Friday, February 26, 2016

Heather is Taking Off

I have a wonderful and talented sister-in-law. Her name is Heather, and she is a writer.

Heather (left) with Sue
I have lost track of all of the short story contests that she has won,

Last year, her first [to be published] novel, Clay Girl, was accepted for publication.

It will hit the stands sometime this coming fall. Be prepared because I will likely shill for her then.

Meanwhile, as a bit of a teaser, here is a snippet from one of her stories, followed by  a link to the whole thing. As is often the case with Heather, a real-life situation serves as the impetus for the story.

Warning, university education may cause premature graying- recent study finds 
At Christmas, Charlie came home from university a vegetarian. Being a mother, I took it personally. He reassured, “Strictly ethical reasons, Mom. Nothing to do with your cooking.” 
I wasn’t convinced. On more than one occasion I’d been accused of criminal assault on a rump roast. Now, looking at the condition of the Christmas turkey, I knew he was right. Ultimately this creature had not been treated well. It was missing a head, one wing and was indeed, dead. “You look thin, have you lost weight?” 
“Yeah, 8 pounds.” 
“Damn ethics,” I muttered. “You need protein. And what kind of a university course talks about meat, anyway?” 
His father glanced up from his paper. “I believe they call them bird courses, dear.” 
On Reading week, Charlie came home from university with 12 loads of laundry, said he was becoming a Buddhist and mentioned that he’d applied to do tsunami relief in Sri Lanka. 
“First of all,” I asked, “what have you been doing for clean underwear? Secondly, do you have to shave your head and wear orange? Because I really don’t think you could pull that look off. And thirdly, you simply cannot go to there.” 
“Well—because you’re grounded, that’s why.” 
He patted the top of my head in that way six-foot-two children do. “Oh, Mom, you’re so funny.”
Sensing my angst, his father paused from his reading. “Don’t worry, dear. They’re only taking donations, not volunteers.” 

Here's a link to the whole story:

And here's a link to Heather on Facebook. She is just getting started on social media, so you can get in on the ground floor:

Finally, she has just begun to blog, and I am pretty sure it will be good:
Heather and Sue

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Big Storm

Last week, we had the biggest one day snowstorm of our 11 winters in The Valley with 50cm/20" falling in one day, most of it from about 8AM to 5PM. We've had much snowier winters for sure — colder too — but this was the biggest single fall.

I thought you might like to see some pictures.

We made sure to lie low during the storm, only going out to shovel the walk and by the garage door. This was our 5th shovelling of the day. The snow plow had recently come by to clear the driveway, but you can see that it was already beginning to fill in again. However, the storm was just about over, so it didn't build up too much more. You can see the sheer line of snow where the plow had cleared.
This is what our street looked like next morning. Most snow that you see had fallen on that one day. It's amazing how clear the more major roads were after such a fall. However, school buses were still cancelled because some side streets and many rural roads had not yet been cleared.
A few photos looking back toward our house, the first with Sue observing whatever I was doing from the front porch, coffee in hand.

We did get out for a bit of a walk, and I took some neighbourhood shots.

Snowblowers become handy after the storm. Some people are generous and clear their less fortunate neighbours as well. However, this considerate fellow was just doing his side of the shared drive. It's hard to figure some people.

Look at the snow on the deck.

Can you see the door? Actually, it is just a garage door, so access isn't important.
We made our way to the path by the river and were surprise to see that someone had cleared it for a little way at least. It wasn't the town but some neighbour who perhaps had a dog to walk.

Then, it was time to head back to our den and returning to the serious business of hibernating.

As I write this, we've had a mild day or two. It's raining lightly and snow is melting. But there will be more snow before winter is done with us. How much more, I cannot begin to guess and probably nothing to match this. Hopefully, we can avoid ice storms.

Monday, February 22, 2016

More River Mist in Appleton

The day after the previous post (of the mist by the bridge), we were forced to take the car for a little drive. The battery had failed in the cold, so after recharging, we took a little drive up to Appleton. Like the previous day, there was some mist coming off the water, but not as much.

Still, with the sun shining, I thought it looked nice enough to stop and snap a few. These first two were on our approach into Appleton, looking downriver,

We crossed the bridge and turned upriver before meandering away from the river. I liked the view of the house across the river, between the trees with the footprints (mine) leading toward the river. ↓

Now looking upriver where there was a fair bit of mist. ↓

Looking back toward the car from about where I took the previous photo. ↓

It was a very cold day, but it didn't have the same wind chill as the previous day and with the sun it was quite pleasant to drive about. With the battery recharged (until the next day — I guess it is time to replace it) we headed back to town to complete a few chores before heading home for a Valentine supper and a movie on Netflix — Gravity.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

River Mist on a very Cold Day

It was cold last Saturday: so very cold: -45° cold with the wind chill as a matter of fact — pretty much in either scale. We were on our way to a birthday bash; I took a back route, crossed this bridge, and noticed all of the mist. Since I had my camera in the car, I backtracked, got out, and snapped a few very quick pics — too darn cold to linger.

This is the town's little bridge over our Mississippi River (not THAT Mississippi River). It has a name, but I don't know it right now. Next time I must read the plaque that is visible near the bottom on the photo. But my eyeballs would have frozen that day.

I did venture onto the bridge and shot a few photos looking upriver with the old railway bridge in the frame. The mist was very heavy that way.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Falls at Almonte

Overall, we have had a uniquely warm winter, but with the windchill factor the "feels like" temperature did go down to almost -45C (which is also just about -45F) the other day. That is the coldest windchill temperature for that day since such records began to be kept in 1953.

On the previous day, Sue needed some craft supplies from the town of Almonte (silent e at the end), about 10 minutes north of us. While she went into the store, I crossed over to the falls to snap some quick pics, Even though it wasn't quite as cold (as -45) on that day, the wind was strong and I just about perished (he said without a  hint of exaggeration).

So the pics are hurried, but I thought you might like to see them anyway. Keep in mind that the winter has been relatively mild, and I have seen much more of an ice buildup in other years.

The fall from water exiting the old hydro station

The subsequent photos are from about the same spot as the one above but with the camera zooming and focusing on different spots. It probably would have been good to have had my longer lens on this day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Old Mill at Ashton

We did our self-indulgent Valentine's treat on Thursday by driving to the little hamlet of Ashton where there is a pub: The Old Mill at Ashton or aka The Ashton Pub. It is an English-style pub (quite authentic I am told) with soccer banners galore and other artefacts. Since there were quite a few other customers, I was circumspect with my camera. I did sneak this photo of us and our server in the mirror.

Meanwhile. behind Sue were many vintage pictures of WWII type planes. (Perspective: look how big the hand nearest the camera looks.)

I am not a big beer drinker, but since this place brews their own, I had to try one. I chose the last on the board: Winter Berry Wheat. It was mild, which is good for me, and I liked the berry flavour.

I asked to see the kettles. Some of these little brewery/restaurants have rather beautiful kettles/tanks, so I asked to see theirs. Unlike the showy copper kettles which I have seen, these were located in the gloomy basement and were pretty plain. Notice the suds spilling out of the top. Apparently, some ales behave this way, while in others they settle to the bottom.

Back upstairs, I took two shots of the bar. As in the kettle photo, the ABC logo, for Ashton Brewing Company, is quite prominent. They say it's good to learn your ABCs.

The banners are all of local fairs and not British ones.

As I type this, there is a windchill of -43C/-45F, so I am not anxious to venture outside. We do have to attend a birthday gala this afternoon, however. Hopefully, it will be a little less bitter by then.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day

It is THAT day, but Sue has had some decs up for some time. On a shelf above the tv we have red hearts and other red things along with a snowman and some strip lighting (and a speaker). Since this is about the coldest time of year in Canada, I think the juxtaposition of the snowman is trés appropos.

There is nothing like being kissed by an angel on Valentine's Day ... or any day, really.

This cute little dish has been out for awhile now. Danica likes the heart candy with messages. JJ doesn't like most candy. I tell him that he is a lucky fellow.

My Love, My Lady, Mari Moi
Both above and below are focus stacked: actually the angles too. When you get close, it is difficult to get all parts of the subject in focus, so you change the focus on a series of shots. You then let Photoshop choose blend the various images to attain the sharpest result throughout.

Yes, do be mine.
The last image was taken with an extender to get me closer as I don't have a true macro lens.

I used the two candy dish images in my card to Sue.

front of card
inside of card

Monday, February 08, 2016

I Came Down With Mono

Yes, I did come down with mono — monochrome to be exact. As I do sometimes, I decided to convert some images — mostly portraits — to black & white. Actually, some are duotones, which means that some sort of colour has been superimposed on a b&w. It is duotone or split tone because a somewhat different colour is applied to the highlights and a different tone to the shadows. The first one below is an example as is the one later of Danica doing a Christmas craft.

Beginning with the boy, the first image is of him being my assistant by bearing my tripod one day last fall.

The next one is from his birthday. He was playing with some new Skylanders in the hall, just outside my den door. I was likely on the computer, and he likes to be near family.

Next comes Danica. In the first, she is doing something or other at the kitchen table, likely before school one day.

The next photo shows her working on Christmas crafts.

One recent morning we had a little cuddle on the chair. She looks a little mournful in the photo, but I think that's all it was — a look — as I don't remember her being sad that day. OTOH, I look happy because I am enjoying snuggle time.

Danica took this one of me the other day. She grabbed the camera and started shooting indiscriminately. I think I looked resigned in this photo, which I processed in a grngy sort of way.

Finally, I am tossing in two other b&w conversions, but they're not portraits. They are both of the Canoe Club building, and I liked the mono result better than the original colour for some reason.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

7 Years Old

Jonathan celebrates his 7th birthday today. The celebration actually began yesterday when we had the kids all day. Gifts were given and there was lunch at A&W with dessert at Dairy Queen.

For the past few years, I have made a collage of JJ photos from the past year. This is his Year 7 collage.

I also put together a little homemade card. This is the front of this years version.
And this is the inside.

Monday, February 01, 2016


While it has been a mild winter around here — relatively speaking, of course — it has sure been dull most of the time. Witness this photo from the other day.

Does that turn your crank? Does it make you want to visit Ottawa in winter? No, I thought not.

Meanwhile, I have taken a few more inside shots. First, we have the lion sitting down (as opposed to the biblical lying down) with the lamb ... and a polar bear.

You may call this one T for Positive Terminal Defiance. Note: the battery brand is Defiant. I used glass underneath to get a bit of reflection.

And finally, for now, a composite. Sue has been gifted with these things in the past. First came the grandma and granddaughter figurine. This was followed with a grandson figure. At some point, the book was also presented. They sit on a shelf in the upstairs hall, but in a somewhat different configuration than what you see here.

Until next time ...