Saturday, September 29, 2012

SOTC 29/365

SOTC 29/365 by gina.blank

SOTC 28/365

SOTC 28/365 by gina.blank
Busy bugs.

SOTC 27/3656

SOTC 27/3656 by gina.blank
Ah, sunny autumn morning in the park.

I  like this photo mostly because I was totally able to hide the refineries behind the trees!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

SOTC 26/365

SOTC 26/365 by gina.blank
Not a sunset......

But looks a little bit like a sunset?

Everywhere Leaves OR SOTC 25/365

Everywhere Leaves OR SOTC 25/365 by gina.blank

SOTC 24/365

SOTC 24/365 by gina.blank

Autumn Rich

It is five hours from Edmonton to Saskatoon, give or take pit stops. Generally, I stop once in the halfway point of Lloydminster to top up on gas, grab a sub sandwich for supper, and that is it. I have no time to waste--on the way there, I have love and cuteness waiting for me. On the way back, I want to have a few hours to chill before hitting the sack and starting the work week over again. I have never been one to waste time; and I sure as heck am not going to do so on a long, flat, prairie highway.

This drive was different.

It included a few extra stops. On purpose. And it was absolutely lovely.

I was grumbly leaving the city. I had decided to take a coworker home who would otherwise be at the mercy of public transit on a Friday afternoon. She lived right off the main freeway that I would be using to leave town; no big deal. However, in the ten extra minutes it took to drop her off, and stop off at the neighbouring library to quickly grab an audiobook (I had forgotten to load podcasts onto my phone), I hit rush hour, and was about half an hour behind by the time I got to the outskirts of E-town. Unimpressed.

Really, Lord? I do the unselfish thing, and You reward my efforts with traffic?

(Yes, I know it doesn't work quite like that, but in the moment...... and you know you've been there, too.)

I knew I wanted to make a brief extra pitstop for sunset pics, and I knew where I wanted to take those pics, and now I was going to be pushing it to get there in time. The sun drops fast, and I have learned time and time again that you can't chase a sunset.

Marshall Granary at Sunset by gina.blank There was construction in Lloyd and a line up at Subway, delaying my grab-and-go efforts. I just barely made it in time to the granary I had been planning for my pictures. I captured the granary in the warm orange sun, and then spied a country road leading right into the rich glow of the horizon. It afforded several pictures, including a few with a country truck puttering home from the fields. The sun dipped down a bit more, and the moment was over. I had been hoping to get a silhouette of the granary, but still--in the quiet of this rural community, I crossed the tracks back to my car, satisfied. The rush-rush feeling I'd had up to this point was gone, and I hadn't missed the colours.

Thank You.

On Sunday afternoon, I enjoyed a leisurely walk with my eldest niece along the trails lining the South Saskatchewan river. As I was taking in the fall colours--both in and out of the camera--I decided it would be nice to make a couple extra stops on the drive home and see what became of it.

Well, stops aside, the drive home was something else.

As I started west, flock after flock of birds made their way south overhead; rippling black lines of motion across the clear, blue sky. Something in the air had given these creatures the cue that this was the weekend to rise up from their lake homes and start the journey to a warm winter. But such a gentle sight.

Battleford Valley by gina.blankI stopped in the Battlefords, at the top of a hill overlooking the valley. I've always driven past the turnoff, wondering what was down the road of this hill. Peace and loveliness; that's what.

Shrubs and grasses--a mix of green, yellow, brown, orange, red--speckled the hill all the way down to the valley where the North Saskatchewan River flows. The waters of this river are the same as those that passed by my own house in Edmonton just a day or two before, and it brings an odd feeling of connection.

The sun is warm. Close your eyes and you wouldn't actually know it's autumn--I should have worn flip flops today. I traipse down the trail a bit. It smells of late summer--crisping leaves and warm grass. The sound of traffic fades away fast, and all I hear are a few grasshoppers above the mild din of the hidden freeway. I snap a few pictures, but mostly I just want to stand and take it all in. It's so warm, and quiet, and lovely.

After breathing deep, and scanning the 180 degree view one more time, I make my way back to my car for the next leg of my prairie trip home.

By the time I pass Lloydminster, the sun has started an obvious descent over Alberta. There is a slight haze in the air--from experience, I know it's probably forest fire haze, though it doesn't smell like it yet. But through my sunglasses, it gives everything a warm, reddish hue as I drive. I have continued to watch flocks of birds moving south and west through the sky. In a rolling field to my right, I see two horses galloping swiftly along; in the dips of the hills, there are patches of fog settling.

Behind the Trees and On the Water by gina.blank I spy a small body of water and turn in--I need to be able to stand in the presence of all of this, pictures or not! As I move around the back of my car, I spy something in the water. A beaver, and I don't even think he's fully grown. I watch him a minute--his cute little face even looking in my direction--but as soon as I move to open the trunk, he swooshes down into the water--gone.

I focus on my sunset, watching three or four little beavers swimming lazily in the water as I move back and forth along the side of the road. It is significantly cooler now--a mere three hours later, and I almost need my jacket. The sun has disappeared behind the trees, and the sky has changed from yellow to orange to pink to purple in less than 15 minutes. I stand for a moment, and breathe deep again. It smells crisp and clear, and just a touch like dew.

Wisps of Pink and Purple by gina.blank
When I am overwhelmed with God's rich glories, I find myself using the words 'humbled' and 'awash in awe' together.


That would be this weekend; most especially my journey home. What had I been grumbling about on Friday? I have almost forgotten in all the blessing.

I return to my car and drive, wrapped in the peace and beauty of the Creator.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

SOTC 23/365

SOTC 23/365 by gina.blank
Today was rich in colour, and I managed to capture quite a bit of it photographically. I am a bit humbled and in awe of the Amazing Creator and what he chose to show me of His Creation today.

I captured another lovely sunset, and originally wanted to post that for today. That being said, I have posted two sunsets in less than a week, so thought I should mix it up a bit.

There are fall colours all around, but my friend's garden is clearly reminiscent of summer, taking advantage of the warm days still upon us.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

SOTC 22/365

SOTC 22/365 by gina.blank
Keeping warm in Aunty's red coat. :)

SOTC 21/365

SOTC 21/365 by gina.blank
Country sunset.

SOTC 20/365

SOTC 20/365 by gina.blank
An evening city stroll through the trees.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

SOTC 19/365

SOTC 19/365 by gina.blank
The bedtime fairy has arrived.

SOTC 18/365

SOTC 18/365 by gina.blank

SOTC 17/365

SOTC 17/365 by gina.blank
After a packed 12-hour work day, the frenetic pattern of the lights kinda reflects the pace of the day's activities...

SOTC 16/365

SOTC 16/365 by gina.blank

Oh, tissue box. What fast friends we are this week.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Going Old School OR SOTC 15/365

I am part of a photography meet-up group, and we found ourselves out and about today at the Stony Plain & Parkland Pioneer Museum. A small historical museum, this little place was quiet and just the perfect size to spend an afternoon behind the lens.

SOTC 15/365 by gina.blankI meandered in and out of several buildings, but my favourite was the school house. The bookshelf lined with old novels and readers; the amazing natural light coming in through the tall windows; the nice, neat rows of desks. Clearly, I am an educator.

As I moved around the small school house snapping photos, I also thought a bit about what it meant to be a teacher back in the early 1900's (and earlier, even). One teacher in a school house of about twenty children, ranging in age from 6-16. Thinking about the dynamic that would come out of that, I almost wonder if early 20th century schools had a better understanding and practice of differentiated instruction than some of our present-day classrooms have.

The teacher in 1900 would have be teaching at several different levels throughout the day. With one child, she would be demonstrating simple addition and subtraction, while with the teenager at the back, be working on algebra. Teaching the six-year-old to print his name, and the nine-year-old to do the same in cursive writing. She needed to know where each student was at in his/her learning, and support that level of readiness, whatever it was. I'm also guessing that older students were responsible for helping the younger ones with their learning from time to time, as well as caring for them in general.

Somewhere along the way, we lost that individualized learning, and started to present the set curricula in a set way to students. That being said, in the last several years, we have started to realize that differentiated instruction--teaching a subject in a variety of modalities to meet the unique learning styles of each student in the class--produces more successful students. We also recognize that peers can be powerful teachers, too. Peer-mediated instruction can be especially helpful for students with special learning needs.

Sounds a lot to me like what was old has become new again.

Now, don't hear me wrong. I don't think we're headed for mixed-age classrooms and abandoning a formal curriculum; nor do I think that's necessarily a good idea. But just the concept of the teacher being intentional about taking each person's learning needs into account when presenting material, and establishing a class culture where everyone works together to support each other's learning and take care of each other a little bit... I think those are quite foundational characteristics for student success in the classroom.

And clearly, some have known this all along...

SOTC 14/365

SOTC 14/365 by gina.blank

SOTC 13/365

SOTC 13/365 by gina.blank
The bane of my summer, and yet, so intricately lovely to look at.

SOTC 12/365

SOTC 12/365 by gina.blank

Just because she's pretty.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

SOTC 11/365

SOTC 11/365 by gina.blank Yup. I'm pretty much a walking advertisement for HP today.* I've been meaning to purchase an external hard drive for a while, now, and finally just bit the bullet today and bought one. On sale, and available at an Air Miles sponsor store--win, and win!

This external hard drive will soon house a back-up copy of every photo I've ever taken. I always burn my photos onto DVD so that they don't accumulate space on my lap top. That being said, I know that CDs and DVDs wear out over time. Given the nature of my photography, a more permanent back up is a smart idea to catalogue all this data.


At about 6" tall, 2" wide, and 5" deep, this piece of hardware contains 2 terabytes (TB) of 'space'.

Two terabytes.

Can we just reflect on that for a minute?

That's 2,000GB.
2 trillion bytes.

At 2TB, this thing has just over double the hard drive capacity of my laptop. 250x more capacity than my iPhone. And almost 8,000x more capacity than the first Windows computer our family ever owned (if I remember correctly).

I'm not really surprised, and yet I'm continually surprised, by the way technology advances. It was not so long ago that megabytes were considered soooooooo huge, was it? And now I pull 2TB off the shelf expecting nothing less.


* "A few hours later..." I thought it odd that I couldn't create folders directly on the hard drive to start plunking photos into, but figured I could cut & paste from my laptop drive instead. After assembling some of my first digital photos into a folder, I attempted to copy it to the external drive; it didn't work. Upon further inspection, it turns out this hard drive is not Mac compatible. Grrrrrr. Apparently that was the other model I had been looking at. HP, you fail.

Monday, September 10, 2012

SOTC 10/365

SOTC 10/365 by gina.blank Well, I wouldn't say this is the photo I wanted today--at all--but it turned out a heckuva lot better than anything else I've shot today...

(It's a good read, by the way...)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

SOTC 9/365

9/365 by gina.blank
On the north side of my house, there is what I call my "wild space." It is not really part of the main back yard, but more just a patch "around the side of the house." It is nestled in the shade, and as a result, has a more temperate climate than the rest of the yard.

I've come to call it the wild space for two reasons: 1. Because I don't touch it. And yet, 2. Really cool stuff grows back there of its own accord, as if I was in some British Columbia woodland.

Ferns and other decorative grass grow there. Clover, henbit, and the occasional buttercup. A poppy or two for good measure. And my favourite, the lamium.

The bulk of its little flowers come out in June, providing an aesthetically pleasing mix of green and purple. As I was back there today, I noticed one late-bloomer had made its way.

Clearly, summer is not finished yet.

Little Red Star by gina.blankPS -- I discovered this little flower for the first time today. He stands all alone in my wild space. Not sure what he is, yet, but I hope to find more of him next summer!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

SOTC 8/365

8/365 by gina.blank

9 Lives +1 OR SOTC 7/365

Both my cats have toy mice, which disappear and reappear 2-3 times per year. For as long as I can remember, Princess has been apt to bring me these mice as gifts; she always leaves them on my bath mat.

I'm not sure why the bath mat.

Perhaps because she often brings me these gifts in the night, and knows that the bathroom is the first place I go in the morning.

Perhaps because she and I have together time there while I'm getting ready for work, and she feels some sentimental attachment to the bathroom.

I dunno.

Sometimes she brings me things directly, but generally the bath mat is where it's always been.

When toy mice are inaccessible, Akira leans towards twist ties and the plastic strips from frozen concentrated juice cans. Princess, on the other hand, goes for anything small that moves. My contact lens case, a lens cap.... I have often seen my iPod waiting for me on the bath mat in the mornings. She has also been clever enough to root through the toy box I keep in the closet. Small stuffies occasionally make their way to the bath mat, too.

A couple weeks ago, Princess brought me--directly--a miniature sock monkey plush, and I realized that she has now discovered the joy of my brother's belongings. Oh, dear. I told my brother about Princess' habit, and never saw the plush monkey again.

Then recently, I noticed a stuffy at the bottom of the stairs. It is a plush version of the 1UP mushroom from Mario World. It's probably about 7" in diameter. I thought it strange that my brother would have it lying randomly on the floor. I briefly contemplated that Princess had discovered it, but quickly shook my head at this--it's far bigger than she normally goes for. It seemed more likely that Princess was doing something obnoxious and he'd thrown it at her.

A few days later, I saw the mushroom half way up the stairs and knew it had to be Princess (clearly, she was finding the large size of the object daunting if she only managed to get it half way up the stairs).

A few days after that, I heard Princess' signal cry--the one that lets me know she has something in her mouth right now and is bringing it to me. She came into the living room and dropped the mushroom where I was sitting. I was impressed at the effort, but nevertheless tossed the toy down the stairs before heading to bed.

Which brings me to when I came home from work today.

9 Lives +1 OR 7/365 by gina.blank

Apparently nine lives is not enough.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

SOTC 6.5/365

SOTC 6.5/365 by gina.blank

And sometimes you are given a second chance!!!

(Admittedly, this one did not float right over my head, but I really shouldn't be looking this gift horse in the mouth.)

You'll be pleased to know that I did resist the urge to wave and shout, "HIIIIIIIII!!!" in the same way I did when I was six. But I do hope the fellow taking pictures of me felt the same sense of solidarity as I did in taking pictures of him.

SOTC 6/365

It was as my foot descended off the back step and onto the driveway that I heard the strong WHOOOOOOOOOSH sound. It took a fraction of a second for my brain to connect the favoured sound with its source, and I immediately looked up.

It was amazing. Directly overhead, in the crisp, clear, blue sky of morning, a vibrantly coloured hot air balloon floated low above my head and over my yard.


I did not have my camera.

Of course, I always have to try, so I ran back into the house for it. But by the time I returned, the balloon had already floated over the neighbour's house across the alley. There was no time to switch to the zoom lens, and the power lines were cross-crossing the field of view by this point anyway. I snapped a couple pics, but they weren't even worth keeping, let alone posting.


It happens.

For instance, I have seen countless sunsets empty-handed, wishing I had my camera and/or the ability to pause and capture the moment. I have come to be [mostly] at peace with these instances, recognizing that I cannot possibly capture every single amazing moment in existence, and that sometimes it's important to just take in the moment with my heart and not my lens, and geez, Gina, look at what you do manage to glean. It is enough.

Still, it would have been an awesome photo.

I can still hear the rhythmic whoosh as I watch the balloon disappear completely behind the trees, absorbing the peaceful moment internally.

I turn towards the garage.

Keys out and camera away.

Well, maybe not quite.

SOTC 6/365 by gina.blank

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Word on Packaging OR SOTC 5/365

So, last week, a coworker calls me from Costco, stating that there's a four-pack of 8-gig-each flash drives on sale for $30 and do I want a pack? Sure, that's a pretty good deal for memory sticks, so I say go for it. She says she'll bring them to me at the office when she's next in.

As she described the product over the phone, I envisioned four memory sticks, lined up either in a row, or two-by-two, in that thick seamed-around-the-edges-and-need-heavy-duty-kitchen-scissors-to-cut-it-open-and-even-then-you're-going-to-hurt-yourself kind of plastic that everything is packaged in these days. And I envisioned that packaging to be roughly 5x7".

Boy, was I wrong.

I have witnessed excessive packaging before. I once ordered a small stationery item for work--a hole punch, or a stapler, I think. It was packaged in its own small box, but that was then shipped (and by shipped, I mean local delivery) in an 11x14x8" box filled mostly with crumpled paper (I was so glad it wasn't packing peanuts). Ridiculous.

When I saw the goodies on my desk today, it was a little bit like that all over again. The four flash drives were indeed packaged in that thick seamed-around-the-edges-and-need-heavy-duty-kitchen-scissors-to-cut-it-open-and-even-then-you're-going-to-hurt-yourself kind of plastic. But that plastic was also sealed in between two layers of roughly 9x12" cardboard.


Flash drives generally range from 1.5-2.5" long. People marvel at these tiny little objects--these tiny little pieces of circuit board that hold more bytes of information than my first laptop did. Technology has always been about being sleeker, thinner, and more compact than the preceding model.
SOTC 5/365 by gina.blank

So, why do these same companies not seem to show the same attitude towards the packaging they put these products in?

Okay, not all companies.

I've always appreciated the compact, only-what's-necessary packaging of my Apple products (one more point for them).

But they are the exception, not the rule.

It just seems so backwards.

       Dear SanDisk,
       Please stop packaging items
       the size of my thumb
       into cardboard
       the size of my laptop.
       Tech-Savvy but Eco-Friendly

SOTC 4/365

SOTC 4/365 by gina.blank
"Music happens to be an art form that transcends language." -- Herbie Hancock

Monday, September 3, 2012

SOTC 3/365

SOTC 3/365 by gina.blank
Same awesomeness, different flower.

I told you, I love sunflowers.

SOTC 2/365

SOTC 2/365 by gina.blank
Happy Birthday, Mom!

SOTC 1/365

I love sunflowers. There are certain flowers that I like best for their scent: sweet peas, lilacs, and peonies (in that order). But others I am drawn to for their aesthetic appeal. Stargazer lilies (though their scent is intoxicating, too); tulips; sunflowers.

I don't have sunflowers in my own garden (yet), and earlier this week, I had a sort of craving for them. The weather was getting cooler, I was having company coming for the weekend, and suddenly I wanted sunflowers in my kitchen.

I obtained some from another gardener, and then received even more from friends. Now I have sunflowers in my kitchen, guest room, and living room--my house is looking pretty great! Even though I'm not typically a fan of the color yellow, there are a couple exceptions, and sunflowers are one of them.*

SOTC 1/365 by gina.blank I know they are called sunflowers because they follow the sun, but their very being seems to be the floral equivalent of sunshine. Long, golden petals radiate from a giant, almost spherical-looking core. The warm colors of yellow, orange, and red explode outward in all directions. It is just such a happy flower!

Sunflowers seem to be the pre-cursor to fall. They remind me of cooler mornings, but still-warm afternoons. They remind me of the leaves that will soon turn the same shades of yellow, orange, and red. And they remind me that such transitions aren't always dreary; the sun shines in all seasons.

* Though red sunflowers trump yellow any day.