Steaming consolation

Split-Pea-Soup-2Hot soup on a cold day is the greatest of comforts, isn’t it? This particular soup is a favorite; it’s a vegetarian split-pea that’s simple and comes together quickly. What makes it special is how I garnish it… olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and smokey Spanish paprika. Served with a crusty bread, it’s an unexpectedly delicious wintertime meal.

I never really liked split-pea soup until this recipe. My mother-in-law used to send over a jar at least once a month and I dutifully ate it, but never enjoyed it. She made it with ham, as is usual, but I think the ham flavor was the turn-off for me. If only I’d known that the simple addition of lemon and smoked paprika could’ve transformed it into something wonderful!

It lasts for always

peepermarch09 Peeper the rabbit died today. She was pretty old and quite shabby, but I loved her just as much today as when she was splendid and new. I’d loved most of her whiskers off, the pink linings of her ears had gone gray, and her brown fur was falling out. She even began to lose her shape and scarcely looked like a rabbit to anyone but me. To me she was always beautiful and very, very Real. Love is real and it lasts for always.

If you’ve read The Velveteen Rabbit, you’ll know how happy I was to give her my heart all these years so that she could become Real. I will miss her.

Just shooting

IMG_5639Since being back in Atlanta, I’ve gone out with a couple local photography groups to participate in meet-up events; I’m doing this to meet new people and hopefully find new, interesting places for photography, but also to maybe learn some proper photography techniques.

We went a couple weeks ago to photograph an abandoned Astroturf factory and later in the day visited Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens. The gardens are a dizzying, dazzling maze of sculptural monuments, embellished outbuildings, found-object assemblages, and elaborately painted signs, all interconnected by a series of inlaid concrete walkways. I visited there a couple years ago and was happy to find the gardens in better shape than last time. There’s even a new visitor’s center (and a much expanded “gift shop”). It’s an interesting place and worth a visit if you’re in the area or have a particular interest in visionary or “outsider” art. This summer while in NJ, we took a day trip to Philly and visited the Philadelphia Magic Gardens, which have a similar feel, but on a much crazier scale.

At any rate, what I enjoy most about meeting and shooting with other photographers is the opportunity to see how each of us approaches photography differently; we all share photos on Instagram (via a common hashtag) and it’s really interesting to see the various perspectives and points of view of others in the group. We’re a diverse bunch, with varying skill levels from novice to professional. If you’re interested (and on IG) check us out with #atlantaurbanphotowalkers.

Long time, no see

Well, hello!

Long time, no see.

I know it’s been months, but I’m still here. Are you?

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I don’t have anything much to say; just checking in and doing some blog maintenance. I’ve added a widget that links to my Instagram feed; that’s fun, I think.

I’ll be back shortly.

How to: play hide and seek

Hide and Seek (beachnesting bird version) is a game where threatened and endangered chicks attempt to conceal their location in order to grow up and survive. It’s pretty basic, but various challenges have arisen throughout the years making the game more difficult. All you need to play are a few beachnesting friends and some hiding and spying skills. This game is a great way for chicks to practice real-world survival skills!

IMG_0941Step one: find a suitable location

An outdoor location near the coast works best and it should have plenty of sand and pebbles or clam shells. It will be necessary to set boundaries for hiding or you will have chicks running off to too many far-off locations. It’s not called Run a Mile and Go Seek!

  • If you’re playing with your parents around, make sure they know what’s going on. They may not want you hiding in the driftwood at the wrack line, under the lifeguard stand, or too close to the water.
  • Try to play in different places every time. If you play every game in the same spot, then the birds who play “it” (predators) will remember the good places and search there first.

IMG_1033Step two: select the players and set down the rules

  • If you have players of different ages, take this into consideration. Younger chicks can fit more places, but they sometimes choose less-than-brilliant places to hide and don’t have the longest of attention spans.
  • If you do not set down rules, you will have chicks running to places that shouldn’t be hidden in — either unhatched eggs end up breaking or another pair’s territory gets intruded upon — or someone gets eaten by a laughing gull.
  • Make sure everyone stays safe. You don’t want your friends running out in front of loose dogs or hiding beneath a fish crow’s perch.

IMG_0992Step three: choose someone to be “it”

  • Working out who is “It” can be done a variety of ways, for instance: the youngest chick might be “It” first; or the chick who is closest to fledging can be “it” first; or use an elimination word game, such as “One Potato, Two Potato” or similar game. Or just pick a number out of a hat, and #1 is “It”.

IMG_1112When playing with chicks, an adult is often a good person to be “it”

  • If one chick is older than the rest, they might make a natural “It.” Adult birds have longer attention spans and can think outside of the box better than their offspring.

IMG_0713Step four: start counting out loud

  • Once the bird who will be “It” has been chosen, he or she closes his or her eyes and begins counting out loud to a decided number at a steady pace. Or they could say a rhyme or sing a song. Anything that kills some time so everyone else can go hide!
  • Make sure there’s no cheating! The bird who is “It” needs to have their eyes closed, wings over their eyes, and preferably facing the water. No peeking!

IMG_0721Step five: start hiding!

  • All of the chicks who are not “It” should run off and quietly hide from the bird who is counting. The bird who is “It” is not allowed to peek at the birds hiding from him or her. Make sure you’re quiet as you’re hiding or “It” can use his or her ears to tell the general direction you went.

IMG_0619Once you find your hiding spot, be silent and still

  • You don’t want to give yourself up once you’re hidden! . If you’re noisy, even the best hiding spot won’t conceal you.
  • Remember the goal is to be invisible!

IMG_1000When a young chick is “it”, don’t hide too well…

LETE chick copyor the game can get too frustrating for them

  • The younger you are, the more frustrated you could get with other chicks who are really good hiders.

IMG_4083Step six: keep your eyes open and start searching!

  • Once the bird who is “It” has finished counting, he or she yells “Ready or not, here I come!” At this point, they must try to find all of the other chicks who have hidden. Be sure to look with your eyes and listen with your ears!
  • If you are hiding and “It” is close to discovering you, move deftly. Crawling or slithering are the best options. However, if it is too late, be still and silent. The “It” can actually overlook you and go away.
  • The chicks who are hiding can move or switch hiding places, if they so choose. It’s a good idea to change positions and go hide in a place the seeker has already looked. That’s called a survival strategy.

Good luck and have fun!

Spring rituals

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
~Rainer Maria Rilke

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On the first day of March, a coworker from Bulgaria gave me this Martenitsa made from red and white yarn to wear as a bracelet until I saw my first sign of the coming spring: a swallow, a stork, or a flowering tree. Wearing the Martenitsa in the meantime would assure me of good luck and health in the coming year. I’m happy to report that just yesterday, I found a suitably beautiful blooming tree on which to hang my lucky charm, as the Bulgarian ritual dictates. Winter is officially over!

Have any spring rituals of your own to share? Ever heard of this one?

Ghosts of an ugly past

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The Gold Dust Twins have been hidden from view for more than 90 years on Auburn Avenue in d’town Atlanta, but a 2008 tornado and the recent demolition of an adjacent building have uncovered this hand-painted ghost sign from the early 1900’s when Sweet Auburn was a thriving African American business district.

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The Gold Dust twins were one of the earliest brand-driven trademarks in American advertising during the late 19th century that drew heavily on negative African American racial stereotypes. The twins were often comically depicted, along with a huge stack of dishes in a washtub, and the images appeared on product packaging, in print advertising, and full-color murals painted on buildings throughout the South.

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Despite what many consider to be one of the most racist ad campaigns in history, there is talk of what place, if any, this iconic piece of history has in the revitalization of the Sweet Auburn district.

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On its route up and down Auburn Avenue, the shiny new d’town streetcar passes the Gold Dust Twins and then this mural of Congressman John Lewis; I hope the incongruity of images sparks conversation among its riders.

Good vibrations

Your paradigm of an alligator, if you happen to have one, is likely of a large, aquatic, mostly solitary reptile, according to a statistic I just made up.

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If you’re at all like me, you also think they’re kinda scary, when you remember to think of them at all.ย  As someone who’s only just learning about alligators, I have to constantly remind myself of the possibility of an alligator whenever I kneel down at the edge of a pond or marsh here in the Southeast.

The Georgia coast and Florida are rich in ‘gators. There are large gators and baby-sized gators; gators who sun themselves and camouflaged gators and midnight-black gators; puddle gators and swamp gators and stealthy, silent-as-death gators; smiling, don’t-you-want-to-pet-me gators and American Coot-eating gators; and just this past weekend at St. Marks NWR, I can add to my list: bellowing gators; andโ€ฆ well, very many gators.

Alligators aren’t an everyday worry for me here in the city, so a lot of the year is pretty shy on them. But when we travel south looking for ducks here for the winter, the gators make their presence known, taking up residence on banks and logs, near salt water and brackish, flowing and still. They are one of my very favorite surprises of living in the South, though it takes a certain amount of caution to enjoy them. If you want to be safe, loving alligators from a distance is a good place to start.

And that bellowing sound they make… the closest thing I can liken it to is a motorboat that’s slow to start.

Ever heard it?

Just me rambling about birds, books, bunnies, or whatever!