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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – And Here Comes The Holiday Season

Ho! Ho! Ho! Here comes the holiday season. Amid all the fun and jollity of the holiday season, over the years, we have experienced some epic highs and lows; the birth of one of our grandsons, the arrival of my Mum & Dad from England and the wedding of our eldest daughter last year were some of our happier moments, countered by the time said daughter had her car broken into while visiting and all the Christmas presents in the trunk stolen, same daughter having four wisdom teeth removed the day before she was due to host dinner resulting in the quick transfer of an enormous turkey to our house and finding the oven too small to cope with it, an exploding apple pie that sent shards of glass all over the kitchen (a story for another day) and countless times when the toilet malfunctioned while the house was filled with guests liberally supplied with soda and alcoholic beverages. Which leads me to this year’s debacle.

As I mentioned to a fellow blogger the other day, the only interaction we’ve had with anyone outside the family for most of this year, other than the grocery store cashier, has been with the guys who came to replace our wall oven and cook top, the chaps who put in a new furnace last month and the plumbers who showed up to mend a leaking water pipe in the basement three days ago. While we had them on the spot, we asked them if they would rod out the main sewer line and lo and behold they discovered 20ft of broken pipe.

We had already resigned ourselves to the fact that, because of COVID, we would be spending this Christmas on our own, something unheard of in the history of our family, but the idea that a large section of the garden, that I had worked hard to maintain throughout the year was about to be destroyed was the last straw.

I have to commend the plumbing company for their promptness. They were out here first thing yesterday morning, tearing everything out with a backhoe while I was still in my pajamas. I had hoped to nip out there and see if there was anything I could rescue before they started, but no chance. A beautiful mock orange shrub, whose roots were probably the cause of the trouble, was wrenched out of the ground along with hydrangeas, peonies, irises, daylilies, poppies and dozens of other perennials including next spring’s daffodils and tulips. I told myself I wouldn’t even look out of the window while all this was going on, but I did, and deeply regretted it.

On the bright side, everything in the house is functioning properly, and we can now well and truly say that, at least for us, this year has officially been flushed down the toilet!

Wishing everyone happy and healthy Seasons Greetings and an even brighter New Year. Goodness knows, we could use both!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Now and Then

This week, Amy is taking a view of Now and Then for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. These pictures are not that great but they help to illustrate my take on the theme. I have to confess, I was feeling rather blue yesterday at the thought of spending Thanksgiving Day on our own. Despite a Zoom meeting with the family in the morning, which just isn’t the same as actually being with them all, I was positively down in the dumps and, just about when we would normally be sitting down to dinner, I had a bit of a cry.

Then I looked out of the window. There, in the garden, were no less than fourteen mourning doves, all sitting comfortably outside the kitchen, waiting to be fed. It was just the number that would have been gathered around our table. What are the odds!! I’ve never seen that many doves at one time before and it lifted my spirits more than I can say.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – A Labor of Love

This week, guest host Rusha Sams from ‘Oh, The Places We See‘ has chosen A Labor of Love as the topic for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge.  Usually around this time of year, my eldest daughter buys tickets for us to go and see a concert or show together to celebrate my birthday. I rarely go to anything like that throughout the rest of the year so seeing a show and spending time with her makes it an extra-special treat. Over the years we’ve seen Carmen, Orpheus and Eurydice and Die Fledermaus at the Lyric, concerts at Ravinia, Shen Yun and a host of other amazing performances, but this year, because of Covid, this particular form of birthday gift wasn’t an option.  So instead, the dear girl made me a fairy garden complete with fairy lights.

And what made this, above all other previous treats, so extra special was the fact that she had taken time from an exceedingly busy schedule, working as DNP at hospitals that involve hour-long commutes, to do it. She scoured local antique and hobby stores for the right pieces and put it all together with live succulents and plants in what can only be described as a Labor of Love.

Her creativity is not surprising, she is, after all, the mother of grandson and recently published author, Justin, and it’s not difficult to see from whom he gets his thoughtful and caring personality. So many of my collections here at the house are, in large part, thanks to her generous nature.

Finding a home for the garden wasn’t easy. It’s quite substantial and needed a solid base, so when my son-in law staggered in with it on Saturday evening, I had to quickly make a space in the sun-room. I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t be moving to another location anytime soon.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Creativity in the Time of Covid

This week, Tina is looking at Creativity in the Time of Covid as the subject for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. An amazing piece of timing from my perspective as you will see.

While capturing images in the garden, I’ve very often focused my attention on bees, partly because they make interesting if not always cooperative subjects to photograph, but also because my grandson broadcasts a regular podcast called The God Of Honeybees. Yesterday he became a published author for the first time with a book of the same title. I am so proud of him and his achievements as you will have no doubt already surmised if you have read any of my posts in which he has featured including Happy 21st Birthday Grandson and  Collage – A Celebration.

Note; The cover image is by David Provolo and the book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I don’t know if I will ever be able to match Justin’s creative writing abilities although I hope eventually to get my stories published (something else I can work on while I’m stuck at home thanks to COVID.) Meanwhile I will continue to look for bees in the garden.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Distance

This week, Tina has chosen Distance as the topic for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. Let me say right up front that I can’t take credit for this picture, but I thought it was so cute that I wanted to share it. My daughter sent it to me. They just arrived at their new house this week, the move having been planned long before all this virus business got going. There’s no social distancing between these two. They are best buddies and have lived in three different US states together so far. For the past year or so, the only view they had from their 10th-floor apartment window was the offices across the street. Now they can look out at a garden and even see bunnies if they’re lucky. The distance between us is further than it was, but long distances mean nothing now that we can no longer visit. All I can do is pray that they stay safe. I can’t wait for the day when I can look out of this window with them.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Future

What does she, the darling descendant of a fortune-telling traveler, see in her future? It is certainly less bleak than that of my great-grandmother and her 11 siblings who were brought up in the poorhouses of London, but is it secure?  If the children are our future, then hopefully it will not be too late for her generation to put right the wrongs that have been done in the name of power, profit and political gain, especially over the past few years.

This is my response to Ann-Christine’s request for us to look to the Future for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Love In A Pumpkin Patch

Once again, an amazingly opportune choice of subject from Ann-Christine for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge which this week is Candid. On Saturday we held our 3rd annual Family Fall Festival which always gives me a great chance to take some candid shots but for this challenge I’m focusing on one particular aspect of a wonderful family reunion.  Our grandson got engaged in the pumpkin patch!  I was asked to take pictures but we were instructed not to give the game away too soon, so all 25 of us were ambling around the pumpkin patch trying to appear very nonchalant without missing the big moment. It wasn’t easy!

Winding Down

Things are winding down now in our garden and this is when most of the hard work begins. There are still a few flowers about, although most of the plants and shrubs have been trimmed, thinned or eliminated altogether depending on how well they’ve done this year.

The rabbits have stuffed themselves to bursting point on whatever they could get hold of, including the bird seed and my best lilies.

The birds are on the move and making their way south so we are seeing some different species from the usual sparrows.  This one showed up last week. It was fairly small with a distinctive yellow rump. Not sure what it is so if anyone has any ideas I’d be happy to hear from you.

The cosmos and marigold flowers are particularly colorful right now and are attracting the last few butterflies. There are still a lot of bees buzzing about too, which leads me to an ideal opportunity to give my grandson’s podcast God of Honeybees a plug. The latest episode is about the study of consciousness. Interesting stuff so I hope you’ll give it a listen.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Countryside Or Darkside

Another brilliant piece of timing by Amy in choosing Countryside for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week!  Last weekend we rented a log cabin in the Wisconsin countryside (a first) so the whole family could get together.  Daughters, spouses, grandkids and us, experiencing the joys of country living, at least for a couple of days.  As someone once said, “It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”  Don’t get me wrong. We had a wonderful time but there are just some things that I cannot get used to.

The bugs! My God! The bugs!! If nothing else, the size and quantity of bugs in the countryside make this city girl want to stay close to the city.  When we arrived at the cabin we were greeted by screams and shrieks coming from inside. “Aaaagh! Kill it! Kill it!”  This coming from the kid who once travelled up the Amazon in Peru and trekked through the jungle in Thailand. Even she was having a hard time dealing with the bugs in Wisconsin.

I don’t know why it is, but I feel far less comfortable in the countryside than I do in the city.  My imagination seems to get the better of me and my nightmares threaten to become a reality. Speaking of nightmares, I have this recurring one where I am walking in the country and suddenly come upon a wild animal, usually a lion.  I don’t doubt there is a psychological explanation for it but it makes me very nervous when I’m hiking through the woods.

Everything seems to take on a sinister appearance in the countryside and my fear of birds takes on an added dimension.

Even the most innocuous country scene promises to hide some new danger. Was that a bear I saw lurking among the bushes?

We were obliged to take refuge in the cabin for several hours one afternoon when we heard the sound of someone taking target practice close by.  Apparently I feel far less threatened by all the shooting that takes place in Chicago, even though, looking at it logically, the odds are probably in my favor here in the Wisconsin countryside.  And I probably stand more chance of being mauled to death by a pit bull in Chicago than I do of being dispatched by a bear in Wisconsin. But there it is. Give me the city over the countryside every time, except for short visits.

 

Lego At The Zoo

Having spent countless hours with the grandchildren, over the years, trying to make anything remotely recognizable out of Lego, I can appreciate how much work went into creating the more than 40 life-size creatures that featured in Brookfield Zoo’s Brick Safari this summer.

Do these creations qualify as sculptures? I’m not sure, but they are certainly works of art.

The resulting photos have the rather weird effect of looking over-pixelated ( if that’s the correct term.)

One of my favorites was Lance the Leopard who required 42,500 bricks and 340 hours to complete.

It took 375 hours and 110,000 bricks to make Grace the Giraffe who weighs in at 1,652 pounds.  That’s a lot of Lego!

The rhinoceros took 155,000 bricks and 403 hours to complete, while Eli the Elk took a mere 87,464 bricks. 

The grizzly bears were quite impressive, taking 136,569 bricks and 382 hours to build.  They looked quite at home in this woodland setting.

I’m not sure who worked on these amazing pieces but all I can say is, “Well done!”