THE FLOWERS OF GERTRUDE BOYDEN
Tired of the usual walk-around-the-block that my husband and children do on weekends, my husband brought us to a nearby nature reserve, Gertrude Boyden Wildlife Refuge, for a change of scenery. I am surprised that we visited this place for the first time only last spring considering that it is only about three miles away from our house and we have been living in the area for years. Anyway, what a pleasant surprise this place was.
It was mid-spring when we visited. As it was, the place offered a lot of floral attractions. Well, there were the usual flowering trees of spring that I was familiar with. A few cherry blossoms were still in bloom. Pink and white dogwood greeted us as we drove into the parking lot.
Flowers are one of my favorite subjects to photograph. I was more than thrilled to see flowers that I have not seen before, like the golden azalea-like flowers below that was growing on a tall bush near the park parking lot. Well, if it looks like an azalea and has the qualities of an azalea, maybe it is one.
Then, there was the dark red flower whose petals look like a stiff armor from the way they stand upright. To me, it is completely exotic.
A walk along the forest paths revealed more flowers overhead. Since I do not see these flowers planted in yards and city streets, I presume that they are not from the usual ornamental tree. Of course, I may be wrong.
We came to a place called the fragrance garden. It looks like one cultivated in the ruins of an old house. The place was surrounded by what could have been walls of an old cottage. Jasmine and honeysuckle lent fragrance to the late afternoon breeze. Looking down, violets and flowering ground cover met our eyes.
As we meandered in the park, we saw Lilies of the Valley peeking shyly from their broad foliage. Once in while, Pink Lady Slippers surprised us with her blushing face peeking out of the pine needle covered ground. Bunchberries and Canadian lilies, and unknown grew in the shade of the trees and along the paths.
We got to the river and enjoyed the reflections of the woods on the water. We could see clusters of water lilies with flower buds farther away from the banks. I promised to go back to see them in full bloom. Unfortunately, we missed the flowering window and the flowers were gone the next time we visited. In the meantime, I had my fill of spring flowers. I wish that I could pluck some for a vase or even our own garden.
Just an aside, I am not much of a traveler and I do not have a lot of landscape pictures. I am normally using a Nikon 5300 DSLR and a 55-200 mm lens. It is not very well-suited for landscape shots because it does not “see” much but I find it perfect for taking flower shots and objects from a limited range.
I am participating in Light.co #VantagePoint project. Light.co is a start-up company selling compact cameras which, according to company literature, has DSLR capabilities. Wouldn’t that be awesome to have a lightweight camera that can possibly do a lot of things? Right now, I find myself complementing my Nikon with my cellphone when I have to take wide-angle shots or to take really macro shots. That can be the subject of another post. Anyway, I did not receive any compensation for this post. I just thought that the project is a fun project and the camera a very promising one.
PASSING CHILDHOOD (B&W Sunday: Playtime)
Sad toys live in our house. They live in the yard, dirty, rusty, and forgotten unless the glint of the sun or a Daddy about to mow the lawn reminds the boys to pick the toys up and get them out of the way. When that happens, the toys get a new lease on life, briefly.
Sets upon sets of toy trains of varying kinds and make, wood, plastic, metal, from Thomas the Tank to Geo Trax – languish inside plastic bins, gathering mold or dust, along with toy cars, play dough molds, among others.
It was not always that way. There was a time, when the two older children were very young, when the toys were played with a lot. The older boys, now 12 and 10, respectively, spent hours upon hours building train tracks and a whole train village with all the pieces they had. They so loved their trains that their grandpop and Daddy made them a table where the children could lay out the tracks. The third boy continued the tradition, so to speak, and added more to the train collection. When the fourth boy arrived, all three older boys have moved on to other toys that the youngest one then, barely played with the toys that his brothers so loved. He loved his toddler toys, the big trucks that he could push around in the yard or even ride on, his play dough, and the toys that his older brothers were interested in – toy guns, arrows, tanks and soldiers, and the like.
Ah, how childhood sail away too fast. How quickly their interests change. These days, the old train table is a storage space. Video games rank first in the children’s game priority and if they have their way, they will play nothing but their favorite online games. Since that will never be allowed, the children, from the 12 year old down to the 5 year old, learned to like board games and role playing games. Big brothers do influence the choices of the younger ones. Sunday afternoons sometimes find the family playing Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder. For these games, we have collected miniature figures to represent the characters we play. So we have ogres and orcs, elves and rogues, and other fantastical creatures that are the staple of role playing games.
And yet, just when we thought that we could do away with the outgrown toys, a fifth boy comes along. At eighteen moths, he has discovered the joys of the old toys. He is often out in the yard riding on a bulldozer or pushing a dump truck full of dirt. When he is not busy hauling and pushing his toy trucks, he is happily playing in the old sand pit that his daddy replenished recently. Cascading sand must have its own magic because along with him, his four older brothers dig and scoop sand as eagerly as the little toddler.
Perhaps, there is hope still for the forgotten toys to be played with once again.
MANGO, IN MANY WAYS
Mango is my favorite fruit. Mangoes were a staple of my childhood. During mango season, we would have baskets upon baskets of still green mangoes which we would let ripen in the dark corners of our house. We would know they were ripe by the fragrant smell wafting in the air. We would eat green mangoes with our rice (when meat or fish was not available). We would eat mangoes at snack time. Children that we were, we would eat the mangoes by simply peeling off the skin, biting into the soft flesh, and letting the juices run down our chin and arms.
But that was not the only way we ate mangoes. We loved our mangoes green with a tinge of yellow. We would peel the, slice them, and dip them into bagoong (fish or shrimp paste). The tangy sweetness of the mango and the saltiness and flavor of the dip combine in one explosive flavorful crunch in the mouth.
When I moved to the States, I lost the luxury of mangoes. It was hard to find properly ripened mangoes. I have been quite disappointed several times when the mangoes I bought in the grocery turned out to be rotten inside. If they were not rotten, the mangoes were usually picked too early and therefore did not ripen properly. Also, it was hard to find the kind of mangoes I grew up with – plump, golden, fragrant, carabao mangoes as we called them in the Philippines. The reddish mangoes are more common and while they may be sweet, they are not what my nostalgic heart long for.
However, the other day, my husband came home with several mangoes, yellow and red ones alike. “They were on sale,” he said. Surprisingly, they tasted good. So, when it was my turn to go to the grocery, I bought some more. Since there are so many of us in our household and can not have the luxury of eating as many mangoes as we like (not to mention, mangoes vary in quality and because of that, one person will have better tasting mangoes than the others – which will not be fair!), I looked for recipes that will have mango as their star flavor and attraction.
I have tried making mango panacotta and mango pudding. They were well received. Next, I made a no bake mango cheesecake and I liked it best. I think that it is perfect as summer dessert especially because I can have something tasty without adding extra heat to our house by baking. It is really tasty (though my husband still prefers baked cheesecake more). Go ahead, try this recipe that I found online and used. This morning, I made crepes to go with the mango. To enhance the flavor, I made mango syrup from the more sour mangoes. I think the crepe with the syrup came out well. My sons were begging for some more.
I am glad that I have made my family appreciate flavors from my own heritage. I wish they can appreciate more of the food and traditions of half of their heritage. I guess, I will be sharing with them one flavor at a time.
On a Sunday afternoon in mid-spring, our family hied off to a nature/wildlife reserve 2 miles down the road from us. There, we were treated to the glorious twittering of birds (the place being primarily a bird sanctuary), hilly paths, a rippling river, and wildflowers in bloom. These flowers, which turned out to be Lady Slippers, caught my eye. Their pink was a stark contrast to the green and brown hues that dominated the scenery.
WAITING FOR THE TRAIN (BW Sunday: Typical)
SPRING REFLECTIONS (Black & White Sunday: After and Before)
One warm early April spring afternoon, my family and I walked to the nearby park. As it had been raining constantly the previous week, the ground was soggy. In fact, there was some flooding in certain areas of the park which a pair of mallards took advantage of. I tried to get closer to the ducks to take their picture but this pair proved to be quite elusive. Whenever I got a little closer, the ducks hastened to the other side of the little swamp. I only had my cell phone with me so I could not take telephoto shots.
We’ve been running around in circles here – with me gingerly choosing where I stepped. The ducks certainly had the advantage as they did not mind wading in the muddy waters. Of my shots, this one came out pretty decent (relatively speaking – it is a bit bluish in the original shot. However, after I adjusted the exposure via picmonkey, the afternoon spring light showed through. A bit of warmth and softness brought out some nostalgic vibe in the picture. On the other hand, I think that the BW version makes me a little sad and homesick for something I don’t know.
I am linking this with LOST IN TRANSLATION/Paola Borkovic’s prompt. I chanced upon it in one of the blogs I followed. I am sorry, however, that I lost track of the nmae and I cannot give credit to him/her. Thank you for coming by. 🙂