I Feel Like Pink Today

Two hydrangeas, both pink.

In the Pink

Pink and Green

I guess our soil is more alkaline than acidic. The more acidic the soil, the blooms will turn blue. I'm OK with leaving things as they are around here!

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It's Not Fall Yet

Even though this leaf and the cooler temperatures are trying convince us otherwise.

Not Fall Yet

As found in my neighbor's yard. I was retrieving parts of the slip-n-slide that had blown into their yard as a result of the fierce winds that accompanied last night's thunderstorms.

Still waiting on summer, but judging from the extended forecast, it will be here before the weekend.

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Wildflowers in June

It's late June and the purple-blue wildflowers have emerged on the edge of the prairie and the roads.

Solitary

Gathering

Blue Star

I don't know their official name, all I know is they are the harbinger of summer.

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Camera Phone Friday - Summer Skies

Sitting at the baseball game on Wednesday and the clouds looked so puffy.
The team won Wednesday's game, but lost last night - the baseball season is officially over.

Evening Skies

And where did our summer go? It must be hiding behind the clouds - at least it is here in the mid west.

I hope you have a blessed Friday.

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Hazy Memory

I seldom keep blurry pictures, but I love this photo because I know what city it is -

Familiar Yet Blurry

It's brings back those a hazy memories.


From a different time and place.

Rush Hour

I hope you take time to cull a distance memory that makes you smile today.

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Destihl Micro Brewery - Downtown

There's a new micro brewery in town, and Scott and I experienced it last Saturday evening. Opened since April, I only heard about it Friday night from my friend, Amy, during our Book Club discussions (yes, we DID talk about the book, but we talk about other stuff, too).

Located in the downtown section of our little college town, it's easy to miss because there's no big sign or awnings to draw attention to it, unlike this other establishment across the street:
The Corner Pub

But we managed to find it and really enjoyed the assortment of micro brews available:
On Tap

The best thing - you can order a small 4oz glass to enjoy. This way, you can sample more than one.
Blonde

Or, move up to the 8oz glass.
Pour One

The micro brews are so fresh and perfect on our summer evening. The food was delicious, too. We'll be back, for sure.

edited to add - I'm linking up to Love that Shot - it's their birthday and they are running special link ups and giveaways all week. It's a great resource for photography.

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The Summer Solstice

I watched the sun rise today, as I was slogging through my morning run. I remembered today was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. I was glad to see the start of it.

On the Summer Solstice

Not quite the sun, but a sure sign of summer. I hope yours has started out as sunny as ours.

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Texture Tuesday - Baby David

I took over 80 pictures of baby David, the 3 week old newborn son of one of my friends and co-worker, Nancy.

The bad thing? That was over 3 weeks ago, and I've barely started editing his pictures. Surely he's changed so much in that time - they grow up so fast.

I'm not all that experienced when it comes to shooting people, especially babies, so when I have access to one, I can't resist (And who can't resist holding a squishy newborn in their arms).

Since I'm posting this for Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday, I thought I'd post the SOOC version:
Baby David, SOOC

And then the lightly textured version:
Sleeping David
I'm not quite sure about the color of his skin (maybe looks a little gray), although I removed the texture from his face. I used a very simple texture, Kim's Love Texture, in the soft light blending mode.

So I have lots of work to do with all these pictures. I'm hoping to get them completed this weekend, so wish me luck!

And be sure to head over to Kim's for Texture Tuesday.
kimklassencafe

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Book Club Night - At the Pool

We were spoiled last Friday evening with balmy and light summer breezes out on patio at Lisa's house. The food was delicious and the company even better. I know I say this every month, but I am so blessed to have a great group of friends.

Table Setting

Tasty Bites

Pass the Bread

We didn't take advantage of the pool or the hot tub. I know, shame on us! But we might have another opportunity next month....

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Just Playing with Topaz Adjust

I finally downloaded a 30 day trial of Topaz Adjust and I played around with a couple of images. Topaz Adjust works as a plug in for PhotoShop, PhotoShop Elements or Lightroom and creates effects to make your photos pop. There are several HDR (High Dynamic Range) presets that you can use on a single photo for an HDR end product.

I opted to use it in Lightroom and converted a picture of my son at bat during a baseball game.

The photo below is a Non HDR version:
Approach the Plate

And another shot, processed with an HDR preset:
Hitter

A bit over the top and totally fake looking? Probably, but hey, I think it's kind of cool looking and stylized - sometimes its fun to play around. Once the 30 day trial is over, I'll probably purchase a full license and add it to my never ending set of post processing tools.

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The Tiger Mother

The Book

aka my thoughts on Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother....

I read the book back in March, during Spring break. I started this blog post and never completed it. Since we are discussing the book tonight at Book Club, I thought it would be a good time to complete things. But please note that this is a very long post. To break things up, I am inserting "vintage" photos of my parents back in Taiwan and of our family growing up in Massachusetts.


When a carefully (controversial) excerpted version of Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother appeared in the Wall Street Journal , provocatively titled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”, an uproar ensued, prompting opinions, harsh comments, opposition to the “Tiger Mother”, or Chinese method of parenting.
In the Wall Street Journal article, as well as the opening chapter of the book, the author lists the things she never allowed her two daughters, (two music prodigies) to do:

  • Attend a sleepover
  • Have a playdate
  • Be in a school play
  • Complain about not being in a school play
  • Watch TV or play computer games
  • Choose their own extracurricular activities
  • Get any grade less than an A
  • Not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • Play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • Not play the piano or violin
Yes, these were the hooks that drew the masses into talking about the book, talking about the “Tiger Mother method of parenting”. Hopefully, the sensationalism prompted people to actually read the book. It isn’t a book on how-to parent your child in the Chinese mother method, but rather a look at one woman’s extreme parenting experience – the good, the bad and the ugly, and that there isn’t a cookie cutter method to raising children.

For me, it was also a reminder of some of my experiences growing up as a first generation Chinese in America – that these experiences were quite similar to that of Amy Chua’s, and in retrospect, quite funny.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 5, Our Generational Decline, describing each generation of Chinese, fortunate enough to have come to the United States as graduate students (my parents). I’ve inserted my comments in italics.

Mom and Dad B_W
My parents, around the time they were married....

The immigrant generation (like my parents) is the hardest working. Many will have started off in the United States almost penniless, but they will work nonstop until they become successful engineers (my father), scientists, doctors, academics, or businesspeople. [My parents ran a rustproofing business, co-owned and managed three Chinese restaurants while my father worked as an engineer at Digital. To this day, I don’t know how they did it all].
As parents, they will be extremely strict and rabidly thrifty. (“Don’t throw out those leftovers! Why are you using so much dishwashing liquid? You don’t need a beauty salon – I can cut your hair even nicer”.) [OMG! I even think these thoughts in my mind].
They will invest in real estate [My parents invested in three duplexes in the 80s and ran them as rental properties – just a little side business on top of the rustproofing and Chinese restaurants].
They will not drink much. Everything they do and earn will go toward their children’s education and future. [Yep – my parents worked so long and hard to give us all the opportunity they never had growing up in China and Taiwan. For that, I am forever grateful...]

Family_Taiwan_1976
Three Generations of the Chang Family - visiting Taiwan during the summer of 1976. I'm smack in the middle, next to my Grandmother (Nai Nai). From the Left - my Uncle and Auntie, baby sister Michele, Nai Nai, cousin Nancy, my Dad, Mom and sister Teresa.

The next generation (mine), the first to be born in America, will typically be high-achieving. They will usually play the piano and / or violin [Check on both instruments. I started playing violin in third grade. By fourth grade, I couldn’t wait to start playing piano, because all of my Chinese friends (sons and daughters of my parent’s friends) had been playing for years and I felt left behind. My younger sister, Teresa, also played violin for a couple years before switching to flute. All three of us Chang girls played piano for many years, my youngest sister, Michele, started playing when she was five.]
Family_1970s
After a piano recital - I'm just about to apply the "rabbit ears" behind my sister, but Dad must have snapped the photo too soon. Note the matching shoes...

They will attend an Ivy League or Top Ten university. [Check for all three of us – but my youngest sister, Michele declined the opportunity to attend Cornell, opting to attend Reed College in Oregon instead – something my parents disagreed with... she was always the Rebel in our family...]
They will tend to be professionals – lawyers, doctors, bankers, television anchors [Another check]
They will be less frugal than their parents [in some ways, yes, but I still use every drop of the liquid soap in the bottle, even diluting the remnants stuck to the sides of the bottle with water to make sure I get all the cleaning agents used up]. They will enjoy cocktails [and routinely drink wine with meals, just not special occasions].
If they are female, they will often marry a white person [Three girls, Three white husbands, even one from Scotland].
Whether male or female, they will not be as strict with their children as their parents were with them. [My kids wouldn’t agree with this statement!]

Family
Another three generations

The next generation … will be born into the great comforts of the upper middle class. Even as children they will own many hardcover books [Erica had at least 10 hardcover Nancy Drew books that she read over the course of 10 days. We own the Harry Potter and Twilight series in hardcover. I don’t even want to talk about the Lego sets Brian owns – If Amy Chua had boys, she would have mentioned Legos for sure.]
They will have wealthy friends who get paid for B-pluses [And my daughter claims it’s unfair that I only pay her if she gets straight A’s – which is something my parents would never, ever do.]
They may or may not attend private schools, but they will expect expensive, brand name clothes [and force their mothers to shop at the Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch, where they play music so loud you can’t even hear yourself think and spray that awful cologne everywhere. Seriously, I always end up with a head ache after shopping at the A and F. Not to mention the prices - $60 for a pair of jeans with holes in them. I insist my daughter pay for the overpriced clothes, and we always shop the sale rack.]
They will feel that they have individual rights … and therefore be much more likely to disobey. [The reality is that at some point in their lives, usually during adolescence, your children are likely to rebel. It’s a part of American culture, probably something instinctual in our human make up.]
end of excerpt

If asked, my children would claim that I am stricter than any of their friend’s mothers. I don’t let them watch certain TV shows – Sponge Bob, for example (because the characters treat each other disrespectfully). If they don’t get 100% on a test, I make them re-work their incorrect answers. If we sign up for an activity, we commit fully – no quitting. But I’ve made mistakes along the way – after all, there isn’t such a thing as “perfect parenting” - I did force my daughter to play violin for a year more than she wanted to and I applied a lot of pressure and negative reinforcement. I now realize that she isn’t a second generation version of me, that she has her own interests and should be allowed to pursue them on her terms (even if it means some struggling and bumps in the road to get there).

When applying to college, I wrote an essay on my uniqueness. I wish I had kept a copy of that essay, because it would be interesting to read what my 17 year old self had to say. It went along the ways of how I was a first generation Chinese, that I was subjected to all the Chinese ways of doing things. Yet, I was also in America, with its distinct culture, vastly different from my Chinese upbringing. I recognized I was a blend of these two cultures – the good and bad of each - and that the good and bad of each could be channeled to make me a better person. I find that still to be true – that the good things of the “Chinese way” (hard work and discipline) blended with the good things of the “American way” (freedom and acceptance) has given me so much opportunity.

As my kids grow older, I find that I need to let go of some of the restrictions I’ve imposed and start letting the kids make their own decisions and deal with the consequences. I let them watch Sponge Bob and the bratty kids on the Disney Channel. They know what I’d like them to watch instead, but it’s time for me to be less controlling. Because, in the end, our jobs as parents are to instill values of hard work, discipline, perseverance, truthfulness and independence in our children.

If you read this entire blog post, thank you! I hope I haven't bored you too much with my ramblings - I did enjoy the book and look forward to discussing it with my Book Club friends.

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Happy Birthday

My daughter turned 14 yesterday. I had to use my heavy coercion skills (ie, incessant begging and pleading) and shot one picture of her, and I promised I wouldn't post it on the blog.

So instead, I went into the archives and found this cute picture of her when she was 2 years old, just before her brother was born.

Erica at 2 years

And another recent picture of her
Our Girl

We celebrated with a nice dinner out. No formal party with friends, but I think she is lobbying for a sleepover with friends sometime next week (where they will stay up all night long and sleep all day).

I say this every year, but how quickly they grow up.....

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Texture Tuesday - Delicate Curves

The water iris are now but a memory - last week's heat brought them into full bloom quickly and then they faded quickly. I only caught a glimpse at the tail end of their run - I think they peaked while I was out east.

Delicate Curves

I added Kim's Mayzee texture, in the soft light blending mode. I added a layer mask to the texture layer and erased some of the texture from the curve of the flower.

Check out the wonderful textured creations at Kim's today - you can participate by adding any one of her textures to a photo.
kimklassencafe

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From Near to Far

I took these several weeks ago when life was crazy busy and I didn't get a chance to post them.

Guess what I took a picture of...
Drops or Bubbles

I'll even add some extra white space before pulling back....






I hope you're still here....



I positioned the camera just a little further (or is it farther?) away...


The Bigger Picture
Yup, glasses. Mine. Thank goodness for auto-focus, 'cause I couldn't see a thing through that viewfinder when I took this one, or the first one. Don't mention the diopter adjustment on the viewfinder - my eyes are really, really, really bad.

How did the water drops form on my glasses? I went running in this:
Fog at 6am

Amazing that my vision wasn't all that impacted by the water drops on my glasses. It's similar to the dust on your camera lens - your eye focuses past it.

The weird thing about this particular morning. One hour later, it was as clear as day, as if no fog ever existed.

See what you miss by sleeping in past 7am. That's what I tell my kids, but somehow, they aren't buying it....

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Mosaic Monday - Into The Light

A compilation of photos I took last week, in the morning and evening light that makes everything shimmer.

Touched By The Light

I haven't linked up to Mosaic Monday in a while but Mary's collection from the garden conservatory gave me a creative boost.

Enjoy your Sunday evening - we're enjoying the beautiful, cool weather - a nice break from the heat and humidity of last week.

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Breakfast of Champions

What a great way to start your morning.

Morning Meal
Special K, enhanced with fresh blueberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit.

Wishing you a blessed Sunday.

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Playing Catch

I got back from the east coast in time for two back to back baseball games. With vacations and injuries, our team barely has enough players to field a full team. So we had to bring in some reinforcements, at least for one night.

Olivia is filling in tonight and played the catcher position for one inning - with her twin brother, Nolan pitching to her.

Suited Up

It's just a simple game of throw and catch - just like at home.
Play Catch

It's a good thing the twins get along (at least that's what their mom tells me). Things can get heated around the plate.
Plate Preparation

Yeah, just kidding.

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The Beach

No visit to my parent's place would be complete without a trip to the beach. Living on the edge of Cape Cod certainly has its benefits.

We visited Ellisville Harbor State Park on my last evening in Massachusetts. It was a perfect early evening, with temperatures in the low 70s, no clouds and little wind. The tide was going out, allowing us plenty of room to wander along the shore.

Low Tide Waves

Late Afternoon Walk
That's my father walking along the beach. He and Mom didn't mind driving me out here, so late in the afternoon (because that's when the best light is available for beach pictures).

The beach was sparsely occupied. The water is still cold (I guess it never really warms up, even in the heat of July) and even with abundant sunshine, the cooler temperatures only allowed for the casual fisherman or beach comber.
Daily Catch

I still found several treasures, big and small, along the water's edge
Hidden Treasure

Carved by the Water

Much of the natural beauty remains here. A wonderful place to relax and enjoy.

Wild Growth

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A History Lesson - The Start of the Revolutionary War

I realize the timing of my post might be construed in a political way, but by no means is that the case. It’s merely a coincidence that I happened to visit Lexington – Concord a couple days after a-not-to-be-named-political-figure’s recounting of Paul Revere’s ride on April 18, 1775, from Boston to Lexington. I won’t go any further into the fallout of the recent events, nor offer up any of my personal or political opinions. I’m merely going to post pictures from my visit to the Minute Man National Park and quote the information available from their website.

I drove to Lexington in order to meet up with some friends from work and college. Before meeting up with my friends, I decided to take a short visit to the Minute Man National Park which encompasses the battlefields and structures of the opening battle of the Revolutionary War. Since I was short on time, I decided to focus my time at the North Bridge (located in Concord), where the first major battle between the British and colonial militia was fought.
British Gravestone North Bridge Concord

In front of the North Bridge is the British Soldiers’ Gravestone, where the first verse of The Concord Hymn is engraved:
First Verse Concord Hymn

Past the North Bridge, I walked towards the Buttrick Mansion where the North Bridge visitor’s center is housed. I could only imagine the battle that ensued in the meadow area between the two landmarks.
North Bridge

I never entered the Buttrick Mansion because the gardens of the grounds were in full bloom and I just can’t pass up all those flowers.
The Hidden Bridge

Iris Along the Path Concord

After my visit to Concord, my friends and I walked around downtown Lexington, where several historic landmarks, including the Battle Green and the Hancock-Clarke House are located.
Hancock Clarke House Lexington

After visiting both towns, I was confused by the timing of the events of the day (first shots of the Revolutionary War in Lexington vs the Shot Heard Around The World in Concord). After some research, I learned that the British soldiers marched from Boston, first passing through Lexington where the British troops encountered a small number colonial militia. An exchange of battle fire occurred, hence the first shots of the Revolutionary war. The outnumbered local militia in Lexington fell back and the British continued their advance into Concord where they encountered the large contingent of colonial militia at the North Bridge, and thus, the first battle was fought. This scene was the inspiration for Emerson’s Concord Hymn, where the phrase “Shot Heard Around the World” was coined.

Details of the days’ events, from the Minute Man National Park website:

On the evening of April 18, 1775, General Thomas Gage sent approximately 700 British soldiers out to Concord (about 18 miles distant) to seize and destroy military stores and equipment known to be stockpiled in the town.
The decade-long political feud between the British government and the American colonists, determined to retain their rights as British subjects, came to a devastating climax as British regulars clashed with colonial militia and minute men on April 19, 1775 at Lexington, Concord's North Bridge and on the long, bloody road back to Boston. The fighting that began that day soon grew into a war for independence that lasted more than eight years.

It's funny and sad at the same time - I lived in this area for many years, yet never took the time to explore the rich history in the area. I suggest you take the time to explore the historical and cultural relevance in your local area. You may not have the opportunity to go back once you've left the area.

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