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Monthly Archives: September 2011

By design, we keep several areas of our landscape under the sole care of Mother Nature who delightsus in growing many varieties of wildflowers. This time of year, the tiny blooms of the wild asters explode out from under the raspberry brambles, creating a sea of purple in the woods.

“Starburst” (Wild Autumn Aster aka Starwort) Nikon D300, VR 105mm F/2.8G Macro, F/3.3, 1/125s, ISO 400

Who says fireworks only happen in July? 🙂

For years, I’ve been fascinated by the squiggles the cucumber vine tendrils form in my garden. Simply put, I just think they are fun and once I began to focus my lens on all the different shapes, I then found them to be quite beautiful.

Now, I rarely do collages. However, in this instance, grouping of the various shapes came about as a natural progression. On their own, each squiggle appeared static, but as I began to put them together, the photos suddenly eruptedwith a sense of movement. 

“Bounce” (Abstract Collage/Cucumber Tendrils) Nikon D300, VR 105mm F/2.8G, F/4, 1/320s, -1.0EV, ISO 400, Built-in i-TTL Flash w/Gary Fong ‘Puffer’ Diffuser, -1.7EV, Color Efex Pro Bi-color Filter

In the first collage I see chaos, like the pent-up energy of a Wham-O Super Ball released inside a room. Your mind wonders if the boxes will be able to contain them or are they destined to explode outward and onward.

Then, as if in complete contradiction, the second collage emotes a sense of calm, like the gentle ebb & flow of the sea or, perhaps, a wisp of smoke as released from a cigar and illuminated by the flame of nearby smouldering fire.

What do yousee?

“Undulation” (Abstract Cucumber Tendrils) Nikon D300, VR 105mm F/2.8G, F/4, 1/320s, -1.0EV, Built-in i-TTL Flash w/Gary Fong ‘Puffer’ Diffuser, -1.3EV

If interested, all were shot in color, then converted to B&W with a bi-color filter added to accentuate the natural twists and turns. Enjoy! 🙂

…is not like the others! 🙂

“Hugh Hefner” (Male Northern Cardinal with Bunny Statues) Nikon D300, 390mm (200-400mm w/1.4x teleconverter), F/7.1, 1/160s, ISO 640

Seeing a Cardinal sitting still is not a common occurrence, so I found it remarkably strange, then, when I spotted a male just leisurely ‘hanging out’ amongst the two small rabbit statues under one of our garden benches. Perhaps he thought he had made some new friends??  

The bird stayed in this exact spot for quite a long time (well, for a Cardinal, mind you, as they are typically very skittish birds), even shutting his eyes to rest! I actually began to get concerned he was injured or sick, but, just as I was about to investigate further, I accidentally startled him and he flew off.

Most likely he was a young male, simply getting his bearings. I’ve been seeing many juveniles lately, from squirrels to chipmunks to birds to rabbits, sporting atypical animal behavior and it has been humorous to watch them try to make sense of their surroundings without the aid of the parents. Kids! 😉

Oh, well. Just another day in Milkay’s Animal Kingdom, where the critters never cease to amaze! 🙂

Gertrude Noyes (aka, Nancy’s mom) made the most wonderful blueberry cake. Nothing fancy, mind you, but rather a fairly simple cake, dotted with sweet blueberries throughout and dusted with cinnamon sugar. Yummmmm. 🙂

“Gert’s Blueberry Cake” (Blueberry Cake) Nikon D300, 70mm, F/5.6, 1/50s, -0.7EV, ISO 1000, Built-in i-TTL Flash w/Gary Fong ‘Puffer’ Diffuser, -1.3EV

This delicious treat would usually arrive as a surprise on a Saturday or Sunday morning, still warm from the oven, the aroma of cinnamon filling the air. Didn’t matter if we’d already had our breakfast or not. Resistance was futile. 😉

Blueberry Anticipation

Years ago, I was fortunate to acquire the recipe from Nancy which I tucked neatly into my recipe binder. Starting in early August, blueberry memories began wafting into my brain and when I saw quarts of wild blueberries (the best kind) at a local farmstand, I knew I hadto make that cake! Therefore, on a bright Saturday morning, I gathered the ingredients and, following the recipe to the letter, happily anticipated the tasty results.

“Yes, Please” (Blueberry Cake Square) Nikon D300, 50mm, F/5.6, 1/15s, -0.3EV, ISO 640, Built-in i-TTL Flash w/Gary Fong ‘Puffer’ Diffuser, Nik Color Efex Pro ‘Vignette Blur’ Filter

Hot from the oven, the cake looked and smelled divine. I put a pot on for tea while the cake cooled just a bit and impatiently waited for the moment when I could cut into my blueberry masterpiece. A good deep inhale of that cinnamon aroma and then, finally, that first bite.

Wait for it…wait for it…wait…damn. How could this be? Instead of the expected gastric euphoria, both hubby and I were, well, sadly disappointed. It wasn’t that the cake was bad, but it certainly wasn’t Gert’s. Something was missing. 😦

A couple of days later, I yelled over the fence, “Hey, Nancy! When your mom made her (famous) blueberry cake, did she use lard?” 

“No, she always used shortening.”

“No butter?”

“Nope. Never.”

“Huh. Well, I made the cake and it tasted… flat. And, it wasn’t as moist as hers. Did I over-bake it?”

“Hmmm, I doubt it. What did you use for milk?”

And, just like that, it hit me. You see, back in the day, milk was milk. There wasn’t 2%, 1% or skim, no lactose-free or soy or almond. When a recipe called for milk, it meant wholemilk. An item that is not regularly found in my icebox. Mystery solved. 🙂

“Spread” (Blueberry Cake Buffet) Nikon D300, 45mm, F/5.6, 1/50s, -0.3EV, ISO 640, Built-in i-TTL Flash w/Gary Fong ‘Puffer’ Diffuser

With new confidence in hand (and enough blueberries remaining), it was back to the kitchen to try again. In addition to using whole milk, I also made a few more tweaks to the recipe (we bakers just can’t resist can we? 😉 ).

For example, I like to grease and sugar my cake pans as it adds just a little extra sweetness that flour can not deliver. I also like to layer flavors, so instead of using plain white sugar and plain table salt, I substituted vanilla sugar and vanilla salt. I also used two kinds of vanilla extract since each adds their own bit of ‘something’ to the finished product.

When the timer went off, anticipation along with a bit of nervousness, swelled within me. I prepared the tea, gathered the plates, utensils and napkins, cut and served the slices and then waited for hubby to take the first bite. 

“Have a Bite” (Blueberry Cake) Nikon D300, 70mm, F/5.6, 1/100s, -0.7EV, ISO 1000, Built-in i-TTL Flash w/Gary Fong ‘Puffer’ Diffuser

“Well?” 

“It’s delicious.”

Woo hoo! 😀

Happily, Nancy concurred and it was a delightful Saturday morning, sipping tea and noshing on a (now) treasured family recipe, shared amongst good friends and remembering a cherub-faced Gert whom, I hope, I made proud.

Folks, it doesn’t get any better than that. 🙂

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