What kind of light?

what kind of light

“Light” was my word for 2014. It’s an ideal word to guide you when you love to make photographs. And it has moved me in directions I’m very glad to have explored.

But there is so much more to the word than that. When times are dark, we all look for light. As we approach the winter solstice, I leave you with a meditation by a favourite poet, Mary Oliver.

I have farther to go with this exploration of “light.” Perhaps we all do…

The Buddha’s Last Instruction

by Mary Oliver

“Make of yourself a light”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal—a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire—
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

Taken by pictures…

big faceLR

 We do not take pictures — we are taken by pictures.

Ernest Haas

scene in the snow




…the strong desire to take pictures – is important. It borders on a need, based on a habit: the habit of seeing. Whether working or not, photographers are looking, seeing, and thinking about what they see, a habit that is both a pleasure and a problem, for we seldom capture in a single photograph the full expression of what we see and feel. It is the hope that we might express ourselves fully – and the evidence that other photographers have done so – that keep us taking pictures.
Sam Abell



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Easy Christmas cooking…

ingredientspotatoin the makingpotato puffs


Thanks for posting the smartphone pic,Elena!

Tis the season for feeding good friends and loved ones around the table. Who doesn’t love a recipe that’s super easy, delicious, a little different but also appeals to most tastes? And a recipe that can be made ahead of time to reduce stress in the kitchen is even more of a find, as far as I’m concerned.

So this past weekend my family from southern Ontario were guinea pigs for this new recipe I spotted, which we served along with grass fed beef, Yorkshire pudding and green beans with hazel nuts for an early holiday meal.

It was wonderful to feast together and then exchange gifts of love.

The potato puffs were proclaimed scrumptious and proved very popular. Here’s the recipe in case you want to give them a try.

Mashed Potato Puffs

24 mini puffs, when you use mini muffin tins

2 cups mashed potatoes
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup grated cheese such as Parmesan or Gruyere
1/4 cup minced chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oven to 400°F and lightly grease the cups of a mini-muffin tin.
Whisk together the mashed potatoes, the eggs, 3/4 cup of cheese and the chives. Season, if necessary, with salt and pepper.  Mound a spoonful of the mixture in each muffin cup.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the potato cups are set, browned on top, and hot through. Let cool for about 5 minutes in the pan, then use a spoon or knife to gently release them from the pan. Serve immediately with dollops of sour cream, if desired.

You can bake these and refrigerate for up to 3 days. To reheat and re-crisp: arrange the puffs on a baking sheet and bake at 400°F for about 15 minutes (depending on size).

Making the season of giving even more meaningful…

ElenaIt’s that time of the year when my sister goes a bit crazy — crazy for Christmas, that is. It’s her very favorite time of year.

Why? Very simply, because she loves giving…In fact, her picture should be in the dictionary under the word “generosity”!

For as long as I can remember she has delighted in searching out unique and beautiful gifts that speak to the passions and interests of her family and friends. She started attending craft shows to support artists and artisans more than 20 years ago, and over the years I’ve been the lucky recipient of many of her stunning handmade finds.

As a naturally crafty person, she has also made many wonderful gifts with her own hands and creativity. To me, these kinds of gifts are meaningful, personal and stand the test of time. I treasure anything handmade or homemade because there is so much effort, thought and skill embedded in it — on other words, so much soul!

Knowing all this, I wasn’t a bit surprised when Elena shared with me her latest brainstorm: the 5H Code of Holiday Giving.

Here’s what she says on her blog:

“I realized that I’ve been slowly but steadily moving towards streamlining my gift-giving around a certain set of values. And this morning, in a twinkling, I came up with a really easy, and memorable, way to express it. I call it my 5H Code of Holiday (and year-round) Giving.”

Homemade. “I made it myself.”

Handmade. “Someone else made it themselves.”

Healthy. “Benefits physical/mental health – personal or the environment.”

Helpful. “Someone else will benefit from this.”

From Here. “Grown or made locally, or from locally owned companies.”

Get your gift labels here!
handmadehealthy helpful

from hereHer goal is to ensure that her gifts meet at least one of these criteria, and hopefully several. She argues that it’s not that hard to do, and thoroughly enjoyable.

I’ve also found myself moving in this direction in recent years — albeit more unconsciously. I love making homemade treats, spiced nuts and other goodies and sharing them with neighbours and loved ones.

As I’ve gotten into photography I’ve made more gifts using my own images — sometimes it’s postcards, or note cards or photobooks, or photo-adorned Christmas ornaments or framed photos or calendars. All so much fun to make and give.

One of my friends produces a gift selection of wonderful jams and jellies from her own kitchen every year. Her collection is always highly anticipated. And my aunt’s special chili sauce is a huge favorite around my house. My cousin is famous for coming up with cool and crafty ideas that she pours a lot of herself into.

I love going to local craft shows and church bazaars, where you can often pick up lovingly made and unique gifts just right for someone you care about. You can often cover off “homemade” “handmade” “helpful” and “from here” all at the same time.

Like many of you, at this time of year I become even more acutely aware of — and uncomfortable about — the disparities between those of us who have so much and those who, by accident of birth, have so little. Do we really need to buy and give more things that we don’t really need, just because we can have them?

I have long been drawn to gifts that help someone in addition to the giftee. For the person who has everything and does not want more stuff, I will often make a donation to a local or international charity. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders is one of the causes I currently support. These men and women are all true heroes to me — their courage and commitment to help people in the most challenging of health situations (Ebola is just one example) simply astounds me.

And then there is the environment…Buying products from local businesses can go a long way to reducing the carbon emissions involved in shipping goods long distances.

As a communications consultant in the Ontario wine industry, my sister is a strong advocate of buying VQA wine to help both the economy and the environment. And what wine lover doesn’t appreciate being introduced to a delicious new bottle of wine at Christmas? But wherever you are, the idea is to seek out local food and drink and other locally produced fare. It’s fun to get in the habit of looking at labels.

Here’s an idea. Put together a 5H basket of goodies and label each part with the appropriate “H”.

This basket was as much a joy to make as it was to receive!


Elena has set up a 5H Giving Facebook page. One of her friends, Laura Wills, a talented graphic designer, came up with the adorable illustrations.

What about you? Do you spend time thinking about where your gifts come from and who and what they benefit?

If any of this speaks to you, you may want to have a look and “like” her page. I’m excited to see so many new supporters signing on every day. It’s an idea that’s really taking off.


manhattan steel-for blog


Still on my New York City kick {smile} I’m joining today with The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Converge.”

Not only does this image convey “convergence” to me, but so does the experience of New York.

“To come together from different directions; to meet.” That is what happens here.

Different people with different habits, preferences, beliefs, attitudes, practices, backgrounds etc. etc. coming from very different places meet here in a huge, diverse city like New York; they rub up against each other, sometimes to positive effect, sometimes not, sadly.

Much as I like to surround myself with the cocoon of the comfortable, the easy and the familiar, I also like to voyage out to see what life is like in very different places. I like to be challenged by what I experience. Just as change can be energizing, so can confrontations with difference.

The truth is we all have to come together and get along somehow in this world. Being unable to identify with the lives and ways of those who are not like us can set us up to judge, objectify and ultimately hate and hurt those who we consider “the other.”

The vital need to stay open and strive to find common ground in our common humanity is one thing that New York City will always symbolize to me.

Other posts on New York City:

The City is Like Poetry

Central Park in Black and White and Colour


The city is like poetry…

empire state LR

A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive.

E.B. White, Here Is New York


Maria Popova of Brainpickings calls Here is New York by EB White one of the best books about New York ever written. 

Her post here also includes an incredible series of black and white images of New York by Berenice Abbott. Well worth having a look.

The world’s smallest bookshop…


I’m not one of those people who gets all excited by the world’s biggest this or that — the tallest building, the hugest cruise ship, yadda yadda.

I’ve always been more inclined toward the “small is beautiful” mentality. So I was totally charmed when driving along Highway 503 about 100 miles northeast of Toronto (near Kinmount, Ontario) one day a few weeks ago, I saw a sign for “the world’s smallest bookshop”!

I had to stop and check this out. Not only is it teeny tiny (10 by 10 feet), but it’s open 24 hours a day, and has no staff. All books are $3 and it’s totally operated on the honour system. What a little gem!

I didn’t have much time to take photos since we were on a mission to buy a dinghy in Midland, Ontario and we had a 10-hour drive to cover. But I managed to snap a few before jumping back into the truck.

Evidently I was not the only one who was delighted to find such a sweet little place in the countryside, because there were lots of appreciative notes pinned up all over the place.

I found out later it is a labour of love on the part of Gord and June Daniels. I wish I had time to meet them, but perhaps next time. I know I’ll be back.

bookshop2A handout available at the shop reads:

Why I love Books

1) Books are silent.

2) Books do not require hydro.

3) Books do not interrupt.

4) Books open easily — no switches or remotes.

5) Books can be shut up easily anytime.

6) Books cannot be offended.

7) Books do not talk back.

8) Books do not demand T.L.C. — but get it anyway.

9) Books do not require food or water.

10) Books will not feel neglected.

11) Books will not send you on a guilt trip if you lose interest or ignore them.

12) Books never require medical attention.

13) Books do not have commercials.

14) A book does not go into a snit if you look at another book.

15) A book won’t mind if you are reading more than book at a time.



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