Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sassi Bianchi, Italy

Sassi Bianchi's vineyard overlooking the lavender field

For the last few years, we've been talking about going to Tuscany with friends.  We decided enough talking, and this year we went.  We stayed at Sassi Bianchi, a 40-hectar farm hidden in the hills of Tuscany.  Owned and managed by Concetta and Palo, the 16th century farm houses are in great condition, and you can feel all their efforts to keep the place quaint and functional.  On most mornings you can see Palo working on the farm somewhere.

Sassi Bianchi is beautiful and full of life.  I loved the over dose of oxygen and exploring the property with the smell of lavender in the air.  Our large, communal family breakfasts were a great start to the day, and we enjoyed closing the day at the same large table after visiting the nearby towns and villages as the kids played outside catching fireflies.

Sassi Bianchi is one of those places that I definitely hope to return to - frequently!

Many meals, bottles of wine and laughter were shared here

One of the Sassi Bianchi farm houses

The lavender was beautiful and the number of butterflies and bees it attracted were amazing.
They even make their own lavender honey.

The duck pond at Sassi Bianchi

Nature and wildflowers everywhere! 

Organic gardening means lots of lady bugs!

A walk through the forest at Sassi Bianchi

And more lady bugs!

We look forward to going back to Sassi Bianchi soon!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Getting Published

A few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email request from a friend who works at Zayed University.  They were searching for stock photography with various themes for some iBooks, and were wondering if I had any they might use.

This is cool for many reasons.  One of those being that Zayed University was the first university in the world to cooperate with Apple to fully integrate iPads into their instruction.  And of course, for me personally it is exciting.

While I didn't always feel they were my technical best when I came across them over the years, I was still attached to these images because of the subject matter and how they made me feel.  I guess the moral of the story is don't discard something if you don't think its within the constraints of what is considered "good".

After all, art is all about feelings.  Don't be quick to disregard your work as you never know when it might be applicable.  Like my previous post, when I went back and looked at what I thought were just okay images, I saw something else that appealed to me later.

Thank you again to my friend who reached out to me, and thank you to Zayed University for including my images.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Little Things

I was going through some old files looking for an image, and I came across these.  I suddenly find myself very hungry and missing those little special things that make Turkey special!  More often than not, it is the simple things that make a place special.  It doesn't have to be grand.  It can be a favorite dish, flower or enjoying a coffee during sunset with friends.  Summer is almost here!

I love walking past the Four Seasons in Istanbul.  
It has some of the biggest, brightest Jasmine ever.

Turkish Borek, the most amazing savory pastry

Figs.  I love the smell of the fig tree so much, I have one in a pot on my balcony. 

Turkish olives for breakfast and olive oil for everything else

Lokum, or Turkish Delight.  Served best with Turkish coffee.

Turkish Coffee.  After you drink it, someone reads your fal, or fortune, in the coffee
left in your cup.

As you look up from your cup, perhaps you will catch a beautiful sunset

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Breasted One

Last weekend we had a long holiday weekend so we made a visit to Istanbul.  When in Turkey, I drink tea - and lots of it.  There is no need for coffee every morning. However, there was one afternoon I was out and really missing it.

I walked into the nearest Starbucks, and proceeded to order my beloved soy cappuccino. When I lived there, I quickly learned that they do not always understand Pam.  I often end up being Pem, or Pembe, which means "pink".  

I eventually resorted to Pamela.  After saying Pamela three times, the barista just gave up and passed me the cup and pen.  Turkish is a phonetic language, and I think Pamela is pretty phonetic.  Instead of writing my name, I said to him, "You know Pamela Anderson? The same name as hers". 

I knew it was not my Turkish because the guy in line behind me laughed and complimented my point of reference.  When I lived there I resorted to Pamela Anderson for the occasional pizza delivery, and it worked every time.

The barista nodded his head with that "Ah ok" nod and proceeded to write on the cup.  A few seconds later, I got my beloved coffee and checked the name.  It looks somewhat like Memeler, or Memele.  Meme in Turkish means breast. Put "le" on the end of a word and it means "with". I am not sure if he is going for "breasts" or "with breasts" here.  

I get a lot of random names on my Starbucks coffee in Dubai.  It is very rare that my name is understood, even in English. I think this is the funniest one yet.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Empty Nest

Lucy, our resident sunbird in Dubai

I am an empty nester.  Actually, I am a no nester.

About a month ago, I was sitting outside working.  Lucy came by with her mate, and another sunbird. I thought she was introducing me to her new friend through her chatter.

After that visit I didn't see her for a few days.  I began to worry.  With two larger birds constantly bullying the area, I wondered if they chased her off.  Despite all the singing and chirping in this garden and the occasional sounds of traffic racing past Dubai Mall, our home suddenly became so quiet.

I checked outside every morning, but no Lucy.  Sadly her nest started to drop.  Even though it seemed to be hanging by a thin strand, it hung on for a long time.  She was back about a week later, but by then the nest was so low and twisted it was uninhabitable.  She tried to build it back up over a few days, but her attempts were unsuccessful.  Not wanting to interfere with nature and ruin any chances of the birds returning, it was heartbreaking to watch.

I never saw Lucy again, but I could still hear sunbirds nearby for some time.  They have since stopped, and I assume have migrated to a cooler place for the summer.

The nest eventually fell to the ground  Before we cleaned it up, my son said "let's explore it".  So we did.  We opened it, and looked through it.  It was amazing how strong those little pieces were intertwined in Lucy's labor of love.  Fortunately, there were no abandoned eggs.  It was empty.

The fallen sunbird nest

Ironically, after the nest fell, the pomegranate tree from which it hung began to flower again.  A sign that there is some kind of give and take balance in nature.  We have also had several visitors since then - including a peacock!  As I write this, I see a dove poking around in the trees.

With all these visitors, we are hopeful that maybe someday we will again be graced with the likes of Lucy.

A breakfast visitor