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

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review of Facts and Photos of the American Robin

Robin after a Bath

To celebrate the start of spring, I thought I'd share a bit of information and some photos on one of my favorite birds, the Robin.  Here is a poem that I found that celebrates the Robin and the start of spring.


Robin Poem by William Warner Caldwell


From the elm-tree's topmost bough, Hark! the Robin's early song! Telling one and all that now Merry spring-time hastes along; Welcome tidings dost thou bring, Little harbinger of spring: Robin's come!

 Of the winter we are weary, Weary of the frost and snow; Longing for the sunshine cheery, And the brooklet's gurgling flow; Gladly then we hear thee sing The reveille of spring: Robin's come!

 Ring it out o er hill and plain, Through the garden's lonely bowers, Till the green leaves dance again, Till the air is sweet with flowers! Wake the cowslips by the rill, Wake the yellow daffodil; Robin's come! 

Then, as thou wert wont of yore, Build thy nest and rear thy young, Close beside our cottage door, In the woodbine leaves among; Hurt or harm thou need'st not fear, Nothing rude shall venture near: Robin's come! 

Swinging still o'er yonder lane Robin answers merrily; Ravished by the sweet refrain, Alice claps her hands in glee, Calling from the open door, With her soft voice, o'er and o'er, Robin's come!


Robins and Bird Bath


I have found that Robins love to take baths in our bird bath.  Other birds will stop for a drink, but a Robin will plunge right in for a bath.

In the photo below the Robin has just finished his bath and I caught him sitting on the edge of the birdbath, shaking his tail feathers.  They are so much fun to watch.


Robins Features




  • Pot Bellied look
  • Brick Red Underparts
  • Yellow Bill
  • White Chin
  • White Eye Arcs
  • Male has darker head and deeper red underparts than female
The Robin's song is very cheerful.  I often see a lone Robin sitting on the peak of our neighbors roof just singing away for hours on end.  It is always a joy to hear.


I have found the National Geographic book Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America to be a wonderful guide for information on the birds I find in my backyard. I know I can find all kinds of information about birds online, but sometimes it is just good to hold a book in my hands and look up information on the birds I find in my backyard.



Robins in our area Year-round



Robins are migratory birds, but although we seem to have more in the spring and summer, we do have Robins in our area in the Midwest all year round.  The photo above shows a Robin in the snow.

My Photos on Zazzle Products









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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Review of In a Field of Blue



In a Field of Blue is a compelling novel about life during and after World War 1.  I downloaded this book on my Kindle when it was one of Amazon Prime's first reads.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more books by the author.

Setting


The book takes place in three different countries.

  • England
  • France
  • Canada

 


Summary of Plot


The story follows an English family whose oldest son has gone missing in action in World War 1.  After four years they are looking for answers when a young woman, Mariette, arrives at their manor claiming to be their missing son's wife and the mother of his child.

The youngest son, Rudy, sets off on a quest to find the answers of the missing brother.  The quest takes him to the ruins of the war fields in France and then to the far northern territories of North America.

The book shows the ravages of war, the miracles of love and hope, and the secrets of another time.

Characters


  • Edgar- the oldest son who goes off to war and is listed as missing.
  • Laurence-the middle son who seeks to claim his inheritance when his older  brother is presumed dead.
  • Rudy- the youngest son who idolized his oldest brother.  He wants to believe that he is still alive and goes around the world to try to discover the truth.
  • Mariette- a young French woman who claims to be Edgar's wife and the mother of his son.  She shows up with very little proof.
  • Samuel- the young boy who shows up at the manor with Mariette.  He wins the hearts of Rudy and the staff at the manor.

More book by author Gemma Liviero


After reading In a Field of Blue, I am anxious to read more books by the author.





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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Review of Designing Collages and Composites in Photography


Putting photographs into collages is a fun way to display a grouping of photos.  In the grouping above I show a simple collage with a group of my bird photos.

Create a Simple Collage in Lightroom


The above collage is one that I created in Adobe Lightroom.  To make this collage I moved several of my bird photos to the Print option at the top left of the Lightroom screen and then followed the directions to add the framing and sizing.  You also have options to change the color on the frames and the background and to add some text.

Here is another collage that I made in the same way.


Composites


I belong to a Facebook group called "Create 52" where each week we have a theme to create a photograph and post it on the page.  One of our recent themes was called Collages/Composites.  I posted one of the collages that I made on Lightroom.  I then decided to try to stretch my knowledge and try some of the composites.  Many of the other members were posting some very interesting composites.  Composites are a very creative way of using your photographs.  For my first try I went to Photoshop and opened the collage of the Cardinals and then opened a texture that I had of snow.  I combined the two into one photograph and then changed the opacity to get the desired effect.  Here is the resulting photo.


More Advanced Composites


After seeing some of the other posts in our "Create 52" group, I decided to try some composites using multiple photographs.  I had been on a field trip with a group I help mentor in photography and we went to a local college and several students displayed their musical instruments for us to photograph.  I took several of the photographs and combined them into one design and then used a photo of some sheets of music for a texture.  Here are two of my designs.  Remember, I'm just learning but I think you can get the idea.



Creating your own Collages and Composites


If you are interested in trying one of these procedures there are a lot of tutorials that will help you online.  If you have Photoshop just search for tutorials for creating composites in Photoshop.  If you use other editing software just search online and I'm sure you will also find tutorials for them.  Many of the tutorials are on YouTube and are free.  You can watch them and pause whenever you need to review a step.  I have learned a lot on YouTube.


Zazzle Design from my Collage





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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review of Bird Photography in the Snow


I love photographing birds and in the winter a snowy day can give a wonderful backdrop for my bird photographs.


Female Cardinal


As I reviewed articles online in preparation for writing this article, I found many tips on photographing in the snow.  Most of these talked about protecting your camera, wearing gloves with the fingers cut out and that type of tips.  I have a different setup for photographing birds right from the comfort of my own home and that is what I will be sharing in this article.

Photographing through Glass



The photograph above, as well as all of the photos on this page were taken through glass.  I have tripods set up in my home that I use to photograph the birds in our yard.  The photograph above was taken through our sliding glass doors in the kitchen.  I often get a surprised reaction when people hear that I photograph through glass, but it has worked well for me.

               When photographing through glass
                be sure to keep the glass clean.

I keep a cloth handy to quickly wipe away any smudges on the glass.  On a snowy day I will frequently open the door to wipe away sleet or drops that have formed on the glass outside.

                Set up the camera as close to the
                glass as possible.

I have my cameras set up on a tripod just inches away from the glass.

My Setup


I have two cameras that I use to take my bird photography.  Both are set up on tripods.  
  • Sony A57 DSLR set up with a Tamron 200-600 zoom lens.  This camera is perfect for getting the birds that are at a bit of a distance.  I use these when the birds are at my far feeders, up in the branches of the trees along the back of our property or in the bushes.
  • Sony a6300 mirrorless camera.  This camera set up with a 70-210 zoom lens is perfect for the birds on the deck and in the closer feeders.  I use it in connection with a wireless remote so that I can sit at the kitchen table and trigger the shutter release when I see a bird.  I used this setup in photographing the BlueJays pictured below.













Bright Colored Birds on a Snowy Day


I love to photograph all birds but catching some of these brightly colored birds against the snowy backdrop are my favorites.




















Dark-eyed Junco or Snowbird


Another favorite of mine is the Junco which is commonly called the snowbird.  It has a dark top and white underside which looks great on a snowy day.


Zazzle Products from my Photographs





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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review of Book Clubs

Belonging to a book club can be a fun and rewarding experience.
Book Club Luncheon Outing January 2020
I have belonged to a book club for the past 17 years.  I always look forward to the next meeting and discussing the books we have read.

Book Club Information Online

I did some research online in preparation for writing this post and found there is really no "one size fits all" approach to book clubs.  

There are book clubs hosted by groups of friends, by libraries, by publishers, by churches, by special interest groups and a multitude of others.  You can find online book clubs, clubs that meet at peoples houses, clubs that meet at public places and library sponsered clubs meeting at the library.

Some book clubs have books selected by the sponsoring organization or person and others have members select the books.  There are book clubs that only read one genre of books such as a mystery book club or a history book club and others that read a variety of different genres.

In looking for some history on the start of book clubs, I came to the conclusion that the discussion of books in groups dates back as far as we had the written word.  In the USA I found references back to 1634 on a ship headed to the Massachusetss Bay Colony and another literary society started in 1727 by Benjamin Franklin named Junto.


My Experience in a Book Club

The book club I belong to has about 12-14 members at any given time. This seems like a good amount of people for a good discussion.  Each month there are some people missing but we still have enough for a lively discussion.

Our club actually started 20 years ago and still has 5 of the original members.  As members have to leave due to illness, moving or other obiligations new members are added to our group. I joined when we moved to the area and a friend invited me to join the group.

We meet once a month at a different members house and that member leads a discussion on the book and provides refreshments for the group.  

We read a variety of different genre's, each book is chosen by the hostess for the month.  The hostess will have given us the name of the book and the date she will host the meeting at the previous meeting.  So we have a month to obtain and read the book.  Some members get the book from the library, some order an ebook online and others purchase a paper book.

We try to stay on topic, but sometimes that is difficult as we have been together for a long time. Sometimes we just need to set some time aside to socialize before we start the book discussion.

For refreshments we might serve wine and/or soft drinks and a variety of snacks.  We usually end the evening with a dessert.  Many of our hostesses will look for a food theme from the book and serve a snack or dessert that fits that theme.

Over the years we have done some fun things with the group.

  • Several times we have invited an author to our meeting to lead the discussion of their book.  It is fun when we find a local author to do this.
  • We have gone on field trips before.  One in particular that I remember was to a historical house in the area where one of our members is a docent.
  • Another time we decided we would try our hand at writing a book.  We each wrote a chapter and then passed it on to a member at the next meeting to write the next chapter.  We did not have a plan ahead of time about where the book would head so it was a surprise to all of us when we got the final story.  It wasn't a particularly compelling book but it did give us an experience of what an author goes through in writing.


Guidelines for a Book Club based on my Experience

Here are some of my thoughts on book clubs.

  • Set your schedules a year in advance ( or at least 6 months).  Before we did this we spent a lot of time each meeting discussing who would have the next meeting.  Now we send around a sign up sheet each January and everyone picks a month.  They don't have to choose the book or the exact date till the month before.
  • The hostess should plan a few questions to help get the discussion rolling.  A lot of times these questions can be found on the author's or publishers websites.
  • Having prepared questions are a good way to get the discussion back on track when someone tries to sideline it.
  • Keep  an open mind to reading types of books you  wouldn't normally choose.  I have read so many books in book club that I would never have chosen, but when I read them they are great.  It has really broadened my horizons in my reading.

Books we Have Read

In the 17 years that I have belonged to book club we have read nearly 200 different book.  I can't begin to list them all in this post but here are a few of the ones that we have read in the past couple of years that I thought you might enjoy.

The first one is the one we are reading for this month.  It is a historical fiction book, which is one of my favorite genres.  This was a very interesting book.

   
The next book is one we read last year.  It was an interesting study involving cooking and the different personalities that took a cooking class.  It was different from others we have read but I found it very interesting.



Here is a list of several other books we have read in the past several months.

  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarity
  • Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
  • The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe
  • Leaving Time by Jodi Piccoult
  • No Way Back by Andrew Gross
  • Long Road to Mercy by David Balducci
  • A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
  • I've Got My Eyes on You by Mary Higgins Clark
  • The Address by Fiona Davis
  • The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
All of these are books that I enjoyed and would recommend.
Happy  Reading!!



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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review of Mockingbird Information


Mockingbirds have long been the subjects of songs, literature and even movies.  When an early December snowstorm brought the first Mockingbird I had seen to my backyard feeders, I was curious to find more information about these popular birds.

Some Facts about the Mockingbird

From Miriam Webster dictionary I learned that Mockbirds are" a common grayish North American bird (Mimus polyglottos) related to the thrashers that is remarkable for its exact imitations of the notes of other birds."

I did some more research using Wikipedia and All About Birds online and the National Geographic book "Backyard Guide to the Birds".  Here are some additional facts I discovered.

  • Mockingbirds are a New World group of passerine birds. (Passerines are distinguished from other birds by the arrangement of their toes-three forward and one back-which helps them in perching)
  • They are best known for their habit of mimicking other birds, insects and amphibians.
  • There are actually 17 different species of Mockingbirds.
  • Only the Northern Mockingbird is normally found in North America.
  • Mockingbirds are well known for their fun personalities of mimicking other birds songs.

 Mockingbird in Music


As I was researching Mockingbirds, I kept coming up with song lyrics and music with references to the bird.  Here is one of the most popular ones, a lullaby sung by many top musical artists.  Here is the first line.

Hush, little baby, don't say a word. Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird And if that mockingbird won't sing, Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring.

Does that sound familiar to you?  I found this cute child's book that features that song.




Mockingbird in Literature

I found several references to the Mockingbird in books.  The most famous is a Pulitzer-prize winner by Harper Lee.



Another book I found with a reference to Mockingbird in the title, is this fun sounding book on cocktails.  The books teams up various classic books with a cocktail.


I took the three photos of the Mockingbird about a month ago and I have not seen the birds since.  I'm hoping they come to visit my backyard again soon.


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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Explore St Louis - Visit Missouri- Review of Zoo Lights

The St. Louis area has many beautiful light displays during the month of December and one of my favorites is the Zoo Lights.
On a chilly night in mid December my friend and I spent an evening at the St. Louis Zoo enjoying the lights and taking photographs.  We had never been there before and wasn't sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised.  We spent about 1 1/2 hours out in the park enjoying the lights before we went inside to warm up with some hot chocolate.  In that time we didn't even begin to see all the beautiful lights.  The displays were wonderful and all focused around the animals in each particular area.  

Information about Zoo Lights

The Zoo Lights display is open from Thanksgiving through December 30th.  It starts at 5:30 each night and there is a nominal fee for entrance which includes free parking.  What a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays with family and friends.  Besides enjoying the lights you can was a 3D movie of Rudolph the Reindeer, roast marshmallows over fire pits, enjoy hot chocolate and other snacks at several stands around the park and have your photo taken at several different displays.

Photographic Tour

I enjoy taking photographs and shooting the zoo lights was a real pleasure.  I found that I was able to get wonderful shots without a flash.  I hope you enjoy my photographic tour.








Zazzle Poster from my Photos




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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Book Review- The School of Essential Ingredients

Are you looking for a good book to read that is just a bit different?  The School of Essential Ingredients has a delightful main character, an interesting take on cooking and a look into the lives of a wide variety of cooking students.
Apples are one of my Favorite Basic Ingredients

When our book club picked this book to read for the monthly meeting, I was not sure if I would like it.  I enjoy a good mystery or historical fiction and this book did not fit into either of these molds.  However, it only took me one chapter to get hooked on this book.  The author has such an interesting way of writing that I instantly got involved in the book.

Lillian, the main character owns a restuarant and conducts a cooking school in the back rooms.  She has a very unique way of cooking that instantly got me interested.  She didn't use recipes but rather concentrated on the basic ingredients for each dish and explored with her students how to make the most of the ingredients.  Lillian surely was a true artist when it came to her cooking.  She had a way of making everything magical and made me want to get in my kitchen and experiment.

The book is set up with a chapter for each student of the cooking class.  As the dish for that evening is explored we also learn a little bit about each of the students and why they came to the class to start with.  Each student had their own story and they were a very diverse group.  Lillian not only had a way with the food but also with each of her students.  She seemed to bring out the best in people and helped them to explore the situations in their lives.

                                                             
I don't want to spoil the story line for you.  But I will tell you if you enjoy cooking and reading you must try this book.  I highly recommend it.


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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Visit Missouri-Explore St. Louis Review of Fall Photography in Forest Park


Fall is my favorite season of the year.  I love to photograph the beautiful colors of the season. On this page I will review Forest Park in St. Louis through my Fall photography.


When will Fall Colors Peak


It is always difficult to predict when colors will be at their peak and this year was no different.  All October I waited and watched for the colors to change.  Oh there were glimpses of color here and there but not the outstanding colors that you think of when Autumn arrives.  I read that you don't get the really good colors until after the first hard freeze.  Well last week we got temperatures down in the 20's several nights so I knew it was time.  On November 1st I headed to Forest Park with my husband and some friends and was delighted with the amazing display of colors.  The day was clear and crisp and great for capturing the beauty of Fall.

A Favorite Venue for Fall Photography


Forest Park in St. Louis is a venue I have written about before, it is one of my favorite places to visit.  Here is a link to more information on Forest Park from one of my previous posts. Forest Park and Jewel Box.  In this post I will highlight fall colors around the History Museum, the Art Museum and the Bandstand area by the Muny.


Art Hill and the Art Museum


Our first stop in Forest Park was at the base of Art Hill.  This hill extends down from the Art Museum and in the winter it is a favorite place for kids of all ages to sleigh ride down the hill.  On this beautiful fall day it was the perfect place to capture a photo of the Art Museum and the bright red trees that were on either side.


This photo was taken when the sun was high in the sky so the glare takes out the details of the building.  We decided to head to the History Museum and continue my photography later in the day when the sun was lower in the sky.  Here are two photos taken a couple of hours later.  The first is a statue of St.  Louis which overlooks Art Hill and the scene of the 1904 World's Fair.


I took the next photo from the parking lot of the Art Museum, looking down on Art Hill.


Muny Area



The next area that I photographed is the area in front of St. Louis's outdoor theatre, commonly called The Muny.  This area has a bandstand on a little island.  The bandstand was built in 1924 to replace the original wood bandstand built in 1876.  This used to be a popular place for musical entertainment in the summer months.  The trees surrounding the water were a brilliant red color and I was able to capture some beautiful photos. 




History Museum


My original purpose to go to Forest Park was to take in the display of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs that were on display at the History Museum.  This was a wonderful display and we spent a couple of hours enjoying the photos.  We had planned to go on a Wednesday but had to cancel.  I am so glad we changed it to Friday because first of all Wednesday was a very rainy day and secondly Friday was the perfect day to photograph the changing fall landscape.  The photos below are of the museum and one of my cousins leaving the History Museum.





The Camera I used for this Outing


One of my favorite camera's is my Sony A6300 mirrorless camera.  I wrote about it in the following post. Sony a6300.  I used a wide angle zoom lems with 16mm to 50 mm. 

   
                                                     


Zazzle Card from my Photos

 




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