air frying lid.


I really like that it has a slow cooker option too.  I was worried about space for the air fryer but now I can put away several of my other appliances and just use the Power XL for everything.

I have not made fried food for years, but with the option of using little or no oil for the air fryer I can have crispy food and they can still be healthy without compromising any of the taste.

 

Recipes I Have Tried

My Power XL  came with a recipe book so it gave me some good ideas to start. I also found that if I wanted to cook something I could just ask Alexa and she would give me a recipe.  For instance I asked our  Alexa to give me a recipe for shrimp and she provided me with several options.  I could also ask what time and temperature to use for cooking chicken wings and she gave me the answer.  There are also tons of recipes online to try for air fryers.  

The first recipe I tried was one for shrimp.  It was so very easy. I brushed the raw shrimp with a mixture of olive oil and seasonings and then put them in the basket of the air fryer.  I cooked them at 400 degrees for 8 minutes and they came out perfectly cooked and a little crispy on the outside.  They were wonderful and this is a recipe I am sure I will use often.

For a breakfast treat I made some donuts in the air fryer.  They were also so simple and delicious.  I took a package of Pillsbury Grands biscuits and cut out a hole in the center.  I then cooked them for 6 minutes in the air fryer.  When they were finished I took them out and brushed them with some melted butter and sprinkled on a cinnamon/sugar mixture.  They were delicious.  Here is a photo I took.

I also made some apple chips by slicing an apple thin and adding a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg.  They were a wonderful snack.  Here you see them laid out in the air fryer.


What I am Looking Forward to Trying

I have a lot of different recipes marked to try in the future.  In the cookbook that came with the PowerXL was a recipe for a cherry dump cake that I will be trying this weekend.  My brother made it and said it turned out great.  A nice feature is that you can bake a cake without having to turn on the oven and heating up the house in the hot weather we are having.

Some other recipes I have found that I will try in the near future include: chicken parmesean, chicken drumsticks, french toast, egg-bacon-cheese biscuits, air fried vegetables, and fried zuccini.




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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Beneath Devils Bridge by Loreth Anne White-A Book Review

 

A Book Review
Beneath Devils Bridge is a compelling mystery that had my attention from page one.  In this story the author weaves a tale about a ambitious podcaster, Trinity  Scott, who is interviewing a condemned murderer. She wants to tell the story of a 24 year old murder of a 14  year old girl in a small town in British Columbia.  The  story flips between the present day story of the podcaster and her quest for the truth and the crime that took place 24 years in the past.  The murderer Clayton Jay Pelley confessed to the crime and is now serving a life sentence, but is that all there is to the story.  When Trinity starts to dig into the past the members of the small town community are not anxious to help her uncover what really happened.



Characters

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is the way the author developed the characters as the story progressed.  Here is a short synopsis of some of the main characters.

 Trinity Scott

 Trinity is an interesting character.  She is a podcaster who is very ambitious.  She researches cold cases and features them  on her podcasts.  At first glance you feel that her interest in this case is purely to have a great podcast.  But is that completely true or does she have some ulterior motive?

Leena Rai

Leena Rae is the murder victim in this mystery.  She is a fourteen year old girl who wants very much to belong, but she is very plain, shy and awkward.  She is often bullied and made fun of by others in her class.  On a cold November night she is brutally murdered on her way home from a "secret" bonfire in the small town of Twin Falls.  The circumstances of her murder are covered up by the people in the village till podcaster Trinity Scott brings up the case 24 years later.

Rachel Walczak

Rachel is the lead detective on the case and also the mother of one of Leena's classmates.  When she and the other detective start interviewing the students after the murder they both feel something is being hidden from them, but when a teacher confesses the case is quickly closed.

My Thoughts on the Book

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I like the way it was written giving both Trinity's and Rachel's perspective.  The book really pulls you in and has several twist and turns that I did  not anticipate.  It also has a lesson to be learned on what happens when bullying becomes the norm and a small town sticks together to hide the truth.



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Thursday, June 10, 2021

Review of Lavender Farm

Lavender at Entrance to Long Row Lavender Farm

 If you are looking for a pleasant way to spend a late spring day, I would suggest visiting a lavender farm.  In the St. Louis area we have a farm about an hour west of the city that my friend, Barb and I spend some time exploring on a beautiful June day.  

Long Row Lavender Farm




Long Row Lavender Farms is located on 15 acres just south of Wright City Missouri.  It is a family owned farm that was started in 2007 by 6 family members as a way to bring the family closer together and work toward a common purpose.  They see the farm as a midwest destination and offer a variety of activites and services.

Cafe


One of my favorite features of the farm is the Cafe.  The cafe offers a small but delicious menu that you may eat at a variety of small areas around the farm.  There is seating both inside the remodeled barn, outside on the porch or down by the pond.



I enjoyed a delicious  sandwich of grilled cheeses, tomatoe and bacon on sourdough bread.  I also had a refreshing glass of lavender lemonade from their menu you can see below.


One of the walls in the cafe has live  wall hangings, which I found fascinating.




 Gift Shop


Inside the barn you will find a gift shop full of lots of handmade products from the farm.  There is a variety of bath and body products, seasonal clothing, and home decorations.  You can also buy plants at the shop.



Workshops


Lavender farms offers weekly workshops at their facility where local artists teach of variety of different crafts.

Enjoy  the Grounds


The  grounds of the farm are beautiful and full of flowers  and lots of little nook and grannies to sit back and relax.  There are benches on the porch, a wonderful porch spring, a pond, and lots of flowers.  Here are a few of the photos I took around the grounds.




Lavender


Of course it wouldn't be a lavender farm without lots of lavender.  In looking up  lavender online, I found that the name is Lavandule and lavender is the common name for the genus.  There are 47 known species of these flowering plants and they are members of the mint family.

At Long Row Farms they have about 1200 lavender plants and 7 different varieties.  The varieties they  have are : Provence, Phenomenal, Hidcote Blue, Twickel Purple, Edelweis, Grosso, and Ellagence Pink.  Here are some photos I took of the different plants.







In the midwest the lavender blooms in early to mid June.  The blooms are then harvested a few weeks after  they bloom and then go through the drying process which takes about 3 weeks.  The drying takes place in the loft of the barn where they are hung up in bundles to dry.

The farm also grows peonies, zinnias and sunflowers so there are lots of blooms to see throughout the summer.


Zazzle Products


I always enjoy make products from my photographs.  Here are some from my visit to Long Row Lavender.





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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Review of Shark VacMop

 

Shark A1 Robot  VACMOP
After a month with our new dog, Dixie, I knew I needed another solution for keeping our floors free of dog hair and paw prints.  We have had a robot vaccum for several years and I really liked how it worked, however it was getting older and even though we had replaced the battery, it just couldn't handle the whole house without several recharging sessions.  Also, after two very rainy days, I saw that paw prints were also going to be a problem and the vacuum just didn't solve that problem.  I had seen the new robots that had both vacuum and mop features and I was intrigued.

Checking out the Features of the new Vacuum/Mops

There are many new vacuum and mop robots on the market and I found I had to read everything carefully to find one with the features that would work best for our house.  I didn't know much about them when I started out , but I did know I wanted one that both mopped and vacuumed at the same time. That feature alone eliminated several of the models who did one or the other, or that you had to change trays to switch from vacuuming to mopping.  I didn't want that.

I also found that several of the new models were wifi connected and would do a lot using my smart phone.  I even found a few that would work with Alexa or the Google Assistant.

I also wanted one that would really pick up the pet hair and one that would be easy to clean.

Features of the Shark AI Robot VACMOP(TM)

After my research and then checking out the sales, I decided on a Shark Robot. The ads said it was perfect for pet hair, had advanced navigation and a self cleaning brush roll.   Here are the features that helped me make my decision.
   1.  VacMop mode vacuums and mops at the
         same time.
   2.   Vac Mode has several speeds of suction, 
          allowing it to efficiently pick up  debris
         and pet hair.                  
   3.   Row by Row cleaning that has a laser vision 
         to detect and avoid objects.
   4.   It has WiFi and works with both Alexa and 
         Google Assistant.

 

How I Like my New Robot

I love my new Shark Robot.  When I first got it, I had it do a run to map out our house.  That was really cool how it navigated the house and then I was able to pull up a little map on my Smart Phone.  I then was able to mark carpets or any other area I did not want the robot to mop.  

I have found that it does an excellent job keeping my floors clean and free of pet hair.  I could choose to have it go at a scheduled time, but since we are always home I just tell Alexa when I want it to run.

I have found it easy to clean after using.  I just empty the dust pan and shake out the filter.  I will want to wash the filter once a month.

I am very pleased with my purchase and would definitely recommend this brand and model.

                                                               



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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Review of Tips for Photographing your Pet

Dixie Rose

 On April 10, 2021 we adopted a new dog.  We had been looking for a dog for nearly a year but had been unable to find a small dog to fit our needs.  Then, in early April, Tricia from Stray Paws Rescue contacted us and said she thought she had the perfect dog for us.  Dixie is a two year old Jack Russel Terrier who had been abandoned and was rescued by Stray Paws in January.  She was a month pregnant at the time and was brought to a foster home to have her pups and recover.  Tricia took excellent care of her and the pups and the four pups were all adopted once they were weaned.  It was then that Tricia, who had read our application, thought she would be perfect for our household.  Tricia brought her over to meet us and she is indeed a perfect fit.  She loves to follow my husband around and go on long walks with me.  Here are the first photos I took of Dixie right after she came to our house.






Photography Tips for Dogs


Now those of you who know me or have been reading my posts know that I love photography. So, when sweet Dixie arrived you just knew she would be my next photography model.  The first photos I took were quick shots to show our family and friends what the new member of our family looked like.  I knew that I would want to take some better photos once Dixie got to know me better, so I did some online research on tips on photographing dogs.  There is a wealth of information out there, but for now I thought I would share a few of the tips I have used.  I have a lot of work to do in improving my technique but it is a fun new challenge.

Use a Black Background for Classic Portraits


I found this tip on several sites and decided to give it a try.  It is not one I would have thought of on my own but I like how they turned out.  My favorite is the intro photo for this article and here are two more that I like.

This first photo shows Dixie in her classic pose every time I walk up  to her.  She rolls over on her back and waits for me to scratch her belly.  She is so cute.  This was also another tip I read to have them on their back looking up at you.



By holding up a treat I got her to sit and look up toward me.  



Keep Their Personality in Mind


On all of the tip sites that I read they suggested to get to know your pets personality and keep that it mind when taking the photos.  The following photos show some of Dixie's favorite activities.

Dixie loves to watch the squirrels in our yard and on the trees in our backyard.  She will spend hours just looking at them as you see in the two photos below.  




When Dixie is tired from her squirrel patrol you will find her curled up on the bed or on a blanket on the sofa.  Here are a couple of her resting photos.




Both of these photos also use another tip I read about online.  That is to "focus on the eyes to create depth" .   That isn't always easy to do because when I put a camera in front of my face Dixie tends to look away.  I'll have to work more on that technique.

More Photography Tips for Dogs


Here are a few more tips that caught my interest.  I will have to work on them.  Stay tuned, I see another post on dog photography after I've had Dixie for a while and have perfected some of these techniques.

  • Capture Owner Pet Relationship
  • Think before you Snap
  • Rule of Thirds- don't always have dog in center of photo.  Look for unique angles.


Dog Toys Provide Hours of Fun


Dixie loves all types of dog toys, but I think balls are her favorite.  Here is one she recommends.





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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Spring in Full Bloom

Spring Trees and Bushes


Last month when spring was just beginning, I shared with you my tips for early spring walks.  Now that spring is in full bloom, I will review some of my favorite spring flowers and flowering trees and bushes.  I hope you enjoy my photographs and a bit of facts on each of the types of blooms.


Lilac Bushes


Lilac bushes are my very favorite spring bloom.  I love the beautiful purple flowers and the fragrant blooms.  Here is a photo from the lilac bush in the corner of my yard.  This bloom is just starting to open and I was able to capture it right after a rain shower while there was still drops of water on the leaves.



Lilac bushes are very easy to grow and take little care other than good soil and sunshine.  They are a deciduous bush that blooms for about two weeks in late spring or early summer.  The most common color is a light lavender shade but they are also have bushes that are a darker purple, burgundy, white and shades of pink.

Red Bud Trees


I love the look of red bud trees in the spring.  In the midwest, where I live, you can see them dotting the wooded hillsides as you drive down the highways.  There are also a lot in our subdivision.  The photo below is one in my neighbors yard.



Redbud trees boast beautiful clusters of lavender-pink flowers in the early spring.  These flowers last for several weeks and then are replaced with delightful heart shaped leaves.

Redbud trees are easy to grow and need well drained soil and full sun or light shade.  The grow well in USDA Zones 4-8, and should be planted in early spring.  There are several different varieties of redbuds so you will want to choose one that is best suited for your area.

Here are a few more photos from spring blooming trees.  They are shots I took at a park and I'm not sure of the type of trees, but I thought they were quite beautiful.




Tulips 



I love tulips.  For me they are the perfect spring flower.  There are lots of tulips in my neighbors yards when I go on my daily works and they always bring a smile to my face.



Here is a card I made from one of my tulip photos.

When I searched online about tulips, I found several interesting facts.  Tulips are part of the Lily family and the petals are edible.  Most tulips sprout a single flower but there are a few varieties that have up to four flowers on one stem.  There are actually 1000's of varieties of tulips.

Did you know that in the 1600's tulips were considered to be quite valuable in the Netherlands.  In fact some cost as much as houses.

The beautiful blooms from tulip bulbs last only about 7-10 days until they start to whither and die.


Spring Annuals


 


One of my favorite spring annuals is the pansy.  This cheerful little flower is ideal for that time of year when you will still get cold mornings and possibly a little frost.  They bounce right back after a brief cold spell and florish until the really warm weather sets in.  I love having a pot of these flowers on my porch in early spring.  They are a favorite flower to photograph too.  I always think they look like cheerful little faces looking toward the sun.




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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Book Review: A Splendid Ruin by Megan Chance

 

A Splendid Ruin


I just finished a wonderful historical novel by Megan Chance and I couldn't wait to start this post and review it for you.  The novel takes place in San Francisco before and after the historic earthquake of 1906.

Plot Synopsis


The story unfolds as May Kimble, whose mother has died, leaves New York and travels to San Francisco to live with relatives she didn't even know existed. When she arrives she finds her relatives living in luxury and she is introduced to a life she only dreamed existed.  Her cousin Goldie takes her under her wing and introduces her to society and everything about San Francisco.  Goldie helps her shop for a new wardrobe, introduces her to all her friends, and takes her to see the sights of the city.  For the first time May wears beautiful gowns and attends balls.



As the plot continues to unfold May sees that everything is not what it seems and she may be in real danger.  She wonders who she can really trust and must use her wits to survive a possible terrible future.  How will she escape?  This is a compelling novel that shows just what a human being must endure in order to survive.

Main Characters


This book is full of interesting characters.  Of course there is May who is a talented undiscovered artist. 

May's relatives the Sullivans are certainly interesting.  Goldie the cousin who is all about being in societies limelight.  Uncle Jonny  is so generous to May, but is there an ulterior motive?    Aunt Florence  is May's mothers sister.  Why is she so ill she cannot visit with May?  There are so many questions May wants to ask her about her Mother and Father.  In the Sullivan household are several servants and one in particular, Shinn, is a big help to May.

Other characters of interest include Ellis Farge, an architect who admires May's artwork and Stephen Oelrichs, an attorney and Goldie's former fiance. Then there is Alphonse Bandersnitch, a writer for the society pages of the newspaper.  Don't you just love that name?  Bandersnitch is not his real name and everyone is trying to guess his identity.  He does a great job of remaining anonymous even while attending all of the society happenings around town.

Recommendation


I could go on and on talking about the book, but I don't want to spoil it for you.  Let me just say it is full of mystery and intrique with lots of twists and turns.  I recommend this as a must read!



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Thursday, March 25, 2021

Review of The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice

Stoningham Connecticut





If you are looking for a thrilling mystery with an interesting mix of characters this book by Luanne Rice is the book for you.  Along with a great story the book also explores spousal abuse among unlikely people.

The Author


Luanne Rice is a New York Times best selling author of 35 books.  She loves to write about nature  and the sea and bases many of her novels on her home state of Connecticut.  

I had read her books before and really enjoyed them so when I picked up The  Shadow Box, I knew I'd find a good novel and I was not disappointed.  This was another of those books that I was hooked from page one.  


Basic Plot


The setting for the book is the Connecticut coast and specifically a posh enclave called Cataount Bluff.  It is an area occupied by five luxury homes whose owners have long standing roots in the community.

The main character in the book is Claire Beaudry Chase, an artist who makes unusual shadow boxes.  Her husband, Griffin, is a very well connected man who is going to run for governor.  One of Claire's shadow boxes depicts a figure that could point to Griffin as a participant in a decades old crime and could hurt his political future.

The men of Catamont Bluff belong to a secret society called the Monday Club.  There are also other members of the small and secretive society and they all stick together no matter what.

When Claire is attacked in her garage and left for dead the plot unfolds.  After her attacker leaves she is able to escape and hides out for weeks while she tries to solve the crime.  While she is in hiding she discovers that another women who has worked as a decorator for several of the families has been found dead on the same day Claire disappeared.

Questions Claire trys to Solve


The book has lots of twists and turns and lots of questions to be answered.  Who can Claire trust?
Her husband has much of law enforcement in his pocket so she doesn't know who to turn to and is forced to stay hidden.

Claire hears about Sallie, the other woman who died, and wonders if that is connected to her disappearance.

Are the other  members of the enclave involved?  They are all very close and all working hard to make sure Griffin is the next govenor and able to help them in their businesses.

Are Claire's two stepsons Ford and Alexander somehow involved?

Who was her attacker?  Claire feels sure it was Griffin and yet he had on a mask and it all went so fast she isn't sure.

A Must Read Book


To find out the answers to the mystery you will need to read the book.  I am sure you will find it as intriquing as I found it.

For  more information on the Connecticut coast here is a review I wrote about Stoningham.  It includes my photos from a trip there. Stoningham Connecticut




 




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Thursday, March 11, 2021

Photography Tips for Early Spring Walks

 

Crocus are a First Sign of Spring

I am thoroughly enjoying my early spring walks.  The weather is warming up and buds are on the trees.  The crocus are blooming so I know that spring is on it's way.  In reviewing information for this post I came across several poems about crocuses.  On this post I will review my tips for photographing early spring and also share a poem I discovered.


Crocus Poem


I found many different poems about crocuses online.  Some were older poems and many were new.  Here is one that spoke to me and it is old enough that it is now in the public domain.  It speaks to how I feel when I see my first crocuses of the year.



Camera for my early spring walks


This year I received a new iPhone for my birthday in February so I've been busy exploring the features that it has in the camera and editing features.  It is a iPhone 11pro, which has three cameras and some amazing editing features for a phone.

  1. 12MP regular camera | 26mm f/1.8 | Optical image stabilization
  2. 12MP ultra-wide camera | 13mm f/2.4 | 120-degree field of view
  3. 12MP telephoto / portrait lens | 52mm f/2.0 | Optical image stabilization

I have found that the camera takes some really great photos and decided to use it exclusively for this review.  The added benefit is that I can carry it in my pocket during my walk and easily pull it out to take a photo when I see something I want to shoot.

The link below shows the phone my husband bought me from Amazon.  We have always had really good luck buying their renewed products.




Early Spring Photography




While walking in our neighborhood park, I noticed the way the grasses looked so beautiful against the bright blue sky. I took out my phone and photographed them from several directions.  I wanted to capture the way they looked in the sunlight so I tried all angles to find the best look.  The next week when I walked in the same park I noticed that the grasses had been cut down to get ready for new growth.  I'm glad I photographed them when I did.


Don't Forget the Buds




When you are photographing in late winter/early spring, don't forget to capture the new buds forming on trees and bushes.  They can make some great photos.  You will want to get in very close to capture all the details in the buds like the photo above of a pussy willow.



Buds on spring flowers poking through the ground can also make great photos.  These hyacinth bulbs are just poking through the ground.  I will be back to photograph them when they are in full bloom.


A Trip to the River




If you have water near you, they can also make some great early spring photos.  We had a hard freeze for several weeks in early February and when it finally got warmer the ice broke up on the river.  I took this photo down at the Missouri river where you can see the ice floating down stream.




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