Hellebore tryst

31 03 2009

Afternoon delight at Green Spring Gardens © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Bowtie sky

31 03 2009

Last sky in March © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Spring Starflowers

31 03 2009

These star-shaped, pale blue flowers with grass like foliage are Spring Starflowers (Ipheion uniflorum). This perennial is grown from bulbs and blooms in mid-spring for 3-5 weeks. Originating from Argentina and Uruguay, this plant naturalizes very swiftly, spreading by self-seeding and from bulb offsets. Often used in rock gardens and woodland gardens, they grow just 4-5 inches tall, and are perennials in Zones 6 to 7 (with mulching to protect from frost) and in Zones 8 to 9 without mulching. They can be grown in full sun to part shade, require medium watering, are low maintenance, and tolerate a wide range of soil types. They are just beginning to bloom at Green Spring Gardens this week.

I photographed these tiny blue flowers last year in mid-April at Green Spring Gardens. See how they look en masse here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


The Year of Living Detailed-ly

28 03 2009

Since early January I have spent a great number of hours unpacking everything we dragged back from Texas and trying to make room for it. In tossing out the old to make room for the new, I came across my green faux leather date book for 1983. At the time I had been out of college for about a year and was working as a graphic designer, illustrator and occasional copywriter for Jones & Jones, an ultra upscale department store.

By “ultra upscale,” I mean there was a really grand marble staircase dead center in the store and the store offered Judith Leiber handbags, Lalique crystal, (I recall a round coffee table priced at $20,000 in the jewelry department), incredibly expensive jewelry and Mont Blanc pens. Not one dress sold for under $200, and of course there was an ample (and avoided by me at any cost) fur department. One of the highlights of my career was being able to bring home $200-300 shoes (they all had to be size 7-1/2, of course) to finish pencil drawings for b&w newspaper ads. That’s the closest I will ever get to shoes that expensive. And yes, I did waltz around in them (on the carpet, of course) on sketching breaks. I have some sample ads from that time—when I locate them in my office, I’ll scan them and share.

Another highlight—when I showed an aptitude for photographing products, they allowed me to transport thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry to a warehouse to photograph in a makeshift studio I had set up (me, who wore stuff from Claire’s in the mall). A guard was there behind me when I left the store (and I was actually wearing a few of the pieces), but no one followed me over to the warehouse. At the time I remembered thinking they sure did trust me—but I also feared someone would jump me. I probably had nothing to worry about in the first place—if you saw someone driving a baby blue Chevy Impala (or was it the gold & brown Ford LTD?), with bling on their ears, bling around their neck, and bling dangling from their wrists, would you even give it a second thought that the jewels could possibly be real?


Later in the year I took a job with my photography mentor, Brian, in Brownsville, Texas. I served as Art Director on Jones & Jones ad and catalog photo shoots that Brian was hired to do. He was a joy to work with and I learned so much from him that when he offered me a job to be his right-hand gal, I didn’t hesitate—even though the commute was 60 miles each way (in that area a 60-mile commute took a hour—in the D.C. area you might get 15 miles under your belt in that time frame, if you’re blessed). We have maintained our friendship ever since. I learned so much the year I worked for him and assisted him on some interesting shoots—photographing an aloe vera farm/processing plant; photographing the world’s largest offshore drilling rig inside and out; photographing land development from a small airplane; and countless other neat experiences. I remember one time I was organizing his 35mm slides and came across a slide of my beloved John Denver standing next to a small plane with his father. Brian had met and photographed him years before! Sorry, I digress…

After just a few weeks of crying about having to fill up practically every other day, Dad gave me his “Panama Brown” VW diesel rabbit (it was pumpkin orange—trust me). He and Mom had relocated to the D.C. area at that time and he didn’t need the car for that job. It was perfect timing. When Dad commuted from our home in Donna to Brownsville to work at the port (in his career as a U.S. Customs Inspector), he would go to Matamoros and buy cheap diesel for the VW (at 12 cents a gallon; he told me he once tested it and determined he got 60 miles to a gallon—in comparison, one would have to spend $30,000 today on a hybrid and get less than 60!). Cheap diesel isn’t very clean and clogs easily, so he told me that if the car started slowing down while en route to work, I would have to pull over and stop, take out part of the back seat out of the car to access the fuel tank with a screwdriver, pick the filter screen out and shake out the gunk. I must have been quite a sight—disassembling my Cindy-rella pumpkin orange coach (um…sorry, Dad….Panama Brown) on the outskirts of a mall parking lot. More than once a stranger stopped to ask me if I needed help. I loved that car, though—I could drive for up to two weeks on just one tank! Disassembling it was quite an accomplishment and made me feel very mechanic-like.

Flipping through the datebook completely distracted me from the task at hand and made me laugh out loud many times. Apparently I was (intermittently and inconsistently) obsessed with recording any or all of the following: who I called or who called me, who came to visit or who I visited, what I wore or ate that day, what errands I ran and whether they were personal or for my job, who I gave money to and got money from, how much gas I put in the car, how many hours I worked on a given day, what movies I watched, and if I exercised or not (I apparently jogged an awful lot during those days—my datebook says so, even if I vaguely remember the pain of doing so). I was also a freelance photographer doing portraits and weddings so often the daily entries were filled with notes about upcoming portrait sessions, putting film into various labs, getting prints out, ordering enlargements, swapping prints for money, who paid and who owed, and delivering prints to people. I also felt it necessary to record whether the pets were fed, what they were fed, and how often. And apparently I had the cravings of a 10 year old because the combination of things I ate on any given day were strange.

One day some random guest at a dinner party might say, “Hey, lemme test your memory—do you remember what you were doing on Wednesday, May 25, 1983?” Armed with this newfound and useless information from my 1983 diary, I could confidently say, “Why, yes. As a matter of fact, I know exactly what I was doing that day!” You don’t know—it could happen.

First, a word of warning—names have not been changed to protect the innocent. And it is written in a stream-of-consciousness style, so it will not win any writing awards, of that I’m certain. I’m just listing a few of the more colorful entries lest I put my visitors to sleep. That is, if that hasn’t already happened….Hey you! Wake up! This is good stuff! Errr…if you have nothing better to do, that is.

= older sister, Kelley = younger sister, Thelma = Kelley’s best friend and practically my 3rd sister; Rey = Kelley’s boyfriend; Bill = Debbie’s husband; Matt = my boyfriend; Daniel/Eddie/Jimmy/Ray = best guy friends; Margie = best girl friend; Brian = photographer and then my boss; all other names are friends, co-workers, or random people I photographed

Sunday, March 6:
Went with Mom to Brownsville to shoot pics of Las Resacas Condominiums for Dad (who was a part-time real estate agent); ran 1.5 miles with Ed and Jim; my solo photo exhibit “Padre in Color” show starts at McAllen International Museum

Friday, March 6:
Shot transparencies of Lalique bowls and Champagne perfume; worked on jewelry ad; ran one mile with Margie watching; Mrs. White paid $80 for pics; called Faith

Friday, March 18:
Work—a lot of drawing today; dropped off film at Rush labs; hamburgers at Sonic at 1:20; J&J jewelry clerk let me wear an $18,000 necklace, $5,000 bracelet, $21,000 watch, $1200 necklace—WOW! I drove over to photo studio to shoot everything; Jimmy called at work to borrow senior wrap for photos; drop off rolls at Rush for Brian at 6:00; dance at Southern Nights with me, Matt, and Greg to South Texas Wailers

Monday, April 4:
Work, put in trans. roll & 2 rolls C-41 120 color (portraits of family); got paycheck $231; Penny’s at 6:00 run through on lingerie show—I hate this project—it’s driving me nuts; Deb called me at Penny’s and said Fluff had 2 kittens; met Eddie and Jim at track but didn’t run then they came home with me for awhile; called Matt

Friday, April 8:
Fed Phu, Pepper, and Tuffy; finished cosmetic ad drawings; got halftones at Copy Graphics for Ritz proof; Deb called—Penny’s show was good, over $1000 lingerie sold; filled car with $10 gas; called Jimmy & Eddie; ate lunch at Whataburger; print engagement pics with Jimmy at Donna Events office and 8x10s of Andrea; Matt sent red roses, white mums & eucalyptus for our one year anniversary; Jimmy came by 10:30-11:30; Matt called late

Saturday, May 14:
Bought shoes and purse for Thelma for prom and did her makeover; bought almost $40 groceries with Thelma; did nothing else and no one came over (oh wahhhh, poor poor me)

Thursday, May 14:
Mom called in morning; worked on sale ads; called Cyndi’s father to change appt. to Monday at 6:30; lunch with Andy; cut hair with Joe at Barber shop after work (funny thing….this barber only knew how to cut women’s hair like Dorothy Hamill; he couldn’t do any other style—honestly, every girl in Donna, Texas looked a little like Dorothy—that is, excluding me—I looked like Dorothy on a really, really flat hair day. He displayed a wig on a styrofoam head that had half of the wig with normal shoulder-length hair and the other half cut—by him, of course—to show prospective clients what their hair might look like with “The Dorothy Effect” applied); ran 3 miles at track with Jim, Ed, and Pete and one mile from Jim’s and had lemonade (wow—there I am, running again!)

Sunday, May 22:
nothing; clean up; had supper & left at 9:30 pm-ish to Deb’s to chat with Gloria (Sharon’s mum) & Sharon (click on Sharon’s name and you can read about her brush with fame during her singing career–I really do remember the lyrics and the tune to one of the songs she recorded in Nashville—ask me to sing it to you some time); home at 1:30; Rey had house SPOTLESS

Here’s an excerpt (from memory!) from “Leaving You Will Never Mean Goodbye.”

I’m a thousand miles from Dallas
in a small California town
Trying to forget you
and the love I thought I’d found

I sold all of my possessions
for money just to buy some time
Cause I know my leaving you
will never mean goodbye

Wednesday, May 25:
Finished luggage ad; Andrea off; work full time on new father’s day ad; lunch with Jo; home sleep sleep; Ed called Jim there? No; Jim came by about 45 minutes later; Pete & Ed ran in and stayed till 10:00 and I fixed them tea (such a hostess, wasn’t I?); called Matt; Jaime delivered $25; I owe 189.40 not 199.40 as she wrote it

Sunday, May 29:
Sylvia” concert with Debbie, Matt & Bill (Sylvia was the Academy of Country Music’s 1982 female vocalist of the year)

Friday, June 3:
Go to Dallas for book buyer convention with Andrea; Andy took too long, plane pulled away and we almost fell over; she called the stewardess Sugar and the lady gave her the evil eye; Gary royally screwed up our tickets so I’m scheduled for Tahiti—nah; went to Neiman Marcus to look then McDonald’s for dinner (now there’s a contrast—Neiman Marcus and McDonalds); Daniel called about 8:00, saw his apartment, got cokes from filling station then back to hotel

Sunday, June 5:
Andy came in with tickets for Monday author breakfast and pass for me; met Lana Turner (autograph book) and Richard Simmons (autograph, hug, poster & kiss)—with his arms open wide, he yelled out my name when he saw me coming. I was shocked he knew my name! How did you? Whaaaa? Then I remembered I was wearing a name tag. Duh. Met Rosemary Rogers (despite the fact that I am not a consumer of romance novels, I did know who she was) and got book and her autograph; Andy went out with Bob and all; I called Mom and Kell

Monday, June 6:
Breakfast at 8:00 with authors, got autographs from Dick Cavett, Erma Bombeck, Shirley McLaine; picked up big load of books at convention, Leo Buscaglia hugged me and gave me autograph (if you know who Leo was, you know he was well known for encouraging hugs—my friend Andrea told him who I was and he ran up to hug me and I didn’t see it coming. I was shocked that a total stranger would do that; clearly he had me confused with someone else—then he moved away, laughing, and when I saw who he was, it all made sense. My friend Eddie, also a big hugger, was a huge fan of Buscaglia and his books—I remember being so excited to tell him about the hug!); meeting at Adolphus, lunch then met and talked with Art Buchwald in the lobby and got autograph; taxi to airport catch plane—big storm on the way home

Monday, August 1:
Fed Tuffy & Yuki; finished lady teen ad; Matt called; I called university to check if schedule is out; went to Alamo, red light came on, called Rey—had 2 qts of oil put in, $2.50; took car to Rey’s shop and waited for Matt to pick me up; he put 9 rolls of b&w and 1 slide in at Rush Photo for me; bought paper towels, kleenex from TG&Y; Thelma over for a bit; soup yams tea half breast jello; called Becky—designer shoe ad due today; called Shirley at Sun Valley news—ad due Weds.; cleaned up sewing room, dining, kitchen, fed pets again; designed another ad; Matt to picked me up and dropped me off at Rey’s—$87 for car—paid $20 down; cleaned up a bit; Alyce by to look at slides; Tab + cheese crackers + gum

Pink Poppy

28 03 2009

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


White Spoon Osteospermum

23 03 2009

This is an Osteospermum, also called African Daisy, Cape Daisy or Spoon Daisy (because of the spoon-shaped ray florets). I believe this might be the cultivar ‘William.’ 

Learn more about growing Osteospermums at www.osteospermum.com.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Window in the clouds

22 03 2009

Always looking up…I shot this last Sunday afternoon while my family was lounging in the Texas sunshine.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.



22 03 2009

Yes, I’ve been noticeably absent for over a week. We were in San Antonio visiting my family from March 13-20. Plus, I was battling a raging sinus infection from the day after I arrived to the day I returned. Thanks to a visit to a doctor (plus a shot in the behind and a fistful of drugs), I am feeling better now. I will have photos to share from our vacation but wanted to post this shot I did of ZenaB on the stairs yesterday afternoon.

Oh, and by the way…my father and younger sister have now been introduced to the world of blogging. They both came in kicking and screaming, though, but it’s really for their own good. They are both gifted writers and should be sharing their talent with the world. They have both promised me they will post soon. Until they do, bookmark their sites and check back occasionally. Dad’s blog is www.thekingoftexas.wordpress.com. (The blog takes its name from the royal title my friend Debbi bestowed upon him in a fairytale she wrote about me a few years ago). I have encouraged him to blog because he has wonderful stories to tell in his stream-of-consciousness way. Some of my regular visitors have already been enlightened and informed through his “Grumpy Grammar Guru” comments and posts that I have shared on this blog.

My sister’s blog is www.itsjustnotright.wordpress.com. (This blog takes its name from something my sister says often.) I have encouraged her to put her thoughts into a blog because she is very funny. Her observational skills are amazing and her recall is astounding (sometimes much to my chagrin when she remembers things from our childhood that I thought I had blocked out)—whether she is talking about her single-girl-dating days or sharing the antics of her two children. I doubt she has even noticed that I replaced the standard banner with a great shot of her with her daddy. Let’s see how long it takes her to notice (and change her password so I can’t gain access again). Give them both a chance to build some momentum. I believe they will both be pleasantly surprised at how rewarding blogging can be!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Josie turns 147!

11 03 2009

…days old, that is. I got the chance to photograph baby Josie again in my studio on February 20, along with her mom, Elizabeth, and two of Elizabeth’s friends who were visiting from out of town. I’ll post the group shots separately. I didn’t get a lot of shots of Josie because her attention span was shorter this time around! Not to worry, there will be plenty more photo ops in her future, I’m sure.

Check out Josie’s first debut on my blog here.

See Daddy’s little girl here.

View Josie “au naturel” in my studio here.

And with Mom & Grandma in the studio here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Chocoholic Party 2009

10 03 2009

Fellow Chocoholics, I apologize for my delinquency in posting a recap of the party in a timely manner. I recently finished preparing the “party favor portraits” I take at each event. The night before the party, Sue and I collaborated on a new backdrop—a lively summer-sky-blue background with bouncing chocolate balls. I still had my original pink and red rose background available as an alternative, though. I think Michael and Norma appear to be the only ones who escaped having their sweetheart portraits done this year. How did that happen?

Thank you to everyone who helped in the pre-party preparation—Carmen and Sue (for organizing, cleanup and decorating help), Regina (with her big batch of delicious vegetarian chili), and Michael (who made sure we didn’t run out of chili this year by preparing two giant pots of turkey chili). Carmen (up from Greenville, SC) and Sue (up from Huntsville, AL) arrived earlier in the week just to join us for the event! Carmen was my co-creator of this year’s “bordello chandelier” in the kitchen (photos of the chandelier to come soon), as well as an all-around hard working assistant—even baking cookies as she flitted from task to task earlier in the day.

Sue was my co-painter for the new bouncing chocolates background and also helped design the buffet table centerpiece (photos of that to come soon, too). Special thanks to our bodacious bartender, Brenda, and her ever-handy-kitchen-cleaner-upper-and-mingler extraordinaire husband, Tom. Brenda created a lively and fun-to-read drink menu (which I’ll share in a later posting) for the Chocoholics in attendance. Tom and Brenda came all the way from Pennsylvania to join us again this year, and have developed quite a fan base among our local friends. I’m sure their contribution of a drink bar made them even more memorable this year.

Much appreciation goes to Karen W. for her brilliant suggestion to move the main buffet table to the library area so guests wouldn’t bottleneck in the kitchen (the kitchen is the heart of the home and our guests seem to agree). That arrangement worked out so well that I’m surprised none of us thought of that for the three parties prior to this one. Then we added Bodacious Bartender Brenda with her full and lively bar to the mix—which kept the “libation curious” in the kitchen anyway! Plus, the highlights of the party—the chocolate fountain and decadent desserts—were also in the kitchen. We just need a bigger kitchen, I’m thinking.

Thank you to everyone who brought wonderful side dishes, appetizers, and desserts, too (special thanks to Norma, who brought the it-wouldn’t-be-a-party-without-’em deviled eggs as well as additional chili). Karen B. brought her infamous cheese straws to the party again this year (with her two lovely teenage daughters in tow). Click here to see last year’s party recap and the Whole Foods cheese straws recipe she shared with us. Nanda and Sudha briefly took over the stove and heated up flatbread on-the-spot for their traditional Indian rice and potato side dishes. Karen W. and husband Joe were assigned cornbread-making duty earlier in the week (and sent home with a plethora of very heavy cornbread pans from our extensive collection) and they didn’t disappoint in their delivery.

Insert shameless plug for friend here:
Half of the cornbread-making duo was my dear friend Karen W., a skin care specialist with her own salon, Karen Wyatt Skin Care, in Burke, VA. If you live in the Northern Virginia area (or are just visiting) and would love to be pampered by a knowledgeable and sweet-as-the-day-is-long skin care expert, Karen is your gal. Click here to learn more about her salon and to make an appointment. I had never had a facial until I met “Magic Hands” Karen four years ago. Now I know what the fuss is all about. Last summer I treated my sister Debbie to a facial with Karen (it was her first experience, too) and she loved it!

A great big thanks to F.T. for taking the initiative to record the festivities with his digital camera and dropping off the CD for me. That gesture was much appreciated and I’ll be preparing a collage of both our candid photos for a later posting.

I must say—having so much help is wonderful! This was the first party where I was actually able to shower and change more than 10 minutes before the first guest arrived. This year I had an entire hour to get party-fied. Imagine that! I’m usually still buttoning my shirt, slipping on whatever shoes are handy (whether they match or not), trying to apply the rest of my makeup, and running to the door with wet hair when the doorbell rings. I’m almost certain this isn’t how Martha does it.

Regarding the very last photo—I have no idea what Carmen said to Karen, Regina and Sue in this photo, but I imagine she delivered it as only Carmen can—I love this shot!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Signs of spring

8 03 2009

The snow from earlier in the week (see my Currier & Ives posting about Monday’s snowfall here) has melted, and this afternoon I discovered the harbingers of spring—Hellebores and Crocus—were blooming wildly in the front yard garden. We had just returned from the Meadowlark 2009 Photography Expo at the Meadowlark Botanical Garden in Vienna and I had my camera handy. Jeff Evans, friend and fellow photographer, joined us for this adventure. I recently blogged about Jeff’s exhibit at Gallery West in Alexandria here. Although the show ended February 1, Jeff’s work is on display there and in A Show of Hands, a Del Ray area gallery that recently relocated to 2301 Mt. Vernon Avenue in Alexandria, Virginia.

Each year I have to remind myself to look for the Hellebore blooms. These downward-facing flowers are quite shy and always hide their beauty, so when I catch a glimpse of the lime green, pink, or purple hues, I grab my camera. I posted a nice shot of one in bloom in last March here. As I plunked myself down in the middle of the bed of Pachysandra to photograph these blooms this afternoon, I was forced to assess all that needs to be done to get the garden looking good again. There’s work to be done, that’s for sure!

Speaking of the Meadowlark 2009 Photography Expo, I bought a Lensbaby Muse from Hunt’s Photo and Video‘s booth. I also discovered David Honl’s product line, HonlPhoto, at Penn Camera‘s booth. I bought the HonlPhoto Speed Strap, Gel Kit, and the 8″ Speed Snoot to use on my strobes and Nikon Speedlights. I’m always on the lookout for accessories to improve and stretch my flash capabilities. These products are reasonably priced, simply designed, and will take up very little room in my already full camera bag. Check ’em out!

I’m also debating on whether to get one of the HonlPhoto Speed Grid attachments. Read about their application on the Strobist site here. By the way, this website is an excellent resource for photographers who want to learn more about lighting!

The show continues tomorrow (Sunday) and if you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit. All of the vendors offer show prices on their products during the show. The entrance fee is $5. And don’t forget to check out the juried exhibition of photos from local camera clubs.

And after not checking the mail for two days, I discovered my Nikon Speedlight DVD, featuring photographers Joe McNally and Bob Krist, had arrived.

Photo inspiration. Photo chat. Photo gadget bargains. Beautiful weather. First blooms of spring. Neighbors out to chat. Something other than bills arrived in the mail. Today was an especially good day!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Lilies at Longwood

7 03 2009

I photographed this beautiful lily at Longwood Gardens this week. Enveloped by the uplifting fragrances and visually stimulated by so many blooms in the Conservatory, I nearly forgot there was still that blanket of snow outside! And yes, the colors of the lilies really do glow like that in the filtered sunlight. More photos to come…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Bluer than blue redux

5 03 2009

In early February I posted a collage of my blue flower photographs here.

On Tuesday Michael and I took a field trip to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, to see the Orchid Extravaganza at Longwood Gardens. I was inspired to do so by fellow photographer and blogger, Patty Hankins, who has been regularly posting her orchid photos from Longwood Gardens (thanks, Patty!). I spent quite a bit of time photographing this bed of beautiful blue flowers in the Conservatory.

If I have identified these correctly by the marker in one of the beds, then these flowers, a member of the Aster family, are a Longwood hybrid—Longwood Hybrid Cineraria (Pericallis x hybrida). Learn more about the history of this hybrid here. I’ll do some extra fact-finding to make sure that’s correct.

After our photo excursion to Longwood, we headed over to Philadelphia to the 2009 Philadelphia Flower Show. This was our second time attending the event (first time was in 2006) and we were disappointed that Borders Books didn’t have their garden-books-only booth. (As if I really needed more gardening books. But still…)

compleastsquash1We still managed to part with a little money, though (seed packets, a worm bin compost system, and the book, Melons for the Passionate Grower, written by Amy Goldman with beautiful photographs by Victor Schrager.

I found one of Goldman’s other books, The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower’s Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds, at a kitchen store that was closing in San Antonio this past Christmas. I paid just $6 for this coffee table book. I have her book, The Heirloom Tomato, on my radar now. Check these books out on Amazon—the photographs are exquisite still lifes; stunning in their simplicity. melons

Now I can identify those pumpkins, squashes and gourds that I photographed last fall here and here at Nalls Produce, a local plant and produce stand in Springfield, Virginia. Mind you, I have no room in a townhouse garden to grow melons or pumpkins, but these books are simply beautiful works of art, and informative too. How could I not add them to my library?

As you may have suspected, I’ll be posting more flower photographs from Longwood soon.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Currier & Ives morning

2 03 2009

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.