The Sisters’ Project 2.0

So last year as I walked into a Home Depot, an idea came to me about how Laura and I could work on our photography.  We would take at least one photo every day for a year and post one and only one photo from every day onto Flickr accounts that only she and I could see.  We started on November 1, 2013 and started taking photographs every day and then posting one of them to the Flickr account.  Initially we were very good about taking the photo for each day and posting it the same day, but as time passed, we would get a few days behind on posting, but still had to take at least one photo every day.  Some days were very challenging and given that it was fall/winter, we were stuck in our homes looking for something to take a picture of.  There were a lot of holiday themed photos.  My daughter would laugh at me wondering around the house at 9:30pm looking for something to take a photo of.  Some of those photos had the look and feel of desperation, but some of them proved to be a great exercise in really finding creativity.

Over the 12 months we committed to this project, we tweaked the rules a little.  After probably 3 months of “photo every day”, we started to add themes or exercises to each week.  We worked with color, motion, textures and patterns, water, etc., in order to 1) give us something to focus on so we weren’t walking around aimlessly looking for a shot and 2) to force us to think about what would represent the theme well and how to work with our camera to capture a shot.  We had some weeks that we got behind and then made new rules for how to get caught up, but we ended the year-long project on October 31st of this year with 365 photos in our Flickr Daily Photo Album.  I am really proud of how we stayed committed and stuck with the project for a full 365 days.  I learned a lot about my camera, I learned a lot about how to find an interesting photo; it was a good project and I am glad I had a sister who was willing to go along with the idea.

At the end of that first year’s project, we decided to also start this blog as a way of continuing with our photography, but expanding it to our other areas of interest that would add some variety to what we think about every day.  I love the blog so far.  We do not have any rules, we just blog whenever the moment hits us and we can post photos as well as other content.

However, we are supposed to be starting another year-long project centered on photography and I am finding it hard to get motivated to start.  I need a fresh idea, I need inspiration, I need something to get me going.  I am considering asking Laura if we should take a 2 month break and start the year on Jan 1.  I need a creative breakthrough, I have photographer’s block. I’m tired of my house, I’m tired of my yard, I need a new perspective…Send help!

The great thing about photography is that I can see Laura and I continuing with it for many, many years to come.  We plan on traveling together just so we can take photographs that we have time to plan and think about and work until we get a perfect photo.  Non-photographers do NOT want to travel with you when you slow down for every possible photo and thus the photographer never really gets to work with their camera, the setting and the light to get that really awesome shot. I look forward to trips when we just park ourselves in a place that we will make a thorough photographic study of.

Now if creative inspiration would just float down and settle into the right side of my brain so I could get going on the current project….



I have been practicing trying to live in the moment.  You know, just embrace and appreciate what is going on right this minute.  Then I drove 816 miles.  Along the I-40 corridor east toward Memphis, the highway is bumper to bumper 18 wheelers.  I get it, they are supplying us with most of our necessities.  Driving along with those huge tractor trailers is not my idea of a relaxing ride, but I can tolerate it because I am selfish, and I want the supplies they are carrying.  But, traveling the highway with people who insist on driving in the passing lane is a different matter completely.  How can those drivers not realize what a nuisance they are?! It is rude and unnecessary.  There is a lane for them, it is called “slower drivers stay right.” Oblivious to that sign, can they not read my car moving in behind them and urging them along. So, I get myself all worked up and before I can control myself I am breathing hard, pursing my lips, talking to them even though they cannot hear me. I ask them, “can you not see me, do you not know you are supposed to pass and then move over.” I am all for living in the moment and enjoying the here and now.  I just need that to begin after I have passed those drivers who hog the left passing lane.


Speaking of Sisters and Brothers

My sister is on the road today to get to where my brother lives because he had quintiple by-pass surgery on Wednesday.  That’s what sisters are for….  John lives in Alabama and does not have family close, so Laura is making a 2 day drive in order to be there when he will get released from the hospital.  He then has to spend a week at home. Laura did not want him to be alone when he got home or for those recovery days.  She is going to keep him company and make some meals for now and later.


The surgery went well and he is expected to fully recover, but the doctor said the blockage in his arteries was so bad that had he had a heart attack, he would not have lived to hit the pavement.  Thank God he paid attention to the little signs his body gave him and took himself to the clinic which then turned into a trip to the emergency room which then turned into his being admitted on that day for surgery on Wednesday.

Genetically, we are all not so blessed with terrible cholesterol, so even with good diets, we would still be susceptible to plaque and blocked arteries.  So most of us are now working on getting stress tests to see where we stand on the health of our arteries.  John’s heart itself is healthy so its was a blessing that this condition was discovered and will be surgically corrected.  I want to be here when my daughter starts a career, starts a family.  I want to know my grandchildren, should I get any, so I will now pay attention to this and find out how my arteries look.

We are a close family, not without our issues and differences, but in the end, we are close and we love each other.  We stay in frequent contact and we see each other at least once a year if not more often.  It always surprises me when I hear about siblings who have not seen each other in years and elderly parents who do not have children that visit often.  We are aware of how awesome our family is and are even close with most of our aunts, uncles and cousins.  Laura has to miss my cousin’s son’s wedding in Dallas to be with John.  Sorry about that Sharon and Brenden…… It is good to have family.  Safe travels Laura, thinking of you John.


Decent Knife Phobia, Playing with fire in the kitchen.

Let’s be clear here.  This is the knife my sister uses.


It is a 4 inch paring knife, meant to peel an apple, cut cherry tomatoes, etc.  It is not a “Chefs” knife.  My 17 year old uses a real knife and has for years now.  There is all kinds of research that indicates that dull knives are the reason for most cuts in the kitchen because you have to use more force to cut and because the knife is dull, the resulting cut is worse that if you cut yourself with a sharp knife.

This is the knife I gave her.


This is a Victorinox 8″ Chef’s knife rated best by America’s Test Kitchen and runs about $40.  A great buy for a real knife…

I was shocked when I found out my sister, who has cooked for years, had no good knives and more shocked that when given one, she did not immediately see how good knives made the process so much easier and quicker. I can see now that I may have to follow up my gift of the knife with a class on knife skills.  But, that is what sisters are for….  Remember, though, that once you get a good knife, you have to have it sharpened every few months depending on how often you use it and I use a sharpening steel to keep the blade smooth between sharpenings.

I will now be on the hunt for a technique class at Williams Sonoma on knife skills.  They have great free technique classes on Sat or Sun mornings.  Too bad it is Thanksgiving time because the classes are all about the Thanksgiving meal in November, but hopefully soon, there will be a knife skill class offered.

Between now and then, I will be thankful for my sister and overlook her good knife phobia.


The Advantage of Cooking with Dull Knives, There is no blood shed

Although my sister will disagree with me, I find cooking with dull knives much safer.  I am a good cook, and I cook a lot, and I cook for lots of people quite often.  So, today I am cutting the potatoes and carrots for my stew using my very favorite dull knife.  It is serrated (which helps the cutting a little bit) and it is a lovely orange color.  Well, that is a selling point for the knife right there because our college team’s colors are orange and black. While sawing away today I even sawed the tip of my finger, and it didn’t even bleed!  I’m thinking that is a plus.  My sister, however, cooks dangerously – she uses sharp knives. When she is at my house she gripes and complains the whole time about my knives, so for a gift she gave me what she thought was a really good gift – a sharp knife.  Well, I put it in the drawer and looked at it for months.  It is super big and really, really long.  Unfortunately, one day she asked the fatal question, “so how do you like your knife.” Hmmmm, how to tell her that so far I have only watched it. That thing scares me!! I mean I could lose a hand or something.  And, I think it weighs 12 pounds, But wanting to show her how much I appreciated the gift – NOT – I used it.  I cuts wonderfully and speeds up my preparation of food.  But where is the fun in that.  So I am back to watching the knife. It does look really good in my drawer.My favorite knife


Our trip to Napa California wine country

My sister invited me to join her tennis group,eight ladies counting me, on a wonderful girls trip to Napa and San Francisco, California.  We began our journey on a Thursday where we flew into San Francisco and traveled into Napa where our first adventure began at Domain Chandon.  The group, with the exception of me, likes Champagne and this place has some of the best. It was a beautiful setting and while they sipped on the bubbly, I roamed around and took some photos.  After that we made our way to a lovely house we had rented that had a pool and backed up to a vineyard (can I just say really wonderful setting).  My flight was very early and I was on central time, so by the time we made it the house, I was ready for bed.  Since we had a full few days ahead, I did not want to begin sleep deprived.  We had many activities planned including the rental of a limousine where we tasted at four different wineries – we determined driving would not be a good idea since we were all going to imbibe.  Some tennis was played (this was a tennis group after all – I on the other hand don’t play.  Again, some photo taking time for me). We shopped, we ate, a lot, and we drank, a lot. On Sunday we had brunch plans at a french restaurant in Yountville named Bouchon.  While trying to decide on which dish I wanted, the server was telling us about the wine selections.  My favorite wine is a Chardonnay and she described this one as having a buttery flavor and a hint of oak. Great!  My favorite!  I heard her say the wine was $25.00 a carafe.  Wow!  I thought, that sounds great.  That is the perfect blend of flavors I like in a wine so I ordered a glass.  It was so good, I ordered another glass.  The food was a bit expensive, but I could see that on the menu.  It was truly wonderful food.  Then the bill came.  Well, my hearing was off, because it was not $25.00 a carafe, it was $25.00 a glass – and I had two!! That is the most expensive wine I have ever had.  And the worst part is I don’t even know the name of the wine so I can impress someone with casually mentioning I had a couple glasses of ????I Oh well, I was on vacation wasn’t I?  When I got home and was telling my husband the wine story, I mentioned only the one glass.  Sometimes he thinks I don’t listen well, and I saw no need to confirm that thought.  All in all it was a wonderful trip, and I appreciated my sister asking me to tag along.


Our London trip began a journey we have continued.

It is interesting how selfish we are when we are growing up.  I am nine younger than Tricia, and I remember when she came home from the hospital – she cried all the time.  In a fit, I remember asking my mom if she could “keep that baby from disturbing my sleep!” I soon became a teenager and we all know how incorrigible teenagers can be.  If I could go back in time I would handle that differently today.  Younger siblings look up to older siblings, so I would have incorporated her into my life more.  But, alas, we cannot undue the past.  So our present and our future are filled with wonderful times together and a close bond that will not be broken.

The London trip was in 1988.  I know this because it was the first time I applied for a passport.  Since then I have had my passport renewed three times and will have to do it again next year.

We stayed in a tiny apartment that a pilot rented out when he was flying.  It was very near Russell Square and we could hop right on the underground.

It was dreary weather, but that is to be expected in London.  Our photos all seem a bit drab to me.  Of course we were using film cameras and we were amateurs at best.

At Westminster Abby, we came in a side door, and I somehow missed seeing the sign that no photos were allowed.  A Cardinal in long flowing red robes, shoes and hat came and told me in no uncertain terms that I had to leave.  When I tried to explain I did not see the sign, he was unimpressed – and quite rude.  Well, growing up Catholic I was familiar with the hierarchy of the Catholic clergy and knew him to be fairly high up there.  However, I was not intimidated by him and told him I was with my sister and would not leave until I found her.  I (very slowly) looked around for her and he had eagle eyes on me the whole time.  Finally, I had to adjourn to the outdoors and wait.  I am posting two of my forbidden photos.  Before I had these developed I was sure I had a treasure worth lots of money, but you can see they are too dark to see much of anything.

Life is meant to be shared.  It is short and as you age you realize how much time can be lost if you do not grab everything you can from it as it passes in front of of you.  Tricia and I are making the most of our friendship and our sibling relationship.  I love that!

Westminter Abby - Forbidden photoWestminister Abby 1988


Birthday Trips

My sister and I were born 1 day apart, 9 years apart, April 24th and April 25th.  I was basically her 9th birthday present.  One she was not excited about and one she held against me until I was about 15.  Age 8 and age 17 do not go well together.  It wasn’t until she moved away and I was about 15 before we starting building the relationship we have today.

When I worked for an airline between 1982 and 1993, we started making birthday trips together.  This was long before we got interested in photography, long before digital photography, so the photos are not of great quality, even by our amateurish standards.  The ones I post today were from our trip to London.  I don’t even know what year it is, maybe Laura can say.  I really loved our tradition of traveling for our birthdays, but once I no longer worked for the airline and then I was self-employed and Devin came along and it just got harder to commit to annual birthday trips.  Once Devin is in college, maybe we can start up again, this time to work on our photography hobby as well.

We had a great time in London.  This was before they closed Windsor Castle grounds to the public.  You could walk around the grounds and see the castle pretty up close.  I wish we had toured the castle, and I can’t remember why we did not.  Windsor is a quaint little town and it was still when I took my daughter in 2009.

Even back when photography was not a serious interest for both of us, Laura was busy taking photographs and managed to get herself kicked out of Westminster Abbey.  I was wondering around and could not figure out where she had gotten to….she was waiting outside for me to find her.  You know, back when cell phones did not exist.  She couldn’t just text me to say she was outside.  I had to find her.  She should elaborate on how that situation unfolded.  I don’t know if she has any photos from that trip.  I scanned all of my developed photos into digital format a few years ago.

I remember we had a lovely tea service in some small cafe with clotted cream (which I did not know what to do with back then).  When I went back with Devin in 2009, I could not find a little cafe that offered afternoon tea.  I still don’t know why, buy when I spoke to some people about tea time in London, someone told me that most people make their own tea at home or in their office.  Too bad, that afternoon tea at a little bistro table on the sidewalk was very nice.  You would think with the popularity of Starbucks, afternoon tea would have become more popular out of the office than in, but then, I am American, not British, so who knows what they think of the Starbucks stronghold.

I wish I could remember more about my trips with Laura and trips in general, but come to find out, I have a terrible memory.  Thank God for pictures, or I would be really lost.  I don’t remember where we stayed, but I was never real concerned about accommodations, still am not.  I remember visiting Bath, the Tower of London, but not too may real specifics.  Let’s see what Laura can add.