Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Memory from Cuba

Five years ago, I went to Cuba with a group of photographers. My friend Jim Quinn was part of that group and this week he sent me this picture he had taken of me and it brought back some wonderful memories.

We were staying in a Casa Particular in Old Havana. The breakfasts in the casa were wonderful so one day we asked them if they could also make dinner. The very accommodating hosts said they could. We had a great dinner. So good, in fact, that we asked them to do it again.

By this time my sweet tooth was wanting a bite of a dessert. I had seen bananas with the street vendors, there was an ice cream store on our street, Cuba has rum so I asked if our host had brown sugar and butter. She did although I'm not too sure about the origin of the "butter".  And she agreed to let me make a dessert for dinner.

As soon as I turned on the gas stove I realized why meals took so long to prepare. You could not get a high flame. Maybe it was more than a simmer but not by a whole lot. Nevertheless, I cooked the butter, bananas and brown sugar, then added the rum. There was no flambe to this mixture but I cooked it down a bit and put it over the ice cream that was melting quickly in the heat. It wasn't officially Bananas Foster but it was quite tasty.

Everyone enjoyed it and the host wrote down the recipe. I have a feeling that since then she has served it to her guests from time to time.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

What I Learned in 2018

Well, here it is, the book that you have heard about many times over the last eight years.

Port Aransas, Texas
Photographs Inspired by the Mercer Logs 1866 to 1877
Billie Mercer

It is a large book, 12 by 12, 166 pages. Perfect bound with a linen cover and printed dust jacket. 

How did it come to be? It started as an idea of things to do while Ned was going through treatment for cancer. I wanted to keep him busy with fun things. Ned's family were the first settlers on the northern end of Mustang Island in about 1855 and that settlement eventually became known as Port Aransas. We had vacationed there many times when our boys were young, so we loved the island. I told Ned that I wanted to work on a photography book about the island and use the logs or daily diaries that his family had written as a guide in making those photographs. Ned was always willing to go anywhere with me when I pulled out my camera so, April 2011, was the first trip. The trips continued even after Ned passed away. In fact, making this book became more important to me.

Starting in early 2015, I uploaded to Blurb different versions of the book, even had some of them printed as a proof. I wasn't satisfied with any of them. At the same time, I was looking for other publishers, graphic designers, getting estimates, and learning more and more about self-publishing. I was looking for the perfect book and I was looking for approval. Needless to say, I became discouraged and dropped the project for months.

Fears about artmaking fall into two families: fears about yourself, and fears about your reception by others. In a general, fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work.
                                         Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

In January 2018, I wrote out what I really wanted, a book for my family. I put aside all my concerns about the cost or marketing the book; or what a designer or publisher might want. 

Everything I had done earlier was dumped and I started over. I learned more about Adobe InDesign and fonts. Almost every day, I spent time on the book and in late October I uploaded the book to get a proof print. My sons received copies of the book for Christmas. I have to tell you that I'm pleased that I pushed this big project though but now I am excited about the responses I've gotten from photographers and book people. Who knows what might happen in 2019. Maybe it will get published for a wider audience. 

What I learned in 2018, and should have already known, is follow my heart and my vision. Just do it!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Helllooo.....Anybody Still Out There?

I can't believe it has been 28 months since I wrote a blog entry. I just seemed to run out of steam for the blog while I worked on other projects. But, for some reason, I'm feeling the urge to write again.

One of the big things that has happened is that I completed a book I have worked on since 2010. In order to do that I spent a lot of 2017 learning Adobe InDesign. I still am a beginner but I learned some on my own and then I hired Mary Meade to help me pull my ideas together with the master page feature of InDesign. Then 2018 was the year of the book. There is a lot to tell about that experience but I'll save that for other blog entries.

I've done some travel over the last 28 months, two times to Italy and once to London and the Cotswolds, Port Aransas a bunch of times, Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas, Austin, Memphis to see a grandson graduate from Rhodes College and maybe another place or two that I'm not remembering.

I had my 80th birthday and I've survived another couple of years. Just can't believe how fast time is passing.

Using the blog, I'm going to try to fill you in on what has happened as well as writing about current events. So, who among my blog readers is still out there?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Photographs in the Yucatan, 1946 and the 1990's

This week I stopped at Banamex on Canal and looked at the current photography exhibition, Armando Salas Portugal, Chronicle of a Trip to the Yucatan, 1946. The photographs stopped me in my tracks because I spent so much time in the Yucatan during the 1990's while I was photographing the 16th century churches spread across the peninsula. Some of Armando's images showed the thatched roof houses and churches that I, too, photographed. Not a lot happened between 1946 and 1993 except that doors were put back on the churches, fences were repaired and painted and the road was paved. I say paved in a most general sense. At least they were no longer sand and dirt but they still had pot holes and lots of topes. Our car moved at a slow place.
The church above is in Hoctun where we met people who had tiendas around the square. We returned many times and I took photographs back to the people we met the first time.
The image below is of a family in another little village. Actually I doubt that it could even be called a village. They lived in the small settlement of a ruined hacienda. The last time Ned and I went to the Yucatan in 2008, we tried and tried to find their house but a new road had been cut through the area and I'm afraid that it wiped out the little settlement.

I walked out of Banamex wanting to go back to the Yucatan and follow the maps in the guidebook that I used while I was working on the 16th Century photography project. What has happened to the old two-lane road that connected many of these churches now that everyone travels the toll road between Cancun and Merida? What do the churches look like today? Could I find some of the people that we met back in the 1990's? Could I find a driver? How long would it take?
Mmmm.....can you tell that a seed has been planted?
Back to Armando Salas Portugal and his trip in the Yucatan in 1946. This exhibition covers much more of the Yucatan than just the churches. It covers the beaches, Mayan sites just being uncovered, villages and people. Although I don't think that these are vintage prints, they are beautiful prints and definitely worth a stop in Banamex.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Protest Age-ism

A couple of things have happened recently which make me think that because of my "maturity" I'm being treated differently and I don't like it!

First of all, I'm going overseas to a workshop. The workshop requires that participants have International Travel Insurance. So, I went on line to buy it and I found out that in another three months when I am 80 it becomes almost impossible to buy it and if you can buy it, it is very limited in the total coverage offered. I know some people in their 80's may not be in good health but what about those of us who are still on the move? <sigh> I guess I'll figure out what to do when the situation comes up after my birthday.

One of my credit cards furnishes my credit score periodically. Today I got a notice that I could go on line and get mine. I've done it before and it stays about the same all of the time. But this time it had dropped 50 points. Whoa! What happened? I'll tell you what happened. My credit score dropped because I do not have a mortgage, car payment or some kind of loan so that how I pay that type of debt can be evaluated. Credit card payments are evaluated separately. Can you believe that? Because I don't have debt I'm less credit worthy. I would think that a lot of mature, retired people do not have a mortgage or a car payment. Does that make us less credit worthy than younger people who have credit card debts, two car payments, college loans and a mortgage?

Have any things like this happened to you? Who wants to join my protest movement?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Mercado de las Orquideas

What a weekend! It has been the San Miguel Mercado de las Orquideas which was sponsored by the San Miguel Orchid Lovers. The Orchid Lovers are a group of people in San Miguel who DO love orchids and want to share their love of orchids with other people in San Miguel. It was just one year ago when my friend Mary invited me to join them at their annual dinner. I had grown or maybe I should say I maintained some Phalaenopsis in the past but really didn't know much about orchids. And growing orchids here is complicated by the low humidity. Some orchids require more humidity than others but it is somewhere in the 30-70% range. Some need cooler weather and others warmer. My beginner list was for orchids that looked like they had a fighting change in SMA. I joined the group and I've learned a lot but I think raising orchids could be a life long learning process even if you are starting at a much younger age than I.

This past Friday night was the 2016  dinner and Saturday morning the expo opened with 24 vendors. I wish you could have seen the venue. It is a wide space, kind of a wide alley and both sides were lines with gorgeous, gorgeous orchids. People came, both Mexicans and gringos, and I think all of the vendors did well. At least when I went back this afternoon, the tables still had orchids but they were spaced out a bit. 

I had my list of "Beginner" orchids so I thought I knew what I was looking for but I have to tell you that it was so, so easy to be seduced by orchids that were not on the list. I think I did pretty well although I did not stick strictly to the list.

I wanted a cattleya because I didn't have one and they are so beautiful. I have heard that they are harder to grow than Palaenopsis ( you know the one you always see in the grocery store) so I thought I would start with just one.

The tag on this orchid is Lysudamuloa (Lys) Red Jewel. I think it might be some kind of cross between Lycaste and something. I liked the flowers and I like the leaves that are large, long and kind of soft.
As you can see I have a lot to learn.

I already have several Paphiopedilum or slipper orchids but I could not resist this one with its variegated leaves. It's tag calls it a Paphio Coloralum. Can't wait for the bloom to open.


If you saw this in the jungle, would you think it was an orchid? It is a Bulbophyllum, Lion King x Annandalei. It wasn't on my list but it was the only one I saw in the whole show so I had to have it.


Somehow this orchid got to my house without a tag. It is a big plant, about 2.5feet tall and just about as wide and it was heavy. I carried it home from out past the instituto along with a heavy bag with a pot and potting medium. I don't know if the plant had a tag or if it was lost but it is a Cymbidium of some type. Another orchid lover told me that they had Cymbidiums in a pot and it sat outside all year long. There are two other shoots on it with blooms so it should be spectacular for a while yet.

It has been a great weekend but my purse is much lighter than it was on Saturday morning.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Muy Contento

I've have spent this Sunday gardening. First it was on the patio working on my orchids and taking care of the new plants in the beds. And while I was working on what was there I was thinking about what next. How are the plants doing and if they don't adapt what I might try next. What I might buy at the San Miguel Orchid show. Under the tree, what I might plant that needs some shade but really good drainage.

Next I went up to the terrace carrying the box of plants and succulents that Ed brought me. Last year I bought a wrought iron baker's rack from and Karen and Jim planning to use it to plant succulents but I didn't have the right soil or pots for succulents so it was just a kind of messy place to put leftover pots and plants. Now it was refitted with the right pots and the right soil and I had a few succulents so I started filling the pots with the them.

Then I sat down in a chair on the terrace and relaxed. I could hear a lot of fireworks. Too many fireworks for Carly. She stayed with me on the terrace for a bit but then she went downstairs to the studio to her bed. She does not like the big boomers and these were big boomers and they seemed fairly close by.  I don't know what the occasion was today but I could also hear drum and bugles and a Mexican band playing for the Dancers.

There was a hummingbird attacking the blooming firecracker plant. A big lime hanging from the lime tree, A huge, beautiful yellow hibiscus bloom. A cool breeze. A blue sky with fluffy white clouds.  The sounds of Mexico. And so the time flew by with me just sitting in the chair looking and listening and thinking about what an amazing life I am living. I have so many blessings everyday.

It is hard from me to write about what I was feeling but I'm sure you have felt moments like this also. I was in a bubble of contentment and peace and thankfulness. No amount of money could have made this day any better.

Muy Contento