Thursday, May 31, 2012

Focusing on Adjusting

Trying to adjust to my new work schedule has me completely and totally discombobulated and barely able to remember what day it is but I'm pretty sure that once I get used to it, it's going to be just fine though I'm really not too sure about having "normal" weekends off. Not that having four-day weekends every week is exactly "normal" but hopefully you know what I mean! My new schedule has me working doubles on Tuesday and Thursday and day shift on Wednesday so it's really not bad at all, I just have to remember what day it is!

It was actually rather nice to come home at 3:00 p.m. yesterday and be able to fool around taking pictures of Tesla and catching up on a few things here and there. I'm not too sure how Tesla felt about the whole picture-taking thing but I figured that while I had my camera out to take a picture of the beautiful suncatcher that I got from Morgen last week ...

... that I'd take a couple of Tesla who first posed nicely on the windowsill as he took a break from watching squirrels run through the yard then ran off to the living room to try to relax on the couch before I came in and started bugging him in there!  At least he was kind enough to smile big for the camera though!

The way I look at it, it sort of makes up for all those times he's come over and bugged me when I was on the computer ... sort of ... not really!

Anyway, off to work for 16 hours on this last day in May and then I start my weekend where I've got big things planned like a lot of writing for my project with the Hawthorne Hotel which should be launching soon and some cleaning while I've got only one kid in the house what with Jamie being off in Toronto visiting her friend for a couple of weeks.  Sounds exciting, eh?  No pun intended to my Canadian friends! 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

"I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did. We mourn for them as comrades who have departed, but we feel the glory of their dying and the glory of their achievement covers all our great country, and has set them in an imperishable roll of honor." — President Benjamin Harrison, May 30th, 1891

On this Memorial Day, fly your flags proudly as we remember those brave men and women who served to make and keep our nation free so that we can have flags and three-day weekends and all those things we generally take for granted.  Whether they died on the battlefield or behind the lines or years later from the ravages of diseases brought on by war, we should always remember them and thank them for their service. I do. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ah, So That's What Using a Different Camera Feels Like!

Leaving my beloved Nikon in the car, yesterday I had the chance to fool around with a top-of-the-line, brand-spanking-new Olympus E-M5 OM-D Series Digital SLR Camera during the Essex Heritage Photo Safari that my friend Juli and I went on in Newburyport that was sponsored by Hunt's Camera and the Essex National Heritage Area.  Even though the camera was very cool in many respects and had some very interesting on-board features such as Art Filter effects and a monitor that swivels both up and down so that you can change the perspective of your shot without having to kneel down or climb up on things along, with a very lightweight body and lens, I'm not really sure if it's a camera that I'd buy.

Part of me really liked it - especially my right arm due to the light weight! - and part of me wasn't so sure about it - some of which I'll chalk up to having spent so much time with my Nikon and not quite sure what to do with a smaller camera!  The part of me that really wasn't sure about it though is the part that registers price being that the model that I was using was about $1,300 with just a 14-42 mm lens.  Ouch!  Amazing technology certainly does come with amazing price tags attached, huh?

Juli was using a version that was a slightly less-expensive Olympus (with a price tag of about $900) than the one that I had and she paid better attention to David Wells, the professional photographer who gave us a bit of advice and instruction before we ventured out into the pretty town of Newburyport to hunt for photographic opportunities, so I think that her photos were loads better than mine when it came to subject matter and composition ... well, except maybe for this one she sneakily took of me trying to figure out how to use my camera by the waterfront ...

or me still trying to figure out how to use the camera in a cheese and wine shop ...

but like these two that she shot when she wasn't taking pictures of me!

As for me, I was busy taking pictures of bottles of wine (if you look in the upper left you can see Juli taking that picture of me above) ...

... and shoes and accessories ...

... and candy ...

... and a hot dog sign ...

... and a steeple that I apparently got fixated on ...

... and a monument by the waterfront ...

... and some bicyclists ...

... and one I took of Juli on the waterfront probably right before she took the one of me!

As you can tell from some of the photos above, I did try out a few of the Art Effects that the camera offered and even though they were cool (I rather do like the "Key Lime" effect on the first steeple picture), I guess I'm just more of a traditionalist than artist when it comes to using a camera.  That said, I had a great time and it was a lot of fun and I might actually have even learned a few things from David, our pro, even though I might not have applied them that well! Let's see what I can do with his tips and my trusty Nikon though!

Oh, and as for Newburyport itself - what a great place!  I'll be heading back up that way again before too long as I continue my travels for that other project I keep alluding to so stayed tuned for more.  Perhaps I can even talk Barb into taking a journey up there with me when she's up visiting her SisterDears in July - there's obviously wine to be found and I think she'd love the area!  Speaking of Barb, I totally befuddled her with yesterday's post that contained no photos at all so I hope that today's post makes up for that!  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

So here it is, the "first official weekend of summer" and I keep wondering how it got here so fast!  But what else is new when it comes to time flying lately?  I'd better not blink or next thing I know it's going to be the Fourth of July and then the "last official weekend of summer"!

I hope y'all have something fun planned for this weekend.  As for me, you'll never guess where I am again!  Yep, back in Salem but this time I'll be heading up to Newburyport to cheat on my Nikon with an Olympus for a little bit.  Gasp!  There's a good reason I'm leaving the Nikon in the car for awhile though, I'm going on a Photo Safari with my friend Juli which is sponsored by the Essex National Heritage Commission and a local camera shop. We get to take Olympus cameras and equipment out for a spin as well as get some photography tips from a guest photographer and keep the memory card with the pictures we take. Bonus - it's in the historic area of the town - who'd a thunk it?

I've heard all sorts of good things about Newburyport so I'm really looking forward to fooling around with another camera for awhile and seeing some more of Massachusetts and then spending a little more time in Salem afterward.  I'll be heading home on Sunday, recharging for a bit, and then taking a drive across Connecticut on Monday for a family get-together at my cousin Dave's house.  Whew!  I should be good and tired just in time to go back to work on Tuesday where I start my new shift rotation and will now have Friday through Monday off instead of my current schedule of Wednesday through Saturday off.  Still lots of time for wandering around!

So what have you got planned for the weekend other than remembering those brave men and women who gave us cause to have a holiday weekend to begin with??  Whatever it is, I hope it's fun and safe! 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Five on Friday - The BeeGees Version

There sure have been a lot of losses in the music world lately with some real talent going up to join that big angelic choir in the sky. Last week Robin Gibb of the BeeGees passed away at the age of 62 which made me stop and think about some of my favorite songs that the band put out over the years. Even though a lot of people associate the BeeGees with the disco era, I was a fan long before John Travolta ever put on a white polyester suit and danced his way into movie stardom and most of my favorite songs from the Brothers Gibb are from their earlier music. For this week's Five on Friday meme hosted by Travis at Trav's Thoughts, I thought I'd share some of those favorites which take me way back to my teenage years and early heartbreak and music that spoke to my soul - little knowing that as I got older, it was going to speak even louder!  Ah well, we live, we grow, and we learn though I'm still not sure how you mend a broken heart all these years later!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Working for the Weekend at the Inn Victoria

As I mentioned briefly yesterday, Jamie and I are spending this weekend in the charming town of Chester, Vermont where we are participating in the Second Annual Inn Victoria Work Weekend.  The weather has been absolutely gorgeous this year unlike last year when it rained for a good part of the time that we were here and even though yes, it's been a lot of work it's also been a lot of fun seeing familiar faces from last year and meeting new folks.

We are once again staying in the Prince Alfred room just like last year but this year there's a big new change to the room - a second bed!  So, Jamie has been happily ensconced in her own feel-like-you're-sleeping-on-a-cloud 1600-threat count triple-sheeted bed while I've been enjoying my own also.  Sweet!

The food has been absolutely delicious - just like last year. Breakfast this morning was fresh strawberries served with light brown sugar and a dollop of sour cream (that made a delicious almost caramel-like sauce when mixed together) followed by Eggs Benedict with asparagus and tomato served on a puff pastry, plenty of bacon, and coffee that actually tasted as good as it smelled!

While I spent the day painting doors and trim inside the house, Jamie was kept quite busy outside doing some gardening as well as painting the inn's sign and giving it a fresh rejuvenated look.

Following a busy day with a break for delicious burgers and pasta salad for lunch, we worked until about 5:00 and then cleaned up in time for dinner with these fellas accompanied by delicious steaks followed by a wonderful rhubarb-strawberry crisp with homemade whipped cream!  No picture of that I'm afraid, I ate it too quickly!

After a busy day of painting and other tasks and eating like royalty, Jamie took off to soak in the hot tub for a bit while I enjoyed the wonderful soaking tub in the our bathroom.

I have to say, working for these kind of "wages" isn't bad at all and I've been very proud of Jamie as she really pitched in and did her share and then some working just as hard as everyone else and doing a great job. This might not be too many teenager's idea of a "fun" weekend but we've sure been enjoying it and now we can say that we've finally had honest-to-goodness struggle-to-get-it-out-of-the-shell lobster. Good thing there were people here to give lessons on that!

We've got another day of work ahead of us tomorrow with no doubt more good food in store before heading back to Connecticut where I will definitely miss that soaking tub, the 1600-thread count sheets, and having someone else cook for me but probably not the paintbrush that had me thinking I was channeling my inner Barb all day! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Five on Friday - The ABBA Version

I've been kind of sporadic in not just blogging lately but also in remembering to play along with Travis' Five on Friday  meme but having gotten stuck in a continuous loop of old ABBA songs last night while taking care of some other things I decided I just had to share my ear-worm with everyone else this week!  I started out listening to some vintage Donna Summer in tribute to her passing and somehow ended up reliving some of my 70s days and listening to my favorite Swedish singing group!

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Now that I've hopefully got you singing along with "Mama Mia" and "SOS", Jamie and I are off to Vermont to spend a fun work-filled weekend at the Inn Victoria and I'm quite looking forward to seeing everyone from last year, cleaning a couple of chandeliers, and eating lobster among other things! That might not be some folks' idea of a great weekend but that's because they've never gone to Chester, Vermont and met Dan & Penny & Jess or stayed at their beautiful inn otherwise it would be!

Everyone have a great weekend no matter what it may find you doing!

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Recap of My Last Batch of Days Off With a Warning: Delicious Food Pictures Included!

Are we really in the middle of May already? How on earth did that happen? And why have I only written one whole post for the entire month so far? Why, you'd think I've been busy or something!  Of course, if you did think that then you'd be thinking right as it seems to me that life has been a bit more busy than usual though thankfully mostly in a good sort of way.

Before I get to me, though, just a quick update on my mom ... she's doing very, very well and will hopefully be able to go home sometime early this week.  She was moved from the hospital to a nursing home last Tuesday for some rehab in order to make sure that her right leg was working properly and that her balance wasn't off and to tweak a few other little things here and there that one doesn't even think about for the most part.  When I stopped in to visit her Saturday evening being that I would be working all day on Mother's Day, she said that she thought things were going really well and that she'd been practicing walking with a cane and chewing her food and fun things like that.  Her therapists all think she's doing wonderfully well so I'm hoping  for a trip home soon for her and then progressing on to that "you'll never even know you had a stroke" that her doctor at the hospital promised her would happen.  And I am ever mindful and thankful that it could have been so much worse of a stroke than it was as well as very thankful for all of the good thoughts and prayers that you folks sent her way.  I've got no doubt that they all helped tremendously!

Now, as for myself, this week was another quick trip up to Salem to touch base with some folks at the Hawthorne Hotel regarding a project that I'm working on for them.  Hopefully I'll be able to say more about it soon as we're getting close to I guess what you could call a "launch date".  I just need to finish a few things here and there but so far it's been a lot of fun - though a lot of work - and has given me all sorts of reasons to go up to the North Shore and explore new places while also spending some time with Juli and her husband Walt who are just two of the nicest people ever.  Add on the fact that Juli really knows the area and she has pointed me in the direction of some very cool places to explore.

For this last trip I took Amanda with me being that Jamie and I will be heading to Vermont on Friday for the Annual Work Weekend at the Inn Victoria which we are both totally looking forward to.  On this trip I figured that Amanda would be able to meet up with some of her friends from up around Boston while it gave Jamie some nice quiet time to enjoy herself at home as I traipsed around the North Shore with my Nikon in hand. A win-win for everyone!

During this visit to Salem, Amanda and I stayed in a lovely room on the second floor of the Fidelia Bridges Guest House which is part of the Hawthorne Hotel and which you may remember me telling you about before when Jamie and I stayed there last April. Formerly known as the Suzannah Flint House, the 1807 guest house is now named for one of the few successful female artists in the 19th and early 20th century.

Fidelia Bridges, born in the house in 1834 to a sea captain and his wife and who later moved to Philadelphia and studied painting for three years under William Trost Richards, was an oil painter who later took up watercolor painting with her work consisting mainly of very detailed pictures of flowers, birds, and plants in their natural surroundings. Most notably, Ms. Bridges was the only woman of six men in the group of notable 19th century artists in the American Watercolor Society before her death in 1923 in Canaan, Connecticut. For examples of some of her works, click here

The room we stayed in is called the Red and Gold Room and it's easy to see why!  My back thoroughly enjoyed the very comfortable queen-size bed while Amanda, after initial doubt, was very comfortable on the fold-out twin sleeper that the love seat becomes at night.  It was so comfortable she was rather hoping we could sneak it out to the car and bring it home with us but that obviously wasn't going to happen! 

One of the most interesting features of the room - aside from the really comfortable bedding! - is the fireplace which Juli told me is one that was quite possibly designed and built by Samuel McIntyre - a Salem native who was one of the earliest American architects specializing in the Federal style. McIntyre built almost exclusively in New England and Salem has a very large historic district named for him which contains 407 buildings and is the largest collection of pre-1900 domestic structures in all of America. Having the chance to stay in a room with a possible McIntyre piece may seem geeky to some but I thought it was pretty darned cool! 

When I wasn't oohing and aahing over the fireplace in our room, I was spending some time up the road from Salem in Gloucester while Amanda was spending the day with her friends. While there I took an awful lot of pictures - go figure! - including the ones below:

I spent several hours in different parts of Gloucester - and I could have happily spent several more just sitting and watching the waves crash on the rocks - before I met up with Juli and Walt for dinner at a little Mexican restaurant in downtown Gloucester called Jalapeno's where the food was más excelente!

Juli told me that she and Walt had been eating at Jalapeno's for about 13 years going there maybe 6 or 7 times a year and that even though all of the food is good, nine times out of ten she'll order the same thing so I followed her lead on the soup and we split an entree before the three of us shared a dessert. 

Tortilla Sopa - Julienne-cut tortillas in a light chicken broth with shredded cheese and avocado; it had just enough of a bite to make it perfect! 

Steak Gaonera - Charcoal-grilled steak, pan baked with Chihuahua and Monterrey Jack Cheese, topped with chilled guacamole. Oh my gosh, looking at this picture just makes my mouth water something awful remembering how delicious this was! 

A side of vegetables and rice with our steak was a very nice accompaniment; I thought the rice was done to perfection and probably the best Mexican-style rice I've had on the East Coast.

And to finish off the meal, the most delicious chocolate mousse ever served in a fried tortilla bowl!  I wish I'd had more room at the end of the meal to eat even just another spoonful or two but alas - no way Jose! 

Everything was really, really good and it was easy to see and taste why Juli orders the same thing most of the time!  The guacamole was so good that I would have been happy just eating a bucket of it and maybe a few chips as it was just that  good!  As I was looking around the room I have to admit that everything I saw the servers bring out and put on other diners' tables looked awfully darned good, too!  Jalapeno's is definitely a place I'd love to go back to sometime!  Why, oh why, can't Connecticut get decent Mexican food like Massachusetts?!? 

After dinner I climbed in the car to make the drive back over to Salem from Cape Ann and being that the clouds were providing such a lovely show in front of the windshield, I decided to snap a few pictures from the driver's seat of the road and scenery ahead of me.  I should probably point out that I don't hold the viewfinder up to my eye when taking these shots but simply put the camera on the steering wheel and hope for the best as I do try to be safe when doing this sort of thing - and I never do it when there's a lot of traffic.  Fortunately for me, the drive on Route 128 south from Gloucester to Salem wasn't bad at all Friday evening - it was actually very, very pleasant which isn't something I normally say about driving on the North Shore! 

This last shot I took while I was waiting for the light to change on the bridge between Salem and Beverly so I was at a complete stop.  The sky was definitely more dramatic in person but being that you weren't there with me, this is the best I can do to share!

As you can probably tell, it was a another very nice visit to Salem and the surrounding area and a lovely way to spend some days off - even though I was sort of "working" at the same time but work that's a lot more fun than dispatching ambulances!  Now if I could just somehow finagle making a living out of staying in beautiful accommodations, taking pictures, eating good food, and wandering around Massachusetts I'd be one very happy woman!