Share Six: February 2023: ICM

This year our group of bloggers has decided to challenge themselves to doing something different each month. Something were we can learn from each other. This month Janet chose the theme ICM or Intentional Camera Movement.

It sounds easy. Well not so much. It’s one thing to move the camera while you are taking the photo, it’s another to get the light right and the shutter speed right and not have a blown out picture.

My first attempt left a lot to be desired. The images were totally blown out and it was only with some post editing that I managed to salvage these 3 images. These 3 appealed to me although I am not sure how much intentional camera movement these show.

1/4 sec; f/4.0; ISO 100
1/4 sec; f/4.0; ISO 100
1/4 sec; f/4.0; ISO 100

I tried using my lensbaby to get a movement effect but it was more bokeh than it was movement.

1/80 sec ISO 125

While the image below is not ICM, the effect the lensbaby gives is one of movement and I love the portal effect.

1/320 sec, ISO 125

I then decided I would swing my my favorite sunset spot and see if I could get a few images late evening. I wasn’t very successful there either. I did like the first one but then next two were not what I was looking for.

1/5 sec, f/18, ISO100
1/5 sec, f/18, ISO100
1/5 sec, f/18, ISO100

I am back to the drawing board, watched a few more videos, asked my team for feedback and then went back out again. This time I chose to go to a walk I know that is kind of dark and not one that I am crazy about walking on my own. However, I knew that the direct light would not be as bright as the other places I had tried. What I do like about these images is the very wintery effect that they have. This particular walk has a lot of tall trees with Spanish Moss growing on them.

0.4 sec, f/10, ISO 100
1/8 sec; f/20, ISO 100
1/8 sec. f/18 ISO 100
1/8 sec, f/18, ISO 100
1/8 sec, f/18, ISO 100
1/8 sec, f/18, ISO 100
0.3 sec, f/18, ISO 100

I finally feel like I found my groove. I set my camera in the upper range of the F-stop, with the ISO at 100 and the shutter speed varying around 1/8 sec. This seems to be what worked for me.

I have to be honest, this was hard. I tend to try to get crisp nature images so the blur, not unlike the lensbaby, kind of challenges me visually. However, it was fun attempting this style and hopefully I got some images that will work with what Janet was aiming for when she chose this theme.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Katherine of Cobert Photography is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_icm

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

30 Minutes in the LIfe: January 2023

I have confessed many times over the last 3 years that I have struggled to find my groove and to get back into the passion of photography. With covid slowing and in many cases shutting places down, along with Richard’s melanoma journey, and Mr Luka taking all my time, there seems little time to get out and do photography. However, the end of this past year and into January, my son-in-law’s mother has been visiting from Macedonia. Ljubica and I have done a whole lot of getting around and it involved me taking photo’s while she pushed Luka. Of course, he had to go with. I feel like I may have got the kick start I need for 2023.

Earlier this month I had time to myself and I decided to pick up my 100-600mm lens and go for a walk at Green Cay Wetlands. I have missed getting out with the lens but it is too heavy to carry and push a pram and try and keep Luka happy.

Today is all about getting back into nature, to re-orienting my head and taking deep breaths knowing that there are things I can change and things I cannot.

Nature is an interesting source of photography. Some shots you have control over and you can set it up as you want it, and other shots are on the fly.

This Little Blue Heron while wild, seemed quite comfortable with people getting up close to it. Sadly in the wetlands you have those people who are there to walk, without consideration of what is around them. I don’t mind people walking, I wish I did it better, however, when you see a bird sitting on the railing and folks trying to take photo’s, slow down and enjoy this incredible bird, as you go past. That way you do not scare the bird away. This bird allowed me to get fairly close but it does help to have a bigger lens so that there is no need to be on top of it.

I love birds feet and I especially love this kind of photo where the object is in focus and the rest is a soft blur.

While it is still winter we are starting to see signs of spring (which of course means the hot summer is not far behind. Although I am not going to complain too much as I will get two winters this year, as we head to Australia in May). What I love the the beginning of new life, while we are still seeing signs of old life hanging out. The lens also creates some awesome bokeh for the background.

I loved this particular image because of the contrast of the leaves. The brown underside stands out fairly starkly against the mottled green of the upper side of the leaves. What also fascinated me when editing was the background kind of reflected the contrast of the fern.

I don’t typically catch small birds but for some reason today I was lucky enough to do so. This little bird is called a Palm Warbler. These tiny birds are fast and move around so quickly that I was lucky to catch as many as I did today.

This Yellow Rumped Warbler is slightly different to the Palm Warbler in coloring. I happened to spot it in the tree eating some kind of berry. Fortunately it stayed on the branch long enough for me to capture it’s image. The differences I see seem to be the stripped effect on the wings and body and the yellow on the wings.

Of course, we have the controversial Iguana. I personally love them. They are so prehistoric and so incredible in design. Most people don’t like them because they are an invasive species to Florida. I see them eating the grass in the back garden. I am good with that. As spring arrives so does mating season, and along with that some interesting colors in the Iguana. They can go from muted greens and browns to bright orange, which is pretty cool to look at.

Along with changes in color, the birds start displaying changes as well. The Anhinga get this really cool color around their eyes. Both male and female (above and below) show this distinct marking during breeding time.

Nature includes leaves, new and old, and I love to find leaves and photograph them with this narrow sliver of focus. I just love the blur around it.

This cute little bird is ironically called the Little Green Heron. To date I am still trying to find the Green part but it is a beautiful bird all the same. It can stand still for the longest time and just when you about to give up it will dive for it’s food.

Another sign that spring is on the way. I love the unfurling ferns. The beginning of new life. So symbolic of new beginnings and so many new opportunities.

Today there were about 50 Glossy Ibis that had descended into this watery area. The Glossy Ibis is known as such due to their pearlescent feathers. Dependent on which way the sun is shining on the feathers you either get a plain brown bird or you get this pearl effect of colors. When the sun catches the feathers at the right angle they are stunning.

Last but not least on this walk about, is a critter that I really do not like. In fact I would go as far as to say they creep me out. Spiders are just not my thing. It may go back to being traumatized by a friend chasing me with a giant spider on the end of the stick, or the bamboo spiders we used to get in South Africa. Or it may even be the fact that I know a couple of people, my son included, who have been bitten by spiders and it has taken months of doctors visits, removing dead skin, packing the bite with antibiotics before the wound actually healed up. However, I am in awe of the incredible architecture spiders create. Who builds an amazing home on 4 twigs. Spiders are good when it comes to that, and I respect that, so long as they stay away from me.

30 Minutes in the Life is a small group of bloggers who get together once a month to put thought to paper and share on the happenings of their lives. Hopefully soon I will get back to rest of the Macedonia images, but in the meantime, take some time to follow the link to see what my friend and very talented photographer Kristina of Hello Olivia Photography has to share this month.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: January 2023: New Beginnings

Happy New Year! Lets hope that 2023 continues to improve on the previous years. What a pleasure it is to be blogging another year with this fantastic group of bloggers. We have now been blogging at Share Six for 8 years.

The month crept up on us very quickly and it was my turn to pick the theme, so what was more appropriate than {New Beginnings}. I love the beginning of the year. It is a reset. I can look at what I see happening and evaluate what I need to do.

Each year I start out enthusiastically trying to loose weight. This year is no different. I lost some before we went to Macedonia, and then gained it when I came back. My work situation created a fair bit of stress and I, without doubt, am a stress eater. I am also a bored eater. However this year, most certainly for the first half of the year I am going to be eating a lot of lettuce. The reason for that is that we have potential plans to travel to Australia in May and I would like to be a lot thinner by then.

I have also decided that I am going to chill. I am going to work hard not to stress out. 2021 and 2022 were spent worrying about Richard and his health and then worrying about figuring out what I needed to learn for the additions to my job and making sure that I fully understood all of the intricacies of the multiple different tasks I was taking on. This year I am hoping that I can relax a bit more.

I am going to slow down, and cruise as much as I can. Richard is a go, go, go person and I just want to be much slower.

I am going to do my best to keep my head above water and take deep breathes when I need to.

I am going to do my best to not get my feathers ruffled. It takes a bit to get me ruffled but I really do not like it, so the goal is to avoid any form of ruffling.

I want to dance as though no one is looking…

And if I look foolish, oh well…

I am going to hang out with my loved ones, especially my baby boy, Luka. I hope to continue to show kindness and love wherever I can.

I am going to relax and take in the vitamin C. (Carefully though, as we all know Richard story of melanoma. Too much sun is not good for the skin).

I am going to attempt to get more sleep. Being a night owl that is really tough for me. I am awake at 1am and dragging at 8am. There is a up side to sleeping more and it has a lot to do with diet.

I am going to look to others for wisdom and guidance when I do not have the answers myself. But I am not going to be pulling my feathers out over things I cannot control. And if I see, someone struggling, I hope that I will always reach out with kindness.

I hope that I will be curious, but not where it affects others. I want to see as much as I can. Mr Lukie is now going to be going for more walks and outings. I am super excited about the plans for the trip to Australia. This is the homeland of my great grandparents and so I am eager to visit it.

I want to smile a lot more, enjoy the laughter and feel so much lighter in spirit. I hope that we lose some of the heaviness that we have been under the past two years

And when I can, I am going to do my best to have a flipping good time.

And maybe make a splash.

I am not one for resolutions. I know that I can never keep them, but I feel like I can manage these thoughts. New Beginnings are awesome. It means we can let go of the past mistakes, or sorrows or hardships. We can carry forward with us the goodness of life where we choose to.

New beginnings give us opportunities to learn something new that we may not have done before. One of the things I discovered I love is artwork with wood. For the last two years we have gone to an art studio for our work retreat and I hope we get to go again this year. I love the creative aspect of it.

At the end of each year I pull out a new puzzle and start to work on it. It helps to reset my mind, and to dig a little deeper to find those missing pieces. It makes me think again more logically. It helps me to get my mind off everything. When I have finished blogging now, I am heading back to my challenging puzzle.

I encourage you to look at what {New Beginnings} you can put into place in your life. Just make sure that they do not become a burden to you. Enjoy everything you can about 2023, and if life does get tough, try to find the positives within the negatives, those are what will get you through the challenging times. That, and family and really good friends.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Elizabeth of It’s Still Life by Elizabeth Willson is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_newbeginnings.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: December 2022: Color

Color is our theme for Share Six this month and I grateful for all ability to see Color around me. The world is a beautiful place. Color comes in so many diverse areas of our lives, from sunrises and sunsets, to flora and fauna, to places we visit. There is so many opportunities to experience color in our lives.

I am fortunate that there is a local national park near me which has this splendid view of the Florida Everglades. Many an evening I have witnessed spectacular sunsets. I am hoping that 2023 will have me getting out again and enjoying these beautiful evenings.
Gardens can create avenues of beautiful colors. I have a love hate relationship with these plants. I love the effects they create especially when there are waterdrops involved, but their leaves are not long lasting and I feel like I am picking them up every 5 minutes. When Richard was so sick I made a point of going outside and pulling of the leaves before they fell on the floor.
A box of pencil crayons is a wonderful place to find color. For this image I used a vase of pencil crayons to take the picture and then rotated the image to get this effect.
Even in winter I was able to find color in the leaves in one of the county parks nearby. I needed a photo for another project, but what I loved about this image was the various colors in the leaves.
Richard likes to grow pineapples and what fascinates me, is the color of the pineapple when it first emerges and starts growing. I always thought pineapples were yellow but apparently not.
Those trees that I have the love hate relationship created a beautiful contrast of colors in the background along with the reflection of the jacuzzi in the glasses.
I am not a fan of spiders, but what I do love about spiders is their incredible ability to make spider webs. The color in the bokeh of this image is a favorite of mine.
Travel is another place where you can find color and one of the most colorful areas we have come across in our travel is the gum wall at the Seattle Market. Kind of gross but it is a wall full of different colored gum.
Color also comes with emotions. This little guy stole our hearts and he has added so much color to our world. Sleepovers are always fun and I am normally exhausted the next day because I am constantly half asleep making sure that he is still fine.
Last but not least, this time of the year is all about color. I love using my lensbaby sweet 35 to capture the color of the Christmas tree lights.

Wherever you are in the world and whatever you celebrate, I wish you a blessed time. For me it is about Christmas, and celebrating the birth of Christ. It’s about family time. It’s about little Luka tearing into his presents. It’s about quality over quantity. It’s about sitting at the table over a meal and enjoying the celebration. This year we will get to celebrate with Daniel’s mom as well. She will be flying in to the US in 2 weeks and I am so excited for her.

Stay safe, stay well, enjoy the festivities. We look forward to seeing you in 2023.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Kathrine of Cobert Photography is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_color

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: November 2022: Nature

Nature for me is the wetlands. I haven’t been a lot lately because Friday has become my Luka day and it’s been too hot to take him in the wetlands until recently. However, it is our get out time, before sleep time. I cannot carry my big lens and push the stroller, so I have had to stick with the 70-300mm. Maybe next time I will give it a try. In addition, every time I stop, he grumbles. Our last walk we had to stop halfway around to have breakfast, and then a bit later for his bottle of water. Overall he is so good. Walking past someone I got the comment “he sure looks chilled”. There is Luka resting his feed up on the food tray. Gotta love this boy!

Woodpecker at the bird feeder with food in it’s mouth
Wood pecker back for a second round.
I’m loving the fall colors.
A red winged blackbird letting me know that I was too close.
An Anhinga looking for breakfast.
More fall colors
A Spoonbill in flight.
I love the defused colors in the background of this image.
A male grackle.
Waterdrops on a Palm branch.

Nature is everything that has life around us. It is getting away from the bricks and mortar and breathing in life. It’s the smells, the fresh air, the wildlife, the scenery that always captures my attention. Working on this blog makes me want to get out and go for another walk.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Janet of @wiredtothemoon_ is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_nature

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: October 2022: Moody

{Moody} is the theme for this month and when I picked my images I have to be honest moody was kind of where I was at.

That morning I had attended the funeral of a colleagues husband who had passed away of cancer. I felt sad, down and frustrated. But this funeral also felt very close to home. You see Richard, in February 2021, was diagnosed with melanoma, and for a while we did not know which way things would go. It’s such a lot to process and it is hard to know what to say to the person who has been diagnosed. Then things seemed to turn for the better for Richard, and we hope and pray that it continues that way. In the September 2021, my colleagues husband was diagnosed and the following September 2022, he was dead. Sitting there, reminded me that life is so fragile, it could have been me sitting in that position.

I went home that day and posted the following on Facebook “Life is short. I was feeling philosophical last night. I am sure the wine helped. I had spent time with a friend whose husband had passed away. He was so young. Today I attended his celebration of life. It’s these moments that remind me of how grateful I am for my family and friends. It is also a reminder to tell those I love, how much I love them. Give them the hugs they may not want because I don’t know whether I will be able to hug them again. Don’t let those moments slip away. Life is short and time waits for no one.”

Life is precious and the unexpected can happen at the drop of a hat.

My mood remained moody and reflective. We have recently had a lot of bad weather. Wet, overcast, depressing, rainy weather. I am fortunate that I work from home but sometimes I still end up driving in the rain. That kind of weather makes me stressed and somewhat moody. Tuesday’s pre-hurricane Ian weather was a fine example. We knew there was a hurricane coming in. Wednesday the office was going to be closed, as were the clinics. So Tuesday I decided after my morning zoom meeting to head across to the clinic. Mmm, here comes the rain again. It was so dark, and moody, and heavy that you could barely see in front of you. Even driving home it was not great. Already we were feeling the effects of the incoming hurricane’s outer bands.

You sit waiting for the path to become clear, then you sit and watch to see whether the path will change. Hurricane Ian did not change it’s direct path but it did wobble to the south. Had it gone a little further south, I think we would have felt a bigger impact.

From 8:30pm Tuesday evening the emergency sirens on the east coast of Florida kept going off. It went off 4 times between 8:30pm and 5am. I have to confess, hurricanes we have been through, tornado’s not so much. We have a couple of safe spots in our house – our laundry, our downstairs guest bathroom. and under our staircase. None have space for more than 1 person. I have to confess – I went downstairs for the first siren, stayed downstairs until after the second siren, and then I went upstairs to bed, only to be rudely awakened by the next two sirens. I could not see myself spending the entire night down in the bathroom or laundry.

It’s 5am and your mind is foggy. You walk to the bathroom and switch on the light and it is a huge relief that you actually have power. The wind, rain, lightning and thunder through the night was hectic, and it was only the outer bands of the north east quadrant of the storm that we were experiencing. Then you turn on the TV and discover that the tornado touched down 20 minutes away from where you live. In fact, halfway between where we live and where both kids now live. The touchdown was actually on the main road they turn off of but a little way away from them. The first thing you see is the damage to the communities where the tornado came down. It hit a big retirement community, possibly the one next door and the Home Depot. It hits home that it could have been you while you were sleeping. And while the emergency notice said “go to your basement of safe room” the reality is that no one in South Florida has as basement in their home.

This was a first hurricane for Daniel, and he said it was loud and scary. Little does he know what it is like when it actually hits you. 2005 we were hit by Hurricane Wilma, and it was bad. That was our first and last hurricane season without shutters. I watched Richard stand, with a towel wrapped around his head, a thick jacket on and jeans, pushing the bowing glass doors outwards against the wind. The eye hit us on both sides of our property.

That said you walk around in a fog. 5am is way to early for me. Luka was coming down. I was worried about what the weather would be like. Turned out that other than light showers, the day was okay. And then we waited and watch the storm go in on the West Coast of Florida and said a prayer of gratitude that it was not coming in to us. I have a photographer friend who lives in that area and she said this was the scariest thing she has ever been through and hopes never to go through it again.

The rose amongst all of these moody moments is Luka. We had him Wednesday to Friday afternoon. Amy was in Spain on business and Daniel is a teacher and so once the storm was passed, school theoretically would start, but the day care was closed. So he came to Granda and Nuala which turned out perfect in that our offices were closed Wednesday and Thursday and I don’t work Fridays. Each day we thought school would start again. Daniel did end up going in on Friday but they had no air conditioning or electrical power, so he came back home. Luka being in our home brings joy. His laughter and giggles are a blessing. Even those whiney moments are blessings. And when you try to put him to sleep and he is not tired (or even overtired) he is up and down on the bed like a crazy child. Just when you think he is about to go to sleep the cat jumps up on the bed and off he goes again. Eventually he will go to sleep with me almost asleep next to him on the bed. I shift him to the crib and then 1am his is awake and wanting comfort. So into the bed he comes. Richard did that one night and then complained that Luka sleeps like a starfish and he moved to the spare room. But to watch Luka wake up and see the smile on his face chases away the cobwebs, the moody feelings and brings a smile to my face.

And while we smile, our heart breaks. Our heart breaks for those who were severely impacted by Hurricane Ian. For those who have lost everything, – their businesses, their homes, their vehicles, and some, even their lives. Hurricane Ian has left devastation on the West Coast of Florida. One of the best ways to help is to find a reputable organization to donate to. We cannot go in there but we can financially help those who can. This is not a quick fix, this is going to take a long time to repair, rebuild or replace that which has been lost.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Janet of @wiredtothemoon_ is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_moody

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Kocani, Macedonia

We had climbed Vinicko Kale, and now it was time for us to head to Kocani for the afternoon. Kocani is about 15 or so minutes from Vinica and we had the most interesting ride. When we got to the house, the car was already decorated in wedding finery in preparation for Saturdays event, and the main reason we were in Vinica. While everyone was working on wedding plans, Amy, Richard, Luka and I were playing tourist.

Kocani, on first impression, is much larger than Vinica. Reading about Kocani that impression was confirmed The population is almost 3 x more than Vinica, the number of people living there is around 28 000. The population is made up of about 90% of Macedonians, 5% Roma, 3% Turks, 0.5% Vlachs (I added a link because I have not heard this terminology before), 0.2% Serbian, and 0.1% other.

I noticed a lot more apartment complexes around the town.

The Kocani River runs through the center of town and creates a beautiful river walk. One block of buildings back from the river is a peaceful outdoor entertainment area, coffee bars, restaurants, shops, and a children’s play area.

I loved this – Life is too short to wear boring clothes. I also think life is to short to not be exploring everything around us. There is a whole world out there.

Below, the story of our vacation. Carrying the stroller up and down stairs, hills, walkways etc. Luka did not complain at all. I let them do the carrying and I took photo’s lol.

I loved this image below of Marilyn Munroe on the walls of what appears to be a restaurant in Gadsby style.

We were heading to an Irish Pub that Amy had been to a couple of times. The look was somewhat Irish but the beers and menu were not. We had the standard Macedonian beer Skopsko IPL. One of my favorite finds was the beggars in Macedonia. They came with four legs and were all feline. There is a huge population of what I assume are feral cats and they are the restaurant beggars. I loved them.

I got to chat with the waitress at the restaurant. She was an English teacher but she said there were no jobs so she was working as a waitress.

When we were leaving the Irish Pub I spotted this church in the distance and asked if we could make our way to it. Little did I know we were going up and down hills again.

Below is one of the views of the housing in Kocani. We walked the streets to the church because the sidewalks have cars on them.

I was fascinated by this tree growing up the wall of this shop. Turning around to take a fuller image I realized that this was a grape vine that had grown up the side of the building and the leaves and grapes formed the awning.

Back up hill and making our way to the church I had spotted. Like Vinica, I saw piles of wood stacked against walls and houses. This wall is the external wall to the church.

Church St George, is situated just outside of the main riverwalk area, slightly up on the hill. I could find little information on this church but from what I did find it was apparently built in 1915 on original foundations.

Church St George, is an orthodox Macedonian church. I loved the design of the building with stone and plaster and traditional red style tiles on the roof. The grounds were immaculate, and we were able to walk around without anyone stopping us. We did not, however, go inside.

One of my favorite things that I saw in Macedonia with the churches was that quite often there were miniature replicas in the gardens.

Lastly we stopped in at Restaurant Kaj Pace for a late afternoon meal. We were all hungry. This was a great restaurant, some of it undercover and some areas had a more garden feel. My favorite part, I have to confess, was that the wait staff moved a giant fan over to us. Phew, with 104F temps we were dying. That fan was a blessing.

Of course, it was back to beer again. For food we ordered shopska salad which is made of cucumbers, tomatoes, mixed in olive oil and covered with a salty cheese, not unlike feta but looked very different. This appears to be a staple salad in Macedonia and we would eat it many times in the days to come.

Amy also wanted cheesy chips, which sounded great. The first taste of the chips was a bit of a shock as the cheese was salty. Amy tells me there is two types of cheese in Macedonia, a gouda type cheese which they call white cheese, and salty cheese. In addition we shared ribs as well which were excellent. What I loved about eating in Macedonia was that we could order a number of plates of food, and all share that food.

We headed back home in the wedding car, to a wonderful evening of meeting new family members, Daniels brother, sister in law and niece. It was a great day, busy with the climb and then the tour of Kocani. It felt good to stop and chat and learn a bit more of our new extended family.

Heading back to the hotel and the air conditioning, we took a little bundle of love along with us. Luka was dealing with a heat rash and Amy thought it would be good for him to sleep in the cooler temps. I made him a bed on the couch and placed chairs along the edge so that he could not roll out. He slept like a log, through the whole evening.

Saturday is going to be a busy day. Rich and I took Luka for a walk in the lower side of Vinica, then we got to celebrate for 3 hours at the house, before heading to the wedding venue. If I thought Friday was a long day, Saturday was going to be even longer.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: September 2022: Intentional

Liz from It’s Still Life Photography by Elizabeth Willson chose our theme {Intentional}. This was going to challenge me. I had to really sit and think about it. I have not had a lot of time to myself this past 2 weeks. Aside from my Luka days which always seem to be more than Friday (and I am not complaining), I have had a change in job description. I have been asked to take over two areas that our ex Finance Officer was handing, insurances & employee benefits along with HR. I may loose the HR later but right now it is on my plate. It has been a learning curve. So I had to go back and look at what I had been intentional about recently.

Macedonia was so different to what you see in South Florida. South Florida is so manicured that it is virtually impossible to see a weed. Whereas in Macedonia there was a wildness to the flora on our walk we were taking, and also plenty of wildflowers. On our walk to Vinicko Kale, the ruins of the fortress that sits on top of the hill, I was intentional about looking for the beauty that surrounded us. That and stopping every so often to breathe. The walk up hill was a killer. I am unfit, that goes without saying. However, while I am not asthmatic, I come from a family that does suffer from asthma. My allergies tend to play up when I hit dry climates and the altitude affects my breathing. So I would stop and take photos, and catch up on my breathing at the same time. As a result Amy and Richard were always way ahead of me on the hike.

Macedonia’s topography undulates. We were constantly going up and downhill. We had to go downhill to get to the point where we could go uphill to Vincko Kale. And then it all went uphill. While for many, the sides of the road may seem overgrown, I loved seeing all the wildflowers. Some of them may have been weeds, but they were beautiful flowering weeds. Nature has so many beautiful specimens to offer and I was seeing a good few of them here in Vinica as we walked.

About halfway up the hill I stopped to breathe again, and to breathe in the beauty of our surroundings. Florida is so flat that it is so amazing to be able to look around and see hills, valleys and mountains again. It reminded me so much of the countryside we used to explore in South Africa.

I have no idea of any of the names of the flowers sadly, but they definitely captured my attention. The image below is the ruins of Vinicko Kale, a fortress set on top of the hill that dates back to the Neolithic times. This is where our uphill walk was taking us.

No only were the flowers stunning but I was blown away by the spiderweb below. It appeared that the spider created this tunnel through to where it waited.

After huffing and puffing my way up the hill, with all my {Intentional} stops to breathe and seek beauty, the view from the top was spectacular. It was of the city below. Now while the walk downhill may not be bad, the last little stretch uphill had me huffing and puffing again.

Doing things {Intentionally} is not a bad thing. I intentionally plan before we go. I like to know where I am going and what there is to see. When I am there, I am intentionally looking for the beauty that is around me. Intentionally trying to connect with what the country has to offer. I loved our trip to Macedonia and a journey into an area of the world I have never been before.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Katherine of Cobert Photography is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

If you want to learn more about the Fortress Vinicko Kale, then look out for the next blog due to go live later this week.

Come and share your images to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_travel

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Macedonia: Vinica

Vinica was the town we would be in for the next 5 days. Today we are going to explore some of the town and a little bit of the history. We often have preconceived ideas of what to expect.

Like most of Europe the cities are full of history. I had already used my google man to do some exploring but Vinica was too small to explore. The town was so interesting, we loved meeting family but, best of all, the welcome in Vinica exceeded my expectations. Like most countries that originally formed part of the Soviet block there is not a lot of infrastructure and the income level is not high. Vinica is found in the north east of Macedonia about 1 hour from the capital Skopje. Vinica is also the center of the Municipality of Vinica.

Vinica is a small town with a population of 10, 863 inhabitants. Broken down the town is made up of predominately Macedonians, but there is also a small group of Roma, Turks and Aromanians as well. It is located between the Golak and Obozna mountains and at the foot of the Plachkovica mountains.

The name Vinica is derived from the word vine, and Daniel tells me that Vinica was at one time well known for it’s vineyards. Walking around the town you will see vines growing on awnings outside of the houses.

This morning we walked up the street above to Daniel’s family home to meet up with Amy. We were heading to the Park Hotel for breakfast. Breakfast was good. We had omelets that cost us about $4 each. Coffee was good and they accommodated my milk and hot water request. I drink tea but only certain teas. The coffee was strong for the most part, mainly Turkish.

Luka ate some tomato’s at breakfast and had a bad reaction to them so Amy rushed off to the pharmacy to get an anti histamine to settle the reaction down. Looking back she feels like the blotchy face may have been the second time he had a reaction to tomatoes. We later walked up to the fort so he slept most of the way.

What was interesting for me, and to some degree worried me, but I am sure that up north USA you will see the same thing in winter. The amounts of firewood stacked in the streets and against the houses is incredible and I am sure that in winter this is all used. But I have to confess I kept thinking fire hazard. Oh me, of the state (Florida) of eternal heat. And if I am confessing, I have to be honest and say “hats off” to anyone who can live for months in snow.

Vinica has fallen under a number of different times. Neolithic times, Byzantine times, the Ottoman empire and the Yugoslavia times. Neolithic times is defined as the Stone Age, in around 4500BC. Byzantine times was apparently when the Eastern Roman Empire split in about 395CE until it fell to the Ottoman Empire in about 1453. Last but not least Yugoslavia from 1929 after the war until the 1980’s when the federation broke up.

There are three schools in Vinica, 2 primary and 1 high school. Amy taught English, through the Peace Corp at one of the schools, over a 27 month period. I had hoped to travel over while she was there but that did not happen.

In preparation for traveling I pulled up a map of Vinica and plotted out what to do and see. I will be honest, there is not a lot of “sights” to see in Vinica but on my list of things was St Arhangel Michael (where Luka would be baptized), the school where Amy taught, the St Apostal Luka, the Mosque, the Fortress, known as Vinicko Kale, the City Museum, St Pavale. To be honest we did not get to all of them, but Vinica was about family and we did a lot of that. There is also a cross on top of the hill, but after hiking to the fort, I was not up to hiking to the cross. I am unfit, the altitude affected my breathing and it was just so hot. Temps were sitting around 103 F. However, walking around the town, there were many things of interest, parks, coffeeshops, general shops etc.

One thing I did notice about Vinica, which we are just not used to anymore, was the overhead power lines. I have to think it would be an American Electricians nightmare. Daniel’s brother told me that the power system was sold to an Austrian company and they are required to only use that form of power. As you will see in other images, in winter wood is their main source of fuel, and they have big stoves in the basement that heat up the houses.

Amy showed us the apartment above that she lived in for at least 18 months. It was the lower right apartment of this building. It was perfect for the quick walk to school.

Hotel Central was the hotel that we stayed at and I will say in all honesty that it was well worth the stay. Not only was the room comfortable, but they provided a breakfast for us each morning. They also offered a gym and a spa. As much as I wanted to get a massage, trying to fit it in with all that was going on was not happening. Below the hotel was a shop where we could go and buy water and any other items we may wish to snack on. It was very convenient given that the temperature on most of the days. I also loved that our hotel had air conditioning. It was good to be able to go and cool down when the temps got to high. I think Luka and Amy loved it as well. We are so spoilt. I forget that growing up in South Africa we didn’t have air conditioning either. That said I am not sure I could live without it now.

There are apparently three major hotels, but I only found the two, Hotel Central where we stayed, and Hotel Aleksander Park where we went for breakfast a couple of times. There are lots of shops, bars and restaurants. Very often in the mornings the coffee bars were full. Mostly men drinking coffee. We drank beers at the Park, and I will tell you that those beers were far bigger than the standard size you get in the US. Skopsko IPL was the beer we seemed to order most of the time. We also ate at one of the pizza restaurants one evening, but again most of the time was spent with family. More on the lower part of town in another blog.

The main farming production around Vinica is rice, which also explains the high population of mosquitos in the area. Nasty biting mean machines :). In addition to the rice farming, there is also is known for their textiles and wood furniture production.

There appeared to be two sides to Vinica, the slightly older side and then the more modern newer looking side. This we came across as we walked to the Vinicko Kale later in the day. What interested me was the solar powered water heaters on the roof.

In addition I noticed that while the buildings may be older, the owners loved adding colorful flowers to the balconies and walkways to beautify the area. They did a really good job of making the area around their homes look pretty.

While Vinica is a smaller and older town, we had a wonderful time there. We were welcomed by the family with open arms, some tears and a whole lot of hugs. Despite our language challenges we were able to meet all the family, and to see some of this historical town.

If you are looking for a place to stop over, then the Hotel Central is ideal. Take time to explore, visit the churches, climb to the Fort, and the Cross if you can, sit at the beer garden and try a Skopsko, do early morning Turkish coffee. Breathe in the smells, experience the beautiful culture, love what you see. That’s the only way to travel – with an open mind, and an open heart.

Next blog will be my Share Six blog, then we will be heading up to the Fort. Join me if you can. If you want to see the other blogs on Macedonia click on the blog tab and scroll down

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30 minutes in the life: June 2022

I am writing this early in the month so that I don’t get caught up with things later on. I work from home so very often I don’t venture out my office, let alone my home. Richard arrived home at about 3pm last Thursday and he mentioned there was a big bird out in one of the flower beds. I can see from the photo that it is part of the Peacock/hen family. I grab my camera and go out the back patio door and walk down the side of the house hoping to take some photo’s before she disappears. She spotted me and started walking away, then turned around and walked towards me. I got a little nervous as I wondered if she might peck at me. She didn’t, but I decided she may be hungry so I grabbed some of the duck seed and put it in a bowl and put it outside for her. She walked right back around and came to eat from the bowl.

She disappeared in the afternoon and Richard later found her on top of our double story house. I did not know that a peahen could fly that high. I always assumed that they were more ground birds

Richard saw her briefly on Friday on the back canal. Saturday she was spotted on our neighbors yard. Today is Sunday, and Richard told me that she had dug a hole and was settled in it. I got really excited thinking she may start laying eggs, but then Richard found her in the garage. So now I am wondering if the hole in the sand is a way for her to cool down. I am probably going to go outside and now and leave a bowl of water for her.

Monday she was back again, so I ventured out to take a few more photographs. This time I lay on the grass and watched her walk around me.

I think it is so cool when I get to see the different critters in the garden. I love all the birds and the animals that frequent our property.

Thank you for joining us, 30 Minutes in the Life is a circle blog and we have some very talented photographers in the group. I always love looking at the sneak peaks and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what Kristina of Hello Olivia Photography has for you this month, and I look forward to seeing what she has to share.

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