Spring rain again...

We lazed around most of the day, through the rainy morning and noon-time bowl of homemade soup, through mugs of tea and surfing the internet and watching Dr. Who.

My inside projects are coming along...  a new design for padded inserts for my Nikon, to replace the set I made last year. Finished the latest set of hexagons for a someday Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt (the perfect project to work on while watching a movie). Tried on my fishing shirts, and they hang on me now. They'll need tailoring before fishing season, or maybe I can pass them on to Dave. The blue shirt is the exact color of his eyes.

Around 3:00 it cleared up and the sun even came out briefly... the birds hit the feeders, but their chirping stopped abruptly when it suddenly got dark and started to pour down rain again.

I'm losing hope that I can work in the yard again tomorrow, but it's OK... I've got plenty of time.


Rain + dirt...

In my book, rain + dirt = mud. I'm more of a fair weather gardener, so no gardening for me today.

What shall I do instead? Write, or play with my camera, or cut more fabric for my Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt? Or maybe write some letters, real letters with envelopes and stamps.

Or maybe I'll curl up on the sofa with a mug of hot tea, cuddle with my orange kittie, and watch it rain.

That sounds like the perfect choice for today. Hope you stay warm and dry on this soggy day.


Texture Tuesday | Perfectly imperfect

Continuing on with the theme of spring and tulips... my contribution to Texture Tuesday this week is my own take on Kim's theme for the week, Perfectly Imperfect.

There's nothing quite as perfect as a field of tulips in full bloom, a mass of blooms in a single color... except for the one volunteer bloom in a completely different color. I love the juxtaposition of color and texture in these two scenes.

Each photograph is textured with Kim's waterfront 18, using color burn at about 10%.

The photographs are two of many taken yesterday in the Skagit Valley tulip fields.


Skagit Valley tulips

Tulips rise on narrow green stalks, opening a single brilliant cup of color, reaching to the sun, standing proud. To see a few is delightful, to come around a corner and see a vast carpet of them, spreading to the horizon... it simply takes my breath away.

It's been years since we came to the Skagit Valley to enjoy the annual tulip festival, and with our good spring weather holding for a few more days, we decided to take the MX-5 and spend the day. I'm so glad we can do this sort of thing on a weekday now... one more reason to retire! There were lots of other folks like us, plus families with young children, people exploring the back roads on bicycles, and everyone seemed eager to get out among the flowers and walk. We had a great day.

We found two different fields of flowers to explore, both with plenty of off-road parking along the shoulder. The two big festival areas are great, but they're demonstration gardens with other things to amuse kids... not what we were looking for. We wanted to see the real tulip farms, where they grow tulips for the bulbs (and for cut flowers, while they last).

The fields where we spent the most time were especially beautiful, and not just because they had my favorite reds and pinks and purples. The gently rolling terrain was so much more interesting to photograph, with rows upon rows of color bands stretching out toward the Cascade foothills.

I kept an eye out for the strays that add their own pop of color to a field. At the first field, there were bright yellow tulips in a sea of red as bright as my sports car, and also some yellow tulips that wanted to be red, with color-blocked petals.

In the second field of deep pink tulips, there were also white tulips with pink stripes and a faint yellow tinge. The buds start out yellow and pink, and open up to pure pink.

If I'm ever brave enough to plant tulips again, I'll intermingle bright red and purple, like these. It is such a gorgeous color combination.

These purple striped tulips were overshadowed when surrounded by bright red, but they more than held their own in a close up.

Both fields had rows of experimental blooms, like this ruffled yellow and red.

Dave in a sea of bright red. Both the dSLR and the Android phone had trouble with this field; the color was so bright it overwhelmed the sensor... and the senses. These tulips are exactly the color of my MX-5.

The permanent outhouses (for field workers) were decorated with clumps of bright pink tulips, especially beautiful against the rough dark green wood.

There is unexpected beauty in looking down.

And of course, there were tulips for sale.

In The Language of Flowers, tulips mean "A Declaration of Love." But I've decided that tulips mean "Joy." Just look at a child's face when they run into a field of tulips, holding their arms open wide, and laughing for sheer joy... and you'll see what I mean.

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs the whole month of April, and the tulips are at their peak of perfection right now. Remember that Mother Nature dictates the state of the tulip fields, so come soon. You can see the complete festival schedule here.


Feel free to weed...

On our way to breakfast at the Fall City Roadhouse this morning, we spotted a wine tasting sign just up the road. So after breakfast we invited our friends to come along and check it out.

William Grassie Wine Estates is a one-man operation, with a beautiful setting on a hillside above the river. When we drove in, the owner was doing yardwork and invited us to join him... or come up to the deck to sample some wine. We laughed and chose the wine. He settled us down on the deck and brought Riedel glasses and bottles of wine, and shared his story with us.

The sunshine made the wine bloom in the glass, with each variety of wine spilling a unique colored refraction onto the tiles.

Two women wandered down toward the Pinot Noir vineyard, wineglasses in hand, and Bill invited them to feel free to weed. He was the perfect host: inviting all newcomers to come sample wine, or work in the yard if they preferred.

The MX-5 shared honors for the brightest spot in the yard with this gorgeous clump of sun-kissed tulips.


First bath...

My wee red roadster got a wash and a polish on this beautiful spring day. Tomorrow we're meeting friends for breakfast, and TrueRed will be taking us out for the day.

Three hours (and a bunch of burned calories) later, it looked way too wonderful to just park it in the garage again. So I moved it to the lawn and took a few pictures.

Eight years old, and I love it just as much as the day I drove it home.


A year ago... my first dSLR camera

It's been exactly a year since my first dSLR camera arrived on my front porch, the result of hours of research and reading reviews, asking friends for their recommendations, and finally making the decision. And I've never regretted it. I love my camera, a Nikon d5200 with two lenses:  a Sigma 18-250 OS macro zoom, and a Nikon 35mm prime.

In the past year, I've had so much fun focusing my camera on my favorite subject: landscapes. Road trips and landscapes are just perfectly in synch for me.

Besides lots of road trips, my camera has gone on hikes and picnics, cross-country skiing and fly fishing. It goes to wineries with us, and goes to parties and family gatherings.

At home, my camera is always close at hand, and when I leave the house, I feel naked if my camera doesn't come with me.

Looking at the world through the lens has become a habit now. Things look different through the lens, and you may discover that whatever view you chose first just might change once you look through the viewfinder. For me, it's especially true when it comes to photographing the small details around me. Like plants and flowers... when I spotted these ferns uncurling in the spring, I had a completely different photograph in mind. But when I checked all the curls through the viewfinder, this one looked the best through the lens.

Having a really great camera has made such a difference to my photography this year. I've learned so much more about digital photography, and re-learned a lot of techniques and skills from my old 35mm days. This year I hope to take a few online classes and keep stretching as a photographer.

That's my goal... to keep learning.


Empty feeder

This feeder came with the cabin, and we don't use it. There's no point setting up expectations in the bird population, when we're not there often enough to keep it filled. It's very picturesque, hanging from a big fir just off the deck, but I should probably take it down and bring it home, where it can be used as its builder intended.


Peaceful mornings...

I love the early hours at our lakeside cabin. For sixteen years now, my routine has been the same: wake up with the sun, and carry my mug down to the water's edge to see what the morning has to share.

This morning these ducks weren't the only early risers. Our small lake got a big stock of fish last fall, and another stock of jumbo rainbows just a week ago. So there were also a few fishing boats out already, with anglers hoping to catch the big ones.

Just after these ducks swam past, an eagle swooped down and did a dozen fly-by's around these poor ducks. The ducks circled and squawked, and the eagle beat his wings and kept darting at the ducks, over and over. When he'd lost altitude and was in danger of a dunk in the lake, he flew back to his perch in a nearby tree. He took another run at some tiny bufflehead ducks later in the day, and when he did the same thing, I was pretty sure the eagle was just messing with them.



These steps are sadly neglected. They're beautiful, with rustic timbers and lichen and moss, dappled with sunlight.

These steps lead from the firepit to the dock on our lakefront property.  I used to walk down the hill each morning and sit on the dock in the sun, and watch the bass swim underneath along the shore.

Steps should go somewhere, or to somewhere, and they should be used. When the lake level drops this summer, maybe we'll clear out the brush so we can use this beach for swimming access. It would give new life to these steps.