Fall in Southern Maryland

I have this love/hate relationship with fall…  I love the colors, the crisp cool weather, the anticipation of the holidays… But while we were able to boat all the way up until the first week of October this year, fall always means that winter is on the way along with several  months of not being able to enjoy the outdoors.

I’m not sure what it was about this fall, but the colors of the trees seemed more vibrant than they have in past years.  Maybe it was a wetter/more mild summer & fall that did it?  Whatever the reason, it truly has been beautiful.  I took a couple of walks around the neighborhood and got some shots of my neighbor’s houses, some fabulous fall flowers, and had the opportunity to take some family photo’s for my friends/neighbors and their little guys.  You may or may not noticed, but I punched up the color on some of these to really bring out how vibrant the scenery really was.  It was either me or the camera, but I felt I couldn’t fully do the colors justice without a little Photoshop help (what do you think?  is it too much/not enough/just right?).

I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving!  I’m thankful for all of my amazing friends & family for always checking out my posts and leaving wonderful words of encouragement =)

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Holiday Dishes from Even’ Star Farm

Hello to all of my faithful readers!  My apologies for the hiatus that was much too long… The spring, summer, and fall were filled lots of boating, traveling, friends, and of course the day job…  So the up side to not posting any photos for the past six is that now I have a nice backlog of images to pull from during the winter months (expect some summer posts from me while I’m curled up at home trying to stay warm)!

So my first post back, I’m treating you to something that hopefully looks as delicious as it tasted.  Even’ Star Organic Farm, our local CSA in Southern Maryland, started hosting cooking classes this year and I was really excited to attend their “De-Stressing The Holidays” class this weekend.  Brett, Chris, Sherry, and a few helpers walked through some amazing recipes while my fellow classmates and I feasted as we observed.  I won’t attempt to relay all of their cooking tips & recipes here, but I will share with you a visual feast.  Dig in!!

The first step of the day was prepping the turkey.  Brett took us through the stuffing, the seasoning, and wrapping of the turkey.  I’m a vegetarian and don’t plan on cooking a turkey myself anytime soon, but a few things I learned… 1) If you bake your turkey, wrapping it in a paper bag will help keep it from drying out, 2) If you BBQ your turkey (like my husband always does), definitely brine it first, and 3) Buy local, free range turkeys if you can.

While setting up for the next demo, we got to dive in on a cheese course (baguette & water crackers with blue cheese and mixed nuts with honey, mmm…).  By the time I got to the table the pretty trays had been demolished, so no pictures, but trust me it was “Mmmm”…  We also were treated to glasses of Prosecco with Pear to enjoy with the cheese.  Speaking of beverages, we had a total of 4 great wines throughout the meal.  Here are the labels in case you happen to see them in the store:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up was the soup course!  Chris made us an amazing cream of cress soup and while she expertly garnished our portions with whipped cream and caviar, Sherry showed us how to make cornbread dressing (with and without fresh oysters).  Then we got to devour our bowls of soup, it was as delicious as it was beautiful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our soup euphoria, it was time to start prepping for dessert.  First we learned the simple art of making pie crusts (you can see one sitting out on the ledge to keep cool so the heat of the kitchen wouldn’t melt the butter).  Then came the apple filling, and then the easy way to fake a lattice.  Chris then showed us how to make the mousse topping to her chocolate mousse cake with hazelnut crunch.

      

Now that our mouths were watering it was time for a little bite, this time of baked balsamic and rosemary grapes (SO good), while we learned to make Sweet Potatoes “TaTa.”  And since the turkey was just about done, it was gravy time too!

 

We’re getting to the best time of the day… everything has been prepped and cooked, the turkey has been carved, it’s time to eat!

Finally, a delicious meal can only be topped by sinful desserts.  As I’m writing this, I feel like I should be reading more food reviews, I’m running out of adjectives!  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

That’s all for now my Photo and Foodie friends.  I promise to be back and to post more often.  For now I’ll leave you with a shout out to my favorite phoblographer friend Jen (she’s amazing, http://photosbyshew.wordpress.com, with many thanks for encouraging me to not forget about my blog) and with one of my favorite photos of the day… See you soon!

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Next Door Lounge

Our favorite neighborhood restaurant by far is Bollywood Masala, the place where I was first introduced to Indian food and haven’t turned back since!  This is the place where  when I call for takeout, they recognize my phone number on caller ID and already know what my order will be…

Bollywood recently opened a lounge next door to the restaurant (appropriately called The Next Door Lounge) serving delicious desserts and drinks.  My fellow photo blogger friend Jen asked Sunny (the owner/operator) to let us come by and take a few photos to help spruce up their Facebook site.  We were generously compensated with fried paneer and pistachio cake, heavenly!

Here are some of my shots of the new place, we’ll have to go back and try our hand at photographing some of the food… with a little taste testing afterward of course =) Hope to see you at the Lounge soon!

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Costa Rica Final Installment… For this trip at least!

Hi all!  Still playing photo catch-up, but have FINALLY made it through all the Costa Rica pictures…  Thanks for waiting patiently =)  We’ll start off with these gorgeous trees that lined the beginning of our hike in Rincon de la Vieja.  Majestic with twisting roots creating interesting patterns on top made them breathtaking, and if I hadn’t been sufficiently scared of snakes, bugs, and other critters I would have been seriously tempted to climb one!

 

This hike went in three stages of rain forest, prairie, then up a stretch of boulders to a waterfall, where the water really was as blue as it is in the photo.  And though we were miles and miles from the ocean, we met this curious little crab living at the base of the waterfall.  FYI, the water was freezing, those people in the photo are CRAZY!

 

 

At the halfway point of our trip we ventured off to Volcan Arenal where we hoped to see some lava flowing, and though the volcano was unfortunately sleepy, we did see some beautiful scenery!

 

 

 

Our last day in Costa Rica ended with this amazing sunset, complete with festive lights, and we had just enough time to open presents on Christmas morning before whisking our way away from paradise…

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Flores de Costa Rica

After a pause of much too long, it’s time for installment 3 of Costa Rica photos!  And this time it’s a colorful bouquet =)

I love photographing flowers, just as long as there’s enough light and it’s not too breezy.  As long as I can get a crisp, well lit photo, it’s amazing what the blooms can become with some creative cropping and a few tweaks in photoshop.  I used a combo of Aperture, Lightroom, and Picasa when putting these photos together.  I really like the cropping tool in Picasa, when you select the photo and then crop, it uses an algorithm to recommend 3 different cropping options, and they’re usually pretty good!

I always have a hard time deciding just how far to go when post-processing…  I usually like to increase the contrast so that the flowers really pop from the background, but that can sometimes make the image a little fuzzy or make the saturation of the colors look off.  I also played a bit with some of the different definition tools, which seem to work well to a point, but if you turn them up too far they actually cause the image to start looking grainy.  Overall, these are some of my favorite flower pics to date, I hope you enjoy them too!

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Monos of Costa Rica

Here’s the second installment of Costa Rica photos!  This trip there seemed to be monkeys everywhere we went, especially in the trees below the condo (the howler monkeys woke us up at all hours!).  I had several great opportunities to watch these little guys eat, groom, swing by their tails, and then had to avoid (and not always successfully) falling tree parts and monkey poop.

With just a small bump on my head from falling tree bark I snapped as many shots as I could, hoping to get a few good ones that were in focus and not blurry.  There were usually several layers of branches between me and the monkeys, so it was always hard to tell if I was focused on a monkey or on leaves.  But even when I tried to switch to manual focus, the monkeys were usually just far enough away to where I couldn’t tell if I was really focused or not.  The other big problem was that I was on the ground looking up with sunshine glaring down from above the trees (always these backlight troubles!) and I obviously didn’t want to use the flash to scare them away (not that mine is strong enough to reach them anyways).  So a little post-processing was done to doctor them up and make them less of a silouhette, but a lot of the detail seems to be lost.

I did get a light reflector from Santa Claus this year, but it wasn’t something I thought to bring along on a hiking trip =)  I’ll definitely be bringing it in my bag for portraits from now on though!  Still more Costa Rica photos to come, but enjoy the Monos!

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Mariposas of Costa Rica

Happy New Year to all my Phlogger (photo-blogger, thanks Jen!) Friends!  One of my new years resolutions is to not be so delinquent in keeping up with my blog, it’s been months!  However, I currently have a very large backlog of photos and am back in chilly Southern Maryland with not a whole lot to keep my weekends busy, so expect a lot more posts =)

Over the holidays I went back to Costa Rica where we were met by monkeys, neighborhood dogs, rum, and gorgeous sunsets.  My husbands family was with us,  and while he was off scuba diving they got my lazy butt off my lounge chair and out into nature!  There were definitely more photo ops in the rain forest than by the pool…

One of our first stops was Rincon de la Vieja for a “leisurely” hike, where I unsuccessfully  avoided getting hit by falling tree debris (thanks to the monkeys), bouldered our way up and down steep paths to a waterfall, scared away a toucan before I could get a shot, and chased elusive butterflies.  But that last effort, with some good eyes and persistence, resulted in some great shots!  All through the hike we kept seeing these amazing, big blue butterflies (which we nicknamed “Big Blue” but the real name is Blue Morpho), but never saw one land long enough to get a picture.  Finally on the last 1/2 mile or so of the hike my father-in-law saw one land on the far side of a stream we were about to cross.  I snapped a photo but was just too far away, so I snuck up on it a few feet at a time, taking a few more shots with each step, until finally a scared him away, but not before capturing those gorgeous blue wings.

Enjoy “Big Blue” and the other Mariposa’s I caught on camera during the trip, and be on the lookout for more from Costa Rica soon!  Look close, some of them have pretty good camouflage =)

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