Saturday, July 30, 2011

A new addition to our family

Remember in my last post I mentioned that I had some big news to share?  Well, I'm happy to introduce our new little addition to our family:

His name is Ranger and he is an eight-week-old Rhodesian Ridgeback.  He's only been home with us a few hours, and he is still a little timid of his new surroundings.  But the Bachsters have been so doting and attentive and loving with him - I think they're all going to be best pals.  We are all so excited (with the exception of the cats)!

I'll share more pics as our little pup gets settled in!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Intarsia Land

It's been a long time since I've blogged anything knitting-related, but I can assure you that there is lots of behind-the-scenes knitting happening!  Probably not as much as I should be/want to be doing, but knitting all the same.  I just took a little break recently from my current project, and was shocked to see when I picked the needles back up that my work sat for about 2 weeks.  Probably because my current project is very intarsia-y - I think my brain just needed a little summer vacation!

I always knit in my Big Comfy Chair, and it has been completely invaded by yarn!  This is definitely not a portable project:

This is the back side of the work - scary, I know:

I don't really like using bobbins, so I have all these little balls of yarn dangling.  I had to rip out a few rows the other day and I was so scared that it would get all twisted up, but I'm happy to say that I overcame that obstacle and am back on track!

I promise to share the finished product as soon as possible!

(By the way, check back in a few days....I have some very exciting news to share.  Something BIG!)


Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Nook - Lunch in Paris

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes written by Elizabeth Bard.

I was at our local bookstore recently when I saw this book; I could never, ever just pass by a book called Lunch in Paris, so naturally, I picked it up and perused through it.  It certainly got my interest, & I was thrilled to see that my library had a copy!

The book chronicles the author's new life in Paris.  The story starts with her first date with her husband - the meal they enjoyed at a Parisian restaurant, the tea he made for them later at his apartment and the meal he prepared for them later that night.  After each chapter, there are recipes for some of the dishes that the author incorporates into her stories.

The thing that I enjoyed the most about this book is the description of the little ways that France & the U.S. differ.  Sometimes they are small things, like no one eats any snacks at a day at the beach (I found the chapter with Bard's observations about why her mother-in-law is skinny to be really fascinating).  And there are other differences, like how Gwendal, Bard's husband, was never encouraged to follow the career path he really wanted because it didn't pay well, it was hard to get into and his parents didn't know any contacts in that field so they couldn't have asked anyone to assist him.  Or, how when Gwendal's father was dying of cancer, Bard noted that in France, authority is expressed by saying no (the Dr. got mad at them when the family hinted that they wanted a second opinion), whereas in the US, power is often displayed by a person's ability to say yes: being able to open the right doors for someone, or cash in favors.  Bard's insights are very interesting, and really only achievable by having lived in both cultures.

As for the recipes, many of them sound great.  I made the chouquettes for breakfast a few days ago & they were very good.  I told the Bachsters that I was making French donuts, which is sort of true (except for the shape).  We all gobbled them up.  The chocolate souffle is on my list to make, even though I'm trying to not eat desserts!  The potato and celery root mash sounds like a good variation on mashed potatoes.

In all, this is an enjoyable story about a young woman falling in love with her "l'homme de ma vie" as well as falling in love with Paris, its charms, its idiosyncrasies and its food!  There are lots of interesting insights into the French culture, as well as tons of stories about delicious meals, followed by recipes.  If you love all things French, you must check out this book - tout suite!

(By the way, you can check out Elizabeth Bard's blog at to find out what she & Gwendal are up to, where they are living now and all about their new little addition.) 


Friday, July 22, 2011

Magical Hocking Hills

Last weekend, DH & I took the Bachsters and my wonderful sister-in-law to Hocking Hills for a little day trip.  We went there last year at this same time (see the post about it here), so we joked that it was like a Hocking Hills reunion!

The Hocking area is so beautiful & we're fortunate to have it within a quick drive from our home.  Yet, despite being so close, it's really worlds away.  The scenery is gorgeous, with waterfalls, forests, gorges, cliffs, and lots of insects we don't see everyday.  So many neat insects!  While we were there, we saw a click beetle, a few types of butterflies, two types of millipede, a cicada that let the Bachsters hold it........and these little magical creatures.  I have no idea what they are, but they are like floating fluffballs.  I really wish I had taken some macro shots of these little fairies, because they are so fascinating:

Everywhere we looked, it was green and lush, with ferns and moss covering everything:

This is actually a reflection in the creek - the water was so clear.  When we first set out on our hike, we saw a neat water snake and admired him from afar (the best way):

Our hike took us along the bottom of a gorge, and the light coming in was so beautiful, shafts of light peeking in through the treetops at the rim.  In some areas, it was almost a spotlight, as this butterfly discovered:

This shot sort of sums up our excursion: look around in awe & climb over stuff:

It's so interesting when ferns or plants grow in little nooks & crannies in a rock, or on the side of a cliff or some other inhospitable spot.  If given just a small amount of encouragement, they will find a way:

It was really a wonderful day & we all promised ourselves that it won't be an entire year until we get back again!

Hope you have a fun excursion planned for the weekend!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

To the pond

One of my favorite subjects to shoot is dragonflies, and this is the time of year to do it.  So, the other day, the Bachsters and I went to a gorgeous pond to take some shots and play.  It's really amazing how much life can be at a pond, things you don't often notice until you stop and observe for a while......this is one of the reasons I love photography!

This shot is a male Eastern Pondhawk - they are common all over the state of Ohio.  The males have a powdery blue body, while the females have a really cool green color with a black pattern.  We saw both while we were at the pond, as well as at least 3 or 4 other kinds of dragonflies.

One of the things I love about bringing the Bachsters along with me on photoshoots is that they love to explore.  What could be better than exploring and playing at a pond on a lovely summer afternoon?  My oldest was fascinated with the fish in the water, Little Dude sat by me and helped me spot dragonflies.  And the 6-year-old?  She was busy saving a damselfly from a spider's web (luckily, the owner was out at the time).  So, here is her tiny Fragile Forktail damselfly, saved from a horrible fate:

I was pleasantly surprised to see these beautiful purple flowers at the pond's edge.  And even happier to see that butterflies, hummingbird moths and bumblebees were all over them.  So, this is where I spent most of my time: sitting by these flowers, just watching (and occasionally photographing) all the activity around me.

It was such a lovely afternoon, hanging out at the pond:

What is one of your favorite places to spend a summer afternoon?


Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Nook - The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

I bought this book at a local used bookstore several years ago for a measly $0.50.  I had already read the book and so when I spotted it on the shelf, I felt as if I had discovered buried treasure.  And this book is indeed a treasure - a literary one - and I was almost ashamed to pay such a small sum for it.  Even today I feel that I should send Donna Tartt a check in the mail, because really she deserves much more than what I paid!  (This brings up an interesting side-topic, I think: what is the value of great literature?  Priceless, surely.)

Anyway, onto the novel: this is a story of 6 students at a small university in Vermont that comprise the Classic Greek department's student body.  Our narrator is Richard, from Plano, California, who is intrigued by this exclusive group.  Julian is their professor - he is whimsical and brilliant (a "divinity" as one character refers to him).  The others are Henry (the leader), Francis (rich), the twins Camilla and Charles (ethereal) and Bunny (loud).  If my descriptions are lacking it is due to Tartt's amazing ability to create 3-dimensional characters.  These people live and breathe and practically jump off the pages - I can't even sum them up in a sentence or two because they are all so complex and alive.

The plot is equally complex.  The group murders Bunny.  Don't worry, knowing this doesn't spoil the story at all because this fact is revealed in the first sentence of the prologue.  However, the circumstances which lead up to this event are a surprise so I won't say anymore.  The novel is broken up into two books and the pacing of book one is quick (conversly, the pace of book two is much slower until we near the climax of the novel - this is my only real complaint about it.  However, Tartt has some surprises in store for the reader in book two).  I had trouble putting it down once I started to get into the story.

Some may read this lengthy novel and critique it for needing some editing.  In all truth, it probably could have been edited down a bit - there are a lot of scenes that detail drinking, hanging around reading, smoking & sleeping until late afternoon.  However, as I re-read the novel recently, I think even the scenes that seem like excess really help to define the characters and setting.  It's a true testament to Donna Tartt's excellent writing, because not every writer can pull that off.  She knows her craft well, and leads us down the road with skill.   Actually, it's more like a maze than a road, and only Tartt knows the way out, but we must follow (and put our trust in) her through all the twists and turns.

There are a great many references to Greek literature & language, pop culture, Latin, religion, you name it and none of them are annotated.  Doesn't matter though because you can infer the meaning based on the sentence & what's going on in the story.  I just bring this up because Tartt must have done a great deal of research for the novel, as these things are all expertly included (in fact, she acknowledges a great number of people).  It helps make the characters just that much more believable (and in some ways, that much more intimidating, as Richard experiences when first meeting them).

I don't think whatever praise I can give it will do the novel justice.  It's almost like trying to critique the Venus de Milo (keeping with the ancient Greek theme) - great art and literature is timeless and stands on its own.  The Secret History is a great work of literature for its richly drawn characters, well executed plot, vivid settings and intelligent prose.  Like great art, it can be debated, but this is my $0.02 (or in this case, my $0.50).


Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Nook - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby is an aptly-named, depressing little book.  It doesn't intend to make the reader sad; rather, I think it sets out to just be honest.  But in that honesty, there is a great deal of melancholy.

When the author was 43 years old, he had a life changing experience: he had a massive stroke, which should have killed him, but thanks to modern technology, he survived and now lives in a state of vegetation, except for his mind.  He has what is known as "locked-in-syndrome."  He can hear everything (except his hearing was damaged some by the stroke), can see out of one eye and has all of his mental facilities.  He just cannot move at all, with the exception of blinking one eyelid.  And that is how he wrote this book.  His writing assistant would recite the alphabet, starting with the letters most used in the French language, and the author would blink when she came to the letter he wanted.  So, he had to compose and edit the entire book in his mind and then go through the laborious process to get his words on the page.  That alone is reason enough to read and admire the book.

But there is so much more: Bauby is also an excellent writer, and his chapters are serene and contemplative.  He imagines his 9-year-old daughter's prayers floating up to the sky and protecting him from harm.  He imagines his old friend driving from Paris to the seaside town where he resides, to visit him, and what his friend must be thinking, and dreading, about the visit.  He tells of the sadness of having a one-sided phone conversation with his elderly father, never being able to speak or even grunt any acknowledgements.  He tells of a trip outdoors to the beach, and the wonderful smell of french fries, even though he will never be able to enjoy them again.  He recalls a past road trip with a girlfriend when they were on the cusp of breaking up their relationship, and they just happened to take a detour to Lourdes, France.

As you can see, none of this is really uplifting.  But the beauty of this book is its frankness.  The author writes about his life as it really is, the memories of his past self, both good and bad, and the realities of his current self.  And by the time you get to the end of this little book (132 pages), the reader can't help but be profoundly moved.

There is a nice quote by a Newsday writer about the book that I thought worthwhile to share: "an admirable testament to the unkillable self, to the spirit that insists on itself so vehemently that it ultimately transcends and escapes the prison of the body."  Well said.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Our summer - in diptychs & triptychs

I've been feeling like we haven't been doing much this summer, but then when I look over my pics on my camera, I realize that we have been pretty busy.  I thought I'd share some of the fun things we've been doing lately.  All my pictures seemed destined for diptychs or triptychs - putting them together gave me some good practice.  Now I need to play around with storyboards and varied sizes.

We've been spending tons of time at the pool.  The Bachsters just finished swimming lessons, which they loved:

The Bachsters and I went to one of our favorite local parks recently, Blacklick Woods.  We were all excited to see the dragonflies at Ashton Pond.  The girls are starting to want to take pictures of their own, and they kept asking for my camera.  We might have a couple of budding photographers!

I call this picture the Blacklick Triptych:

The 4th of July was a very low-key holiday for us - the highlights of the day were my homemade cherry crisp and sparklers (the cherry crisp went too fast for any photo ops):

A few weeks ago, we had perfect weather for a bonfire in our backyard.  A little witch even showed up for the festivities:

 I realized the other day that it's close to mid-July already and I feel like I don't have any great shots to show for the summer.  So, I've been trying to get a good lightning bug shot the past few nights.  I want to get one in flight, with its light on.  This is going to be a tough shot to get because of the low light and motion.  But I'm going to keep trying because I think it would be a neat capture.  Here are my feeble attempts so far:

Despite all the activities we've been doing lately, I've still been finding the time to make big, yummy breakfasts.  Now, if only I could keep up with all the dishes!  Here is a pic of banana muffins, recipe from Martha Stewart - these are really easy to make and so yummy.  The other pic is one of our family's absolute favorites: waffles!  This recipe makes waffles that are sort of crunchy on the outside and have lots of flavor.  I highly recommend them!  The recipe is from CookWise: The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking, The Secrets of Cooking Revealed:

On the agenda this weekend: more swimming, a softball end-of-season party and maybe a day-trip to one of my favorite hiking spots.   

What are your plans for this weekend?


Monday, July 4, 2011

Book Nook - Ten Little Indians

When I was in high school, I went through a real Agatha Christie phase.  I read a bunch of her Miss Marple stories, as well as some of her most popular Hercule Poirot novels like Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile.  However, my absolute favorite Agatha Christie novel has always been Ten Little Indians.

Also published as And Then There Were None, Ten Little Indians was first published in 1939.  In the story, 10 people are invited to vacation at remote Indian Island, which was once the property of an extravagant millionaire.  No one knows who owns the island and mansion now, except that each recipient received a vague invitation that made plausible sense to them.  And the party has more in common than that: they have all played a part in murder at one time.

Shortly after their arrival to the island, guests start to get murdered, starting with Anthony Marston, a young, arrogant man who ran over and killed two kids in his past, and felt no remorse for the situation.  Next is the maid, Mrs. Rogers, who once held back on administering life saving drugs to her then-employer for the monetary gain she and her husband would receive from the death.  And the murders just pile up from there.

After a thorough search of the island, it is determined by the survivors that there is no person secretly hiding out.  There are only the ten of, make that eight.  The survivors come to the conclusion that the murderer must be one of them!  But who is it?  As the murders continue, tensions rise.  Who will be the last to survive?

This is a fantastic novel that will leave you on the edge of your seat.  Like the members of the doomed party, you can't help but scrutinize everyone's every move, speculate on their motivation and await with suspense when someone goes missing.  Agatha Christie is a brilliant writer - no wonder she has sold billions of copies of her books.

One nice thing about reading the novel is re-reading it, actually.  I enjoyed reading it again, knowing who the murderer was, so that I could try to pick up on some of the clues.  One word of caution, however: do not flip to the last page (or the last chapter)!!!  Resist the temptation!!!  Because it is only at that point that we learn whodunit.  And the story is much, much better if you're left in the dark, just like the ten unfortunate souls who are murdered, one by one.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Red, White & Boom

Last night, the Bach family went to Red, White & Boom - Columbus, Ohio's big 4th of July celebration.  It was awesome!

DH works just outside of downtown and his company opened up their parking lot for employees & their families.  It was so nice - no crowds at all, a field for the kids to catch lightning bugs before the show and perfect weather.  Definitely the best way to experience the fireworks!

Of course, I just had to take my camera!  I wasn't planning on taking so many fireworks shots, but once the show started, I couldn't stop myself.  I actually shot pictures during the entire fireworks show (blush).  But it's not every day that I get the chance to have fun with firework photography - at least, that's what I keep telling myself!

Hope you're having a great 4th of July weekend!