Christmas Ornaments 2018 I

for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8

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During the summer of 2013, while, gathering my Mother’s estate I found this statue, about 9 inches high on a wood plinth, among her belongings.  It is of a type of unglazed porcelain called “biscuit” or “bisque” commonly used for decorative figures.  From the coloring, especially the brushwork on the robe and shade of the cloak, it is a product of an Asian workshop.  The halo, erect stature and figuration of the arms and hands, identify it as the Immaculate Conception.  December 8th is the feast day of the Immaculate Conception for the Roman Catholic church and, so, I have chosen this as our first Christmas ornament to post for this year.     

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In 2017 I produced four posts featuring photographs of Pam’s Christmas displays or our household Christmas ornaments.  These were “Christmas Tableau”, “Ireland on the Mind at Christmas”, “Christmas Angels”, “Me and the War on Christmas”.

This year, Pam featured our Asian Immaculate Conception on the mantle with festive silver ornaments.  She is placed in front of a wall sized mirror in which the reverse of her cloak and halo are reflected.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

At Home with Tom and Hen Turkey

Thanksgiving Freedom

The Catskill Mountains are not mountains. The Catskills started as a high plateau. Over eons, before the first humans, water, the sun, and wind carved high steep peaks: rounded, forested and teeming with life.
 
October 2008, on a return trip from my Mother’s house on Long Island, we traveled the winding road called “Route 17”, through the high autumn hillsides, one of our last trips to see her.  She broke her hip on New Year’s and lived with me and my sisters until her 2013 passing. 
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Route 17_FishsEddy_throughTheWindshield– CLICK ME!!!!

Fishs Eddy

We left Long Island early afternoon, as the sun passed over the western hills we stopped to explore a place called “Fishs Eddy”, a town on the banks of the Delaware River.

Delaware River at Fishes Eddy– CLICK ME!!!!

 
On the east side, facing sunset is a formation that would be a cliff if it was not for the hardwood trees growing from every available nook, crevice.  Everywhere a root could be sunk, roots fed trees that, one late October afternoon, made a hill bright with autumn.

Turkey Habitat

Turkeys live in this type of habitat. We took a trail, barely a road that climbed past failed farms and hunting shacks.

Catskill Hillside– CLICK ME!!!!

The Hens Flee

On a level place, in front of a ruined home, we came upon a Tom (male) turkey and his four hens. The hens fled at the sight of us.
 
With barely time to raise the camera I caught Tom and the last hen as she fled into the bushes.

Tom and Hen Turkey Flee the Scene– CLICK ME!!!!

Tom Turkey Defiant

I say she, because Tom stayed behind. He stood erect, all three feet of him, defiant and strutting in a direction opposite from the hens.

 

This is the bird Benjamin Franklin proposed as the national emblem of the new United State of America (the bald eagle won that competition).
Hunted into almost oblivion, across the United States the wild turkey is making a dramatic come back in many places, including the forests and farmland of rural New York State.

A Defiant Tom Turkey– CLICK ME!!!!

This fellow made no noise. His strutting posture and head bobbing said it all.
We left Tom Turkey in peace to his domain and hens.

Tom Turkey Stalks the Ruin– CLICK ME!!!!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, my friends.
Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

 

Pam’s Holiday Cranberry Pecan Salad

Our holiday tradition

You will be well-remembered for years when Pam’s salad is part of your holiday celebration. We hosted 2017 Thanksgiving and Pam’s salad was requested by her son and daughter’s families. When we went around the table to give thanks, our six year old grandson offered, “I am thankful for the jello”, meaning Pam’s salad.

My wife, Pamela Wills, perfected this recipe over the years as a nutritious and tasty dish she could make in advance.

Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or Anytime

Holiday Cranberry-Pecan Salad travels well and is a visually appealing dish to share at parties.

Holiday Cranberry-Pecan Salad

Ingredients:

1 12 oz. bag of raw cranberries

1 6 oz. box of raspberry gelatin

1 6 oz. box of orange gelatin

3 cups orange juice

3 cups boiling water

1 large orange

2 large apples of your choice (I use sweet/tart/firm apples)

1 tablespoon orange rind

½ cup chopped pecans

Curly leaf parsley

3-4 small bunches of green grapes. I dip the grapes in water, then in sugar and let dry. Or you can use raw cranberries.

Directions:

  1. Boil water. In large mixing bowl pour water over raspberry and orange gelatin and stir until dissolved. Wait a few minutes until the gelatin cools down (keep stirring). Add orange juice and stir again. Place in refrigerator until gelatin is the consistency of raw egg whites. This is tricky step since, if you don’t let it set up enough, the fruit will sink to the bottom.  When set too much the fruit mixture won’t blend with the gelatin.
  2. In food processor finely chopped cranberries. By hand cut orange and apples into small bit-size pieces. Combine chopped cranberries, apples and orange. Fold in grated orange rind and pecans. Set this aside while waiting for the gelatin (see above).
  3. Fold fruit mixture into the gelatin. With a large spoon scoop up mixture and transfer it to a Bundt pan. Cover with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator for several hours or until set.

To serve:

Dip bottom of mold into a sink of a few inches of luke warm water (not too warm or the gelatin will melt). Turn upside down on a large round platter or plate and garnish around the edges with parsley and the sugar-coated grapes or raw cranberries.

This is a great dish to share at a holiday party since you can make it in advance. My family prefers it over cooked cranberry relish and it is even good enough to serve as a dessert. It is easy to make, it’s festive and has always been a big hit. Enjoy!

Note: EAT the parsley garnish. Parsely is packed with vitamins and minerals.  Just 7.5 grams (a fraction of an ounce) contains 150+% of most people’s Vitamin K requirement and about 15% for Vitamin A and C.

Valparaiso Separation

Learn about funiculars

To begin with an epilogue to my last post, “Our Fifteen Minutes of Fame on Conception Hill” , our meeting with the El Mercurio reporter never appeared.  Inquiries to the newspaper per  promptly and courteously replied to, there was nothing.  They suggested a search of the online archive and only a January 2014 fashion show, the article featured a photo from the same terrace.  After our pleasant time we walked off some calories on Gervasoni Promenade, a showcase of city harbor and hillside views.

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Most city visits on this cruise we traded independence and flexibility for the convenience of the guided tour.  Ricardo, our guide, was a knowledgeable, good humored companion to our small group.  After we left the promenade for Calle Conception Ricardo was most helpful.

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It was here I entered a photographic fugue, losing touch with my surroundings through concentration on capturing the moment.

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I walked ahead of Pam, expecting her to follow, and caught the view of the arriving care of the Conception funicular.

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Wow, that’s the Regatta at dock.  Other elements of this vista are the harbor, of course, then the famous Turri clock tower.  Hmmm, almost 1:30 pm.

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I was fascinated by the view of a drydock the Regatta passed while docking early that  morning.  It is the red structure with the letters “Sociber”, it even has a Facebook page!!!

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Once at street level the experience of the crowd on the alley opening onto Calle Prat, waiting for the ride up, brought back reality.  “Where’s Pam?”  I could not go back up because of the crowd, the views from the car fell from my mind.

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I was on the street, disoriented and alone.

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I fell back on photography to pass the time.  Nowhere near the charm of Cerro Conception, typical downtown urban environment.

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A man approached the family across Prat, “What is going on?” I wondered when the tour bus arrived.  Still no Pam.

Ascensor Concepcion

Oh, it is an ice cream vendor.  Delicious.  “Where’s Pam?”  Ricardo not around, either.  Back on the bus, waiting, a younger member of the tour was an Irish wag who declaimed on the benefits of freedom, even temporary.

Ascensor Concepcion

Finally, Ricardo arrived followed by a few other tour members and Pam.  Whew!!  I’ll never live down “deserting” her.  She was not able to find the entrance to the Conception funicular.  Along with a few others they kept each other company until Ricardo rounded them up.   That was a long 20 minutes (reading from the photograph metadata), I was worried.  As I mentioned, at the time I was clueless about my whereabouts.  Reviewing the numerous photographs, I found the “Servicio Nacional de Aduanas” (National Customs) building across the where Calle Esmeralda joins with Cochrane and pieced it together from there.

About the Conception funicular, that morning while the Regata docked I caught this view of Valparaiso hillside.  It is a microcosm of the Andean topography, ravines cut through the heights.  This is when I noted the Sociber drydock, it is on the lower left…look down into it — the business is to sell that dry space in the middle of the harbor for ship repair.  The space and be flooded, opened to allow entry of a ship, then drained for work on the hull or whatever.

The city pioneers adapted to this terrain.  As a entrepreneurial endeavor, in 1882 Mr. Liberio E. Brieba Pacheco founded the Mechanical Elevators Company of Valparaíso.  Conception funicular opened the following year to facilitate the urbanization of Alegre and Concepción hills.  Conception funicular is closed for repairs currently, from 1883 until recently this, the oldest and first funicular of Valparaiso lifted people from the downtown Plan (plain) to the hilltop for a small fee.

Funicular is derived from latin “funis” for rope.  It is an elevator that runs two counter balanced cars on a rails on a steep, less than vertical, slope.  As one car rises the other lowers.

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Here are some views of the Conception funicular and environs as seen from the upper Regatta deck.  First, a 24 mm wide angle view.  Look to the center for the rails and one car at the top.  Above are the buildings of Cerro Conception (Conception Hill).

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The funicular emerges from downtown on the right in the following view. The prominent church is Parroquia Perpetuo Socorro, just above the midpoint.  It rises from Cerro Cordillera, above Cerro Conception.  A Catholic church founded by the Redemptionist Fathers, the first stone was laid down 1905.  Learning from the devastating earthquake of 1906, the engineer Juan Tonkin chose construction of Oregon pine and concrete to stand tall today.  What a view (I’ve seen photographs).

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A view a bit to the right, many of the colorful exteriors are zinc panels brought from early sailing ships, repurposed as siding.

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After the wide angle shot I used the variable “zoom” lens for the rest.  Here is a close view of the Conception funicular.  The business of building and running these services thrived, over the years up to 29 funiculars and one elevator, served the city portenos (people of the port).  In 2018 seven are in operation, nine are under a process of restoration and modernization, including Conception.

Click to see more in “Valparaiso Old and New”j

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Our Fifteen Minutes of Fame on Conception Hill

A modest dose of history with wine and empanada

Posting about our departure from Valparaiso, Chile (see Valparaiso Departure III “The Sunset”) brings us to the time spent wandering this World Heritage Site, added to the UNESCO list in 2003.  Within the amphitheater of hills is Cerro Conception (Conception Hill), historically settled by English and German immigrants.  The façade of the Hotel Brighton, a building from the 19th century heyday of Valparaiso when it was a stopping point for shipping through the Straits of Magellan, reveals why so many of the buildings are alike: all are constructed from materials dropped off from sailing ships.

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Hotel BrightonThe theme of the Hotel Brighton evokes thoughts of immigrants remembering their origins, emigres claiming a spot of real estate to mold a sense of place for themselves.  This goes both ways, Valparaiso, Indiana was formerly Porterville of Porter County.  The motive force behind the renaming were the memories of the retired Captain David Porter, the sole survivor of an attack on his ship USS Essex by the British frigates Phoebe and Cherub in the War of 1812, within sight of Valparaiso. Fifty eight (58) United States Marines lost their lives in that sea battle.  To point out the obvious, Captain Porter is the namesake of Porter County.  

Pam corrects me when I say we “stopped for lunch” at the Hotel Brighton, pointing out we “only” had a glass of red wine and an empanada.  Both were tasty, even more so with this marvelous view looking north into the other hills of the city.  The yellow umbrella is on the hotel restaurant terrace.  

Hotel Brighton

I missed capturing the signature wrought iron gate forming the word “Brighton” among decorative scrolls.  Built on the edge of Conception Hill it overlooks the coastal plain almost all of which is man-made.

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Hotel Brighton

During our refreshment, this young lady (see photograph below) introduced herself as a reporter for El Mercurio.  Accompanied by a photographer, she interviewed us and we had our photograph taken, I returned the favor with the following photograph saying the story might appear in the next edition.  Standing next to her, with a puzzled look, is our waitress who was from the States.

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Hotel Brighton

El Mercurio de Valparaiso is the oldest continuously published Spanish language newspaper in the world.  In my research for these photographs I discovered the newpaper officers were a short walk from the landing of the Ascensor Conception.

Continued with Valparaiso Separation

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Halloween Invasion

friendly ghouls

Wednesday, we were invaded by a team of Halloween spooks.

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Lead by this crafty cat

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the well armed ninja kept us at bay

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this is NOT the happy cow

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Bat-GIRL (not Bat-woman)

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We staved off the tricks with dinner and treats, then sent them on their way to terrorize the neighborhood.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

 

Homecoming Parade 2003

flying over the parade

In 2003 I was 50 years old, my son Sean graduated college and started his first job and we made time for a tour of Arizona together in November. The timing was perfect for me to take in the University of Arizona (U of A) Homecoming, my first since graduating 1975.

ArizonaCheer2003

One absolutely positive memory from my time at the U of A was trying out for freshman cheer squad when I first arrived in Tucson, somehow being chosen and then serving for the fall and spring terms. So, when I received an invitation of the cheer alumni events I accepted and planned to be there in Tucson for November 7 and 8.

ArizonaCheer2003

November 7 there was a reception for cheer alumni and current squad members. Everyone was welcoming and friendly, as you would expect, and I learned a bit about the younger members, how many were on academic scholarships.

ArizonaCheer2003

The squad advisor, Phoebe Chalk, and I chatted briefly. She responded, “We have photographers,” and I floated the idea of my taking photographs during the parade so I let that drop with the intention of doing it, anyway.

ArizonaCheer2003

I came prepared the next day with a Sony Cybershot F828. It was “Sony’s flagship prosumer digital camera” at the time. It worked well that day, the variable lens was especially helpful.

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At the staging site I encountered a problem. The cheer squad headed the parade, behind the University President with the cheer alumni well behind. My solution was to approach Peter Linkins, the outgoing University President, with a request to photograph the cheer squad.

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He said, “OK”, made a phone call and I walked up to the squad. They remembered me from the reception and I was on my way, “embedded” for the parade.

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I walked alongside and on the alert.  As we crossed passed the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium and into the intersection with Cherry Avenue the squad broke formation for a stunt.  Three men formed the “base”, they were  J. Justin VandenBerg, Ricardo Abud (captain) and Robert Scoby, around a “flyer”, Taylor Hendrickson, and launched her into the air, above the pavement.

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My sense of amazement, awe and concern is reflected in the reactions of the team members.  Taylor was thrown more than 15 feet high for a complete flip to land in the arms of the three base members.  I call this image, “Mind.”

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They did it again and I was more prepared to capture the instant of launch.  “Aerialists,” is the title of this image.  The next flyer to launch was Kristen Ortega, here standing on the shoulders of her partner.

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Kristen was launched in front of the review stand.  “Grace,” is the image title.  The three base members are the same.

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Here is the rest of the parade.

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I posed with the cheer squad afterwards.

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Click link for another posting about Arizonians, “Portrait of a Navajo Guide.”
Click link for another posting about Arizonians, “History and Ghosts of the Triangle T Ranch.”

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills