Clay Animation Film: Snow Day

Ever want a snow day? It might give you a chance to build a snowman. Only problem is you might get attached, and when the sun comes out, you might lose a friend. Find out what happens when the snow starts to melt, and spring flowers emerge.

This is a clay animation (clay-mation) film, a type of stop-motion animation. Does stop motion have a hyphen? According to Wikipedia, “both orthographical variants, with and without the hyphen, are correct, but the hyphenated one has, in addition, a second meaning, not related to animation or cinema: “a device for automatically stopping a machine or engine when something has gone wrong” (The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1993 edition).” The film is a creation of my middle son Gavriel Epstein.

Enjoy the film.

Highland Park Birds Visit

tufted titmouse
I’ve been having quite a few birds visiting my bird feeder this January. Above is a tufted titmouse. That’s probably the most unusual bird that’s visiting lately.

sparrow in flight
Last summer I bought a new camera (Canon EOS 70D). I was quite pleased to capture this sparrow in flight. I’ve even been shooting a few pictures in manual – for me, that’s bravery.

cardinal and sparrow in bird feeder
Here are a cardinal and sparrow together. Glad they can share the space nicely.

cardinal in tree
Then the cardinal flew to the tree.

cardinal on garage roof
Then he flew to the garage roof.

cardinal turns head
Is the cardinal looking at me?

mourning dove
I saw a mourning dove wander under a tree. Or did I see two? Michelle tells us that mourning doves mate for life. How romantic.

And here’s a chickadee, in my backyard tree! I took this shot in manual. It may be a bit too bright.

lady cardinal
To complete this post of Highland Park birds, here’s a lady cardinal.

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Watercolor Portrait of a Young Man

Portrait of a Young Man, watercolor on paper by Leora Wenger 2015 January
Portrait of a Young Man, watercolor on paper by Leora Wenger 2015 January

More in my “young man watercolor portrait” series – I have to enjoy my sons while they are home! One son is “visiting” from college, and he is applying for internships, so who knows when he will get a yes and off he will go again. My other son is applying to college and programs in Israel, so he, too, won’t be living at home forever. When they sit at the dining room table looking at a laptop or a tablet, at least they don’t mind too much if I paint them.

Hope to post some bird pics next week. Coming up soon is Shabbat Shira. Maybe I will even write a new post on Why does one feed the birds for that parsha? (and of course, if one starts feeding them, one should continue, right?). I noted on that old post from 2010 how to attach the suction cups to the window; one came down yesterday, and I had no luck. Maybe I’ll bring it inside and follow the instructions (soak in hot water, dry, rub with them, then attach).

Meanwhile, would love to hear any reaction to my watercolor.

Watercolor Portraits of Young Men

watercolor young man reading
I did two more watercolor portraits last week. The emphasis here is on form and color – I’ve not spent too much energy on achieving likeness. I’m hoping that I will continue to do a few more portraits, but it’s hard to get ones that are satisfying. I did a few drawing portraits, but nothing I liked enough to share.

watercolor young man

I did the bottom one first, then I painted the top watercolor portrait. These paintings have more color than the previous ones I painted.

Watercolor Portraits: Man Reading

watercolor man reading
I did several watercolor paintings of this exercise: ” “Use a graphite pencil to draw a few lines … do notice the lighting hitting the face… Take your watercolor and add a few large shapes. Let dry; add other colors on top…play with different color and texture combinations.” I posted three of them in reverse order of when I did them (I did the bottom one first). Watercolor exercise is from the book One Watercolor a Day.

man reading
All of the remaining three portraits on this page are different depictions of my husband. The top one is not – he was a visiting friend. Our friend liked his portrait so much that he asked if he could keep it. So I scanned it into the computer and then presented the watercolor to him. Wonder if he will hang it in his office?

watercolor man learning
This is the first one I did – it has the least amount of color. Plus, I realized the exercise was really a portrait, and I had done the whole figure. What I really want to focus on here, in this bottom watercolor, is the book. Do you see the splatters of red paint along the spine? This book is a chumash (one of the five books of the Torah). It happens to be part of an edition of volumes that was presented to my father z”l as part of being honored by the Highland Park Kollel. That gives it special meaning, and I am happy to see my husband using that volume as part of his weekly learning.

I think I will do more watercolor portraits. By the way, if you come visit on a Sunday or weekday and start to read a book or your laptop, I might take out my paints, pencils and watercolor paper and start to paint you. You have been warned.

Highland Park Backyard Birds

It’s the time of year when people post cumulative posts. You know, usually the ones that say Favorites of 2014 or Best Posts of the Last Year or that sort of thing. I decided to post Highland Park backyard birds that I have seen since I started bird watching. Let’s see – I first bought a bird feeder in February 2010; I did find some of my bird photos from 2009. The birds below are listed in alphabetical order – enjoy.

Blue Jay

blue jay on deck
Blue jays visit every now and then. When they do come, they are sure to make noise and hog the bird feeder.


Cardinal: backyard bird in Highland Park, New Jersey
I took this photo about two weeks ago – cardinals love to visit my backyard when I fill my feeder with black oil sunflower seeds. I see the red in my backyard, and it warms my heart.

Cardinal – Female

Female Cardinal Highland Park New Jersey backyard bird
Mrs. Cardinal is usually nearby when I spot Mr. Cardinal (above) first. She indeed was there at the same time as the photo taken above.


catbird on tomato plant holder
I seem to get catbird visitors in summer months. Pleasant birds: I enjoy the “singing.”


black capped chickadee goes into bird feeder
I don’t often see a chickadee – the one above is from February 2012. But they are handsome birds – so I love seeing one!

Downy Woodpecker

downy woodpecker
I am more likely to hear a woodpecker than see one. The one above was sighted in February 2014.


house finch
This rare beauty (rare for my backyard) was sighted in December 2013. Maybe if I am more diligent this winter with my camera and my feeder, I will find more.


bird on echinacea
If you look very carefully, I believe that’s a goldfinch hidden in my echinacea. I saw a few goldfinch this past summer on other echinacea in my neighborhood. I suppose it’s the seeds they are after.


grackle on roof
I only had the chance to photograph grackle once my backyard. Turns out I had also photographed a grackle way back in 2008 while visiting Ein Gedi in Israel.

Mourning Dove

brown dove
Mourning doves are birds I see a few times a year in my backyard.


robin on wire close up
When I looked up “robin” in my photo collection, I had quite a few choices. We do have robins as fairly frequent visitors in our area.


Sparrows three backyard birds in a tree in Highland Park, New Jersey backyard
Sparrows are by far the most common bird in my backyard. I believe most of the ones that I see are house sparrows. I should study the different types of sparrows so I can appreciate them a little more. These three beauties were hanging out together in my backyard tree last week.


starlings in a tree
The few times I’ve seen starlings it’s been in a swarm like the one above. I still remember Michelle calling them “snarling starlings.”

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse in Highland Park New Jersey
I saw this tufted titmouse in my backyard last week. Tufted titmice aren’t frequent visitors, but when I do see them, they seem to pose and look at the camera. I find them quite cute.

Turkey Vulture

turkey vulture flying over Highland Park, New Jersey backyard
What fun, a swooping wide-winged bird in one’s own backyard. Here is the turkey vulture that visited this past October.

If you want to see a full list of Highland Park birds, and not just the ones I’ve seen and not just Highland Park backyard birds go to Highland Park, New Jersey: Bird Sightings. We have been putting those online since 2001.

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