Or, if you wish, table tennis! During the winter months a few family members and I form our own league and once a week compete against one another. Some in the group are stellar players and seem to win most games; however, everyone seems to enjoy the social interaction, (usually) friendly competition and the opportunity to engage in some form of physical activity during the long, cold winter. And, when the schedule concludes, regardless of who earns the title of league champion, we all gather to celebrate our good times and recognize the unique contributions of all participants.
Brrrrrrr! While we spend most of winter indoors, sometimes we forget about outdoor structures and what they look like under a foot of snow. Therefore, today's photos feature picnic tables as they sit idle in local parks. Be sure to notice how county workers took great care to assemble, stack and store all these heavy structures. And, just as we eagerly await warmer weather, these tables will soon be returned to their usual places throughout the parks to celebrate summer with campers and other guests.
Recently I was looking through some old photos and this particular image caught my attention...for several reasons. First, when it is cold outside, I like to bake these pumpkin bars complete with a tasty cream cheese frosting. Second, immediately I thought of my maternal grandmother as she introduced me to the recipe. As she aged and arthritis robbed her of the strength in her hands needed to bake and lift hot items from the oven, she loved the times I would spend in her kitchen making these bars for her. Of course, she and I would sample the goods and then put most in her freezer so that she would have them to serve to guests. Finally, the other thing I noticed about this photo is the dollop of batter that somehow got dropped and dried on this old cookbook. It serves as reminder that on this page is a family favorite with a special connection to a very special woman.
When I ventured out on a nearby path that runs along the river, I intended to take several shots of the winter-white landscape; however, that plan changed when I walked under the bridge. Obviously, I don't spend much time in this area of town and didn't think about what I might find as I looked up while standing under the vast concrete structure. So, here's an up-close look at some of the graffiti that greeted me on my trek along the snow-covered riverbank.
Today's image is one of my favorites; however, like so many other pictures I take, it was unplanned. As I was outside photographing ice and snow on the river, suddenly I noticed the unique scene my shadow created on a concrete wall beside me. So, I turned in its direction and captured this neat shot.
"Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you."
This couple resides in an enclosure at a nearby county park where I often go in warm-weather months to get some shots of the landscape and colorful blooms. Honestly, during most visits I quickly pass by their pen while noticing them relaxing in the tall grass or walking incessantly on a path inside the perimeter of the fence; however, during my most recent stop a few things were noticeably different. First, it is winter and very few folks visit the park. Second, as soon as these animals spotted me, they immediately moved in my direction and more or less stayed close for the remainder of the time I was there. Hmmm...what a difference the cold weather and snow make! Honestly, I have no background in animal science; however, if I were to hypothesize regarding the differences in their behavior, I would guess they were looking for food. Along with their regular feed, during the summer these two supplement their diets with berries from nearby trees, munch on the grass and receive all sorts of "treats" from the many park guests. Regardless, I sure enjoyed their company and plan to return soon!
Even though we may want to scream, sometimes we just have to laugh at ourselves and all the silly mistakes we make. For example, the eggs in today's photo are a result of me trying to multitask in order to complete numerous items on my daily to-do list; however, the lesson is that I often try to do too much and end up forgetting things that truly need my immediate attention. Fortunately, I am happy to report that the eggs did not cause any damage but sure looked funny and made the house smell for a few days. And, don't be too hard on yourself if your good intentions end up a bit off course...just laugh and try again tomorrow!
Have you ever been outside and heard a feathered friend calling chick-a-dee-dee-dee but just did not know which bird it was? The answer is revealed in today's photos that feature Black-capped Chickadees. These rather small birds are common in Iowa and are often spotted at backyard feeders or hanging on chunks of suet or, as shown in these images, on other prepared blocks of food. During the past month while out taking pictures, I was delighted to see a variety of songbirds, including these chickadees, some nuthatches, a Brown Creeper, a Tufted Titmouse and a Red-bellied Woodpecker. If you are a birdwatcher, I would enjoy hearing what species you have seen this winter.
Last fall I featured several pictures of colorful foliage and was saddened when the green, orange, red and yellow hues disappeared from trees and were eventually swept away by wind, rain and then snow. But being a devout lover of leaves, I always seem to spot them--even amid the white stuff! Recently, while traipsing through a mostly snow-covered park, I discovered some of the flimsy autumn remnants fully submerged in puddles of melting snow and immediately put the camera to my eye! And, of course, these are the images featured in today's post.
Brrrrrrr! Just looking at these pictures makes me shiver, and I don't care to recall how cold I was while photographing these avid outdoorsmen. Nevertheless, ice fishing is a popular pastime during a long, frigid Iowa winter, and today's images also give a glimpse of the all the equipment used by these hardy anglers. And, to all of you out on the ice, be safe, enjoy the solitude of the tent and remember this familiar statement, "A bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work."
Recently our temperatures were above freezing and the foggy conditions were a direct result. So, I spent part of a day outdoors capturing some of these unique images while also trying to avoid the extremely muddy and wet areas of the park; however, at the end of this hike in the heavy haze, my jeans still looked as if I had been wading in the river. Despite the soggy terrain, I enjoyed walking in the misty shroud created by Mother Nature and getting shots of these rather common scenes amid the mysterious backdrop the fog provided.
Winter often poses additional challenges for wildlife, including finding water for consumption and bathing. Since birds/waterfowl need clean plumes in order to create adequate insulation to survive in such harsh conditions, we often see hundreds of Canada Geese wherever there is open water. And, even though these big birds are sometimes noisy and leave a lot of undesirable droppings, today's photos provide a glimpse of their reality during a cold, Iowa winter.
Well, I know most adults repeatedly tell youngsters not to play with food; however, during the holidays I sure enjoyed the little ones and their creative endeavors with carrots, Play Doh, olives and so on. Now, since I am simply the doting aunt, watching my nieces and nephews do things they usually don't have permission to do at home, humors me and gives me plenty to photograph as well. And, if you need any ideas for alternate uses of black olives, consider a mustache for a new look in the new year!
Recently, during a mild-winter day, I ventured out with camera in hand looking for some photo opportunities. At that time we had no snow on the ground because the minor accumulation we initially received had melted soon thereafter during several days with above-freezing temperatures. And, like so many times before, one of my destinations included a local park and photographing the resident squirrel population. However, an unexpected sighting was the remains of a snowman as it stood on a grassy trail near the river. Be sure to see if you can spot the white figure just below and to the right of a big tree.
Recently this photo received some recognition in an on-line photo exhibit, and I wanted to share. The picture was taken in Chicago while I was standing on Michigan Avenue but photographing all sorts of surrounding high rises. This particular building captivated me with its wonderful lines and angles that move the eye throughout the image. Anyway, the following link will take you to the Light Space & Time on-line gallery where you can view all sorts of fascinating images. Remember to look for "Lovely Lines!" www.lightspacetime.com/all-photography-special-recognition-category/
This picture is simple yet serene. As I was driving through town one cool and crisp evening, I was mesmerized by the deep blue sky along with the setting sun and hints of coral through the trees. And, of course, I immediately stopped and took this photo. In addition to the sunset and colorful horizon, the contrails were striking as they painted bold white stripes in the early December sky. Enjoy the quiet the image conveys.
This post contains photos of some of the rather simple, yet engaging gifts that family members gave to the youngsters, including jingle bells, a dry-erase board and a stroller for a baby doll. Another very popular gift was the set of balloons and mini air pump especially made to create figures out of balloons. Finally, although there are no pictures of the item featured here, a rubber chicken equipped with a squeaker was another big hit with my nephew; however, his mother and grandparents were not thrilled as he galloped throughout the room holding it high and repeatedly squeaking that plastic bird! Yes, the jingle bells were also noisy but not quite as rough on the ears as the chicken. And, I doubt his mother has yet forgotten from whom he got that gift!
Undoubtedly, during the recent holidays many of you enjoyed the company of youngsters, including toddlers who love to roam amid the discarded paper and boxes stopping only to pick up something they were not supposed to have or to momentarily sit in a box in which their gifts were once wrapped. Upon opening each toy, pre-schoolers promptly want to play with the item and will immediately find that one person in the room who has a scissors (or something comparable) to detach toys from the packaging. And, watching little ones delight in all the excitement and surprises under the tree is truly one of the best parts of Christmas.
Recently, I found the following quote that describes that sentiment and speaks to living in the moment while enjoying the mess created by little hands opening gifts, playing with each new toy and moving about the 'trash' strewn throughout the room:
"One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly."
In recent years "Ugly Christmas Sweaters" have become extremely popular as they are often the theme for holiday parties, and some individuals have even established lucrative on-line businesses as they sell these crazy Christmas concoctions. Today's post is similar yet different as I feature my adorable niece in her festive holiday apparel with an embellished reindeer top and elf leggings. At such a young age she had numerous admirers who loved her darling Christmas outfit; however, be advised that any adult found wearing such an ensemble will undoubtedly win the "ugliest sweater" contest and be the focus of family jokes for years to come.