Thursday, December 29, 2011

Panetone and other delights

For years I've been seeing these beautiful  boxes in the stores at Christmas time.  But I didn't really know what it was, only that it's an Italian seasonal tradition.  This year I was given one by my son's girlfriend, whose family indulges in this delicious cake for breakfast.  This one is from Milan, where the cake originated.  Isn't the box lovely?

And here's what was inside the box.  It's a tall cake, rich and soft, loaded with golden raisins and candied fruit.  Sweet but not cloying and easy to pull apart with your fingers for a nibble.  I think this is one treat that will become part of our Christmas tradition too.

We've had a wonderful time visiting with Jamie and Brooke, who are here from Vancouver for the holidays.  And to continue on the Italian theme, tonight I'm making a five course Italian dinner for them and for our other son Ben and his girlfriend Katy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What A Wonderful World

This clip has astonishing wildlife photographs of our most wonderful world. Happy holidays.

What A Wonderful World - David Attenborough

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bokeh dots

I've always loved polka dots and the other night while out with my camera I discovered how to make bokeh dots.  If you don't know, bokeh is the blur that comes from photographing points of light with the camera out of focus.

I've finally mastered getting this effect with seasonal lights.  Hint: use the macro setting or focus on something close in with the lights in the background.

Here's a selection of holiday dots.

Have you rebounded from the Christmas festivities?  Or are they still continuing?  After three non-stop days of hosting and being hosted, we will have a quiet day tomorrow.  A time to make soup and organize the house.

Hope your holidays were full of love and joy.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Solstice Lights

I love the solstice light, the softness of the sun so low in the sky.  And yesterday and today were perfect days to get out and take some photos.  But I didn't.  Too busy wrapping, decorating, baking, and preparing.  We're back from our trip and into the Christmas hustle. So here are some seasonal lights done with a moving camera.  Happy solstice.  Rejoice that the light is returning.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Posting from Paia

We're sitting in the Paia Bay Cafe with internet access.  Outside this cozy place the cars are spashing through puddles.  We're on the rainy windward side of the island passing the time until our plane leaves tonight at 11:40 pm.  We'll fly through the night (hopefully sleeping) and arrive in Vancouver at 7:10 tomorrow morning (Vancouver time).  We've had a lovely escape.

I'll post some photos once we're home as I want to show you Io's needle, the sweet town of Paia, some lovely sunset and cloud photos and still more flower photos.  Here are just two to warm your day.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sunrise through the fog

Yesterday we got a very early start, up at 4:00 in the morning to head up the twisty road to Haleakala, Maui's volcanic crater to watch the sunrise.  The stars were shining as we drove up and up and up, finally reaching the parking lot (elevation 9700 feet) at around 6:00.  It was just starting to get light but there were dozens of people clustered at the edge of the crater waiting in the freezing cold wind.  The temperature dropped by at least 35 degrees F from the bottom to the top of the road, and the wind chill was brutal. 

But the view was beautiful. Clouds filled the huge crater from one side to another with the color of the rising sun in the distance. 

At one point the clouds retreated enough that we could see down into the crater.  It's a huge area, big enough to hold the Manhattan, with 27 miles of trails through it.  But then the clouds came back again and spilled over the top, enveloping us all in fog.

By the time the sun finally rose it was behind a fog bank so it wasn't as spectacular as we had hoped.  By then we'd been standing around in the freezing wind for about forty minutes so we headed back down the mountain...

with a quick stop to photograph the rare Silver Sword Cactus, which grows only on the highest part of Haleakala.

Then down we went to the warm beaches.  No need for our scarves and toques for the rest of the trip.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reef life in Maui

Our first day here was pretty stormy, with wind and rain and clouds, so we decided to check out the Aquarium to learn about the fish in these waters.  The Maui Ocean Centre has excellent exhibits, focusing on local reef dweller and the bigger fish from the deeper part of the ocean.

It was tough to get good photos through the glass with the fish moving around but I managed to capture a few.  I especially like the color play on the little fish, and the mysterious moon jellies.

The finale  of the aquarium visit is the shark tunnel, where you can walk through a glass tunnel beneath a huge pool full of tiger sharks, sting rays, hammerheads, among others.  It’s very cool (and a bit startling) to see the underside of the rays and the sharks.

Here are Aaron and Laura sitting beneath a school of fish (tuna maybe?).  And just below that you can see the underside of a happy, smiling ray and a hammerhead shark floating by.

We’re planning to go on a snorkel trip if the weather gets better and it’s nice to have some knowledge of the fish ahead of time.  I’m looking forward to seeing some of the tropical fish, but not so much the sharks and rays

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A travel day

We are on the ferry to Vancouver to get the bus to the Canada Line, which will take us to the airport where we'll get on a flight to Maui for a week.  This little trip is an indulgence before the Christmas rush, well maybe even an avoidance of the Christmas rush.  We're staying with friends Aaron and Laura who have a timeshare there.  Looking out the window of the ferry at the slate blue water whipped into whitecaps by an icy wind, it's hard to believe that tonight we'll arrive in a place with warm turquoise water.

It's been more than 20 years since I was last in Hawaii and the thing I remember most of all was that warm swimmable water.  I'll post a few photos from Maui--and I hope it doesn't make you too jealous.  This one is from google images of the water off of Maui.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quail in the garden

Our winter bird feeder's been up on the grape arbor for a month now, and it's very well attended by sparrows, finches, juncoes and other small birds.  But the other day we had a new visitor gleaning the dropped seeds from the grass below--a big fat quail.  I don't know enough to say what kind but it's very identifiable by the little curl on top of its head.

Just a day later Harry spotted a few more in the yard.  In fact there are four regular visitors now.  I think there are two males and two females.  They usually come together and wander around among the other birds scratching and feeding on the ground.

They're very shy so I can't get a good photo.  Even a shadow of movement at the window and they start running across the grass with their heads high and their curls bobbing.  We feel so lucky to be able enjoy watching these visitors from our kitchen window.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sidney by the Sea

Just 15 minutes north of us on the way to the ferries is the little town of Sidney.  They call it Sidney by the Sea now to attract tourists I guess, and it really is by the sea.  The main street heads right down to the wharf where you can buy fresh fish.  And to each side of the wharf there are walkways along the water.  We took the dogs there the other day for a little walk and here's the view.  

These are definitely winter skies and water but aren't the colors lovely?  I really like the leaden colors, especially when contrasted with the horizon of pink.

There's lots to see along the walkway; for example ducks of many varieties and driftwood transformed into art supplies to mark the location of the local arts council.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why are these sheep running?

If you don't look closely you might wonder why these sheep are running.  But the tip of the  black tail of the border collie behind the gate on the right hand side tells you what's happening.  It's a herding dog at work.

The other day we happened on a field where a young man was working with his lovely border collie.  I think the dog is in training as it took him a number of tries to get the sheep going in the right direction.

 Here the dog is in the classic border collie stance--slightly crouched, head down, walking slowly up behind the sheep.  But every time he'd get close to the gate he'd get excited and come in faster.

Then the sheep would veer off, and the trainer would whistle another command.  The dog would move off in a different direction to try again.
Below you can see the collie moving fast on the outside to try outflanking the sheep to turn them.This happened several times as they kept getting away.  But the dog was enjoying every moment of it.  Just look at the huge smile on his face.  

Finally everything went right and dog was able to drive the four sheep through the gate.  You can see the boy opening the gate to let them in.  Here the dog is in a "down" and the sheep are moving well.

I so enjoy watching border collies work this way.  The connection between the handler, the dog and the sheep is like a dance done with incredible focus.

If I'd had the time and money I would have loved to do this work with my dog Geordie.  He has a strong herding instinct and we did spend a weekend learning the basics a few years ago.  Sadly, without land or sheep it would only have been an expensive hobby and I decided not to pursue it.  But it's wonderful to watch it when the chance arises.

By the way, Geordie loves sheep, but my other dog Maggie doesn't even seem to notice them.  For her it's all about the tennis ball or the frisbee.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Even in December

December brings its own beauty in the woods and the garden, even above the 49th parallel.  Although  though the trees have dropped their leaves and the garden is going to sleep, new things appear.

Like the lovely snowberries that glisten like Christmas decorations in the woods...

And the delicate viburnum flower, budding here in my friend's yard.

I'm linking these to macro monday at Lisa's Chaos, where people post closeup shots once a week.  Check it out for other macros.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Opals in the gutter

What beauty lies along the side of the road if you happen to look down.  These tiny leaves each held shimmering shimmering opals of rainwater.