Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday's Thought

"The Resurrection"
 Used by permission
Today is the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. It's really a glorious day, don't you think?

Thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus, we're able to have unhindered communion with God, our father.

What does this mean to us as believers? A lot.

1. We have direct access to Jesus Christ and God. With Jesus' death on the cross, he tore the veil that separated us from one on one communion with God. No longer is a priest required to communicate with Him. We've been granted direct access to the Father.

2. We are able to live a victorious life. Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly. Not in the future but now. The life He lived and the death He died gave us the victory.

3.We have a hope in a glorious future. When Jesus died, He did so to set us free. To give us eternal life. We've been given access to Heaven. As long as we accept Jesus as our Lord and savior.

Jesus gave us so much when He willingly laid down His life for us. He destroyed the divide between us and God. It's amazing! He gave us the chance to have a victorious and abundant life right now! Don't neglect this gift. And last, but not least, He gave us hope for a glorious future. All it takes is us to put our trust in Him.

I hope you realize just how precious these gifts are.

He lived a perfect life. No sin. No one else can say the same.

He started a movement that has changed the world. Even 2,000 years later.

He died a death so that your sins can be forgiven and you can join Him in Heaven. Is there anything better?

Take time today to reflect on the gift Christ has given you. If you've been neglecting it, turn and run towards His open arms. Take the gift and live the life you were meant to.

Question: What does Easter mean to you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About the author: Joseph Lalonde is a youth leader at Oak Crest Church of God and leadership blogger at Joseph shares leadership tools and encourages you to become a better leader. Connect with him on Twitter or at his blog.
Used by Permission

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dog and Cat Photography- Project Smiles for Dogs and Cats

"Ruffgang Amadeus Mozart"
1996 - 2009

(C) Allen Pearson
It’s about loving a dog or cat.  It’s about the love of a dog or cat.  It’s about the bond between human and animal.  It’s about the love shared, that only you share with your dog or cat.  Special moments.  Special times.  Days to celebrate.  Days of headache- part of it too. Days of heartache. It’s about companionship.  Each giving and loving in their own way- it touches our hearts more than most can understand.  We cherish it all.  The terminal diagnosis comes and we suddenly see our days are numbered with our dog or cat.  It’s hard to accept because the bond is so strong and love is so deep.
"Mozart Smiles"
(C) Allen Pearson

I developed “Project Smiles for Dogs and Cats” after a Director at my full time job had a bad experience with a photographer who she hired to photograph her terminally ill dog.  After the experience she said she wish she knew how to reach me as she knew I truly loved dogs.  She knew she’d be happier with my work- which I found interesting since I hadn't done very much in that area, at the time.  Thinking about her comments and realizing that I would be losing my dog of 12 years soon, I developed this service or project.
"My Buddy, 1998-2009"
(C) Allen Pearson

So what’s the difference between a regular photo shoot and a “Project Smiles” shoot?  Not much really. The client receives the same level of service from my assistant and I but a bit of a priority where possible. I will try my best to schedule a Project Smiles appointment as quickly as possible since time is usually of the essence and urgent.   The dog or cat gets inducted into “Noah’s Pals Gallery” with a small tribute and dates of life and a blog post written in honor of their love.

It’s a tribute of love to constant best friend, companion and comrade. Project Smiles for Dogs and Cats.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wednesday's Words

"Pink Gerber Daisy"
(C) Allen Pearson
"And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book,
and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity,
and out of darkness."  
Isaiah 29:18

I can across this Scripture in my batch of stuff a couple times over the past few days or week.   For some reason, it keeps getting my attention and I love it's promise, so I wanted to share it with you.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday's Thought

"Jesus Triumphal Entry"
Used by Permission
Today is Palm Sunday.  In the Christian Faith, it signals the coming end of Lent, its a reminder of Jesus's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and the crowds celebrating with palm branches and the beginning of Holy Week leading to Easter.

Last evening, I went to see "The Choice" by the Music Ministry of Centreville Baptist Church, Centreville, VA. It was their first Easter Pageant. The pageant was full of great music and drama, not overdone or undone -it was well balanced.  The story of Christ's early days, then his friends and followers denying they knew Him which led to the crucifixion and finally, the Resurrection.

The celebration of Palm Sunday has always kept my attention. Not sure exactly why but it does.

7 They brought the donkey and the colt 
and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 
8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, 
and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
9 And the crowds that went before him 
and that followed him were shouting, 
“Hosanna to the Son of David! 
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 
Hosanna in the highest!” 
10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, 
“Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, 
“This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
 - Matthew 21:7-11, ESV

Maybe it's to serve as a reminder. The crowds knew Him, loved Him, He was the King. But later in the week, they would deny Him. Not everyone did. The Pharisees did, some of His Followers did, while some remained true to Him to the Crucifixion and beyond.

Maybe its the celebration of Jesus who came to give us eternal life.  Maybe its the simplicity of His Entry to Jerusalem.  He didn't "have" to arrive in a BMW or a Mercedes - He arrived on a donkey- to me, this made Him more approachable.

Made me think: How many times have we scoffed or denied knowing Him and put Him back on the cross to crucify. Maybe it was unintentional. Maybe caught off guard by a comment or remark or joke.  Are you a Sunday only Christian where you come to church each week, but don't acknowledge it or even Him during the week?

Maybe this Easter season should be a new beginning for you.  Take up your cross and follow Him.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Vivid, regal and beautiful, butterflies are one of nature’s triumphs. It’s no surprise many people welcome butterflies into their gardens and go out of their way to attract them.

A butterfly garden isn’t just designed to draw butterflies in, but to encourage them to stay and lay eggs. With the right plants and gardening practices, you can cultivate a thriving atmosphere that attracts butterflies.

Done right, butterfly gardening can increase the butterfly population. Due to habitat destruction, butterflies are becoming rarer in some areas. 

What kinds of butterflies should you try to attract?
 Large or small, your garden will benefit from some initial research. Find out what types of butterflies are common in your area.  There are between 15,000 and 20,000 species of butterflies worldwide, but there’s no point carefully building the perfect habitat for a butterfly that never appears where you live. Have a look at Butterfly Gardening by Area to see which ones are native to your state.

Once you’ve decided what kinds of butterflies to target, the next step is to find out what kinds of flowers and plants they feed on and lay eggs on. What plants are most likely to attract that particular species? Every butterfly has its own favorite nectar sources and specific host plants. Get to know what the caterpillars look like as well.

What plants attract butterflies?
"Butterfly and Bloom"
(C) Allen Pearson
The adult butterfly diet usually consists of sweet liquids, such as nectar. Therefore, flowers that contain more nectar are more attractive to butterflies. Certain types of flower species or flower colors draw more butterflies.

Nectar bearing flora that attract butterflies include asters, sunflowers, marigolds, daisies, sunflowers, lilacs, geranium, violets, honeysuckle, and zinnias. Other types of flora you could incorporate include banksia, bottlebrush, fennel, milkweed and eucalyptus.

Consider planting a range of flowers that will bloom in sequence to keep butterflies coming back. This way, you’ll be able to stretch your butterfly season out as long as possible, offering the creatures value from spring through to fall. Play your cards right and the winged beauties could grace your garden most of the year round.

But remember, no butterfly garden is complete without host plants. If you want butterflies to remain in your garden rather than simply pass through, and cultivate new generations of butterflies, you need to include host plants for the to lay their eggs and for the caterpillars to feed on.

Various types of greenery, including willows, berries and thistles, play host to butterflies. Here’s a handy list of larval host plants for butterflies you might like to refer to. Trees and shrubs also, as a bonus, offer shelter from the rain and wind, protecting butterflies from the rougher elements.

Finally, check which plants are annuals and which are perennials. Use annual blooms to provide nectar all year around, and perennial flowers to provide nectar when they are in season. Perennials will return year after year, but annuals need replacing every year. Some of these plants will also require maintenance, such as a trim during the winter.

A few more tips:
 Butterflies have many predators, from birds to spiders to wasps. That said, avoid using toxic pesticides. Try traps rather than pesticides, which can have the unwanted effect of killing butterflies and their larvae as well. Learn to tolerate some chewed plant leaves – much of that is caused by caterpillars, which later turn into butterflies!

Look into buying a butterfly house to install in your garden. Butterfly houses have slots that allow butterflies in but keep birds out, and offer shelter from rough weather.

"Butterfly and Zinnia"
(C) Allen Pearson
Don’t forget about providing a water source for your butterflies. They drink not from bird baths or ponds, but by sucking droplets off plants or puddles. (Butterflies often gather around mud puddles, which is known as mud-puddling).
Try putting a shallow saucer of water out in the sun, and refill it every few days as needed.

Rather than taking a scattershot approach, plant flowers of the same type en masse, as a dense patch is more likely to attract butterflies than a lone plant. Butterflies see more colors than humans do but they are also near-sighted, so it’s easier for them to hone in on a large area.

And remember to place your butterfly garden in a sunny spot, as butterflies shun shade, and the flowers they are attracted to bloom best in full sun.

About the Author: This post comes courtesy of Allpower, an online gardening store providing a wide variety of garden and outdoor power equipment, covering everything from chainsaws to lawn mowers, hedge trimmers & other gardening landscaping products.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Photographing Dogs for Rescue Groups - Operation Paws for Homes

"One Happy Dog!"
(C) Allen Pearson
One of the aspects of photographing dogs that I love quite a bit is when an animal rescue group contacts me to photograph their dogs for use on their website, with PetFinder and other publications.

On Saturday, March 9, I was invited by Operation Paws for Homes to photograph the dogs they brought to an adoption event in Reston, VA.

The weather was beautiful and I was in my element. Photographing dogs.  Helping dogs who have lost their homes, for whatever reasons, find a new friend, new family and "Forever Home."  Since I haven't photographed for a rescue group in several weeks, I quickly realized what I'd been missing.

My furry clients came up to me like long lost friends though I'd never met these dogs before. Each had their own personality and story.  Some couldn't be helped, some could be and were really sad.  How I wished I could take all of them home with me but having my own "big" dog is about what I can handle.

"Looking for a Home"
(C) Allen Pearson
When I photograph dogs for the rescue groups, I use my 50-200 mm lens as it allows me to get close up to the dogs face or get a full body shot depending on the rescue organizations requirements.  Usually the dogs are full of energy or a bit scared or stressed in their surroundings.  Using this lens, I can back away if needed.  Sometimes I meet a dog who is scared, most of the time it's because I am male, so I let the dog smell my camera and gently reach out to pet him- being careful to not allow him to "use" my camera or camera bag for his business.  Also, I carry a lens pen so if the dog nose brushes my lens, I can clean it easily.
(C) Allen Pearson
I usually take at least 5 images of each dog.  Many times, the dogs are excited so taking several images allows you to get several to give to the rescue group.

Though I do not get paid for the work that I do, I find that I get paid in other very rewarding ways.  That is, the fun of meeting dogs, helping them to find new homes and making the occasional friend.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wednesday's Words

"Purple Crocus"
(C) Allen Pearson
"See!  The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appears on the earth;
the season of singing has come....."

-Song of Solomon 2:11,12

Happy First Day of Spring!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday's Thought

"The Cross in the Chapel"
(c) Allen Pearson
It's Sunday, my favorite day of the week.  I look forward to going to church, Centreville Baptist Church, then to my Community Group, the Bereans, each week.  It's kind of an escape from the pressures and stress of the world to worship God and study His Word.

Seems every day, there are deliberate challenges to my faith and beliefs.   I'm not one for "shoving" my Christian beliefs down someone's throat, but I will stand up for what I believe when I need to do so. However, sometimes doubt kicks in and I wonder. When doubt comes my way, I'll think about it and contemplate what I believe in.  I am not one for believing or doing something, just because everyone else is believing or doing.  Nor, am I one to follow current trends and fashions.  I have to decide and determine or reason things out for myself.

What I have found is interesting though is what challenges my faith or beliefs is someone, or possibly something, that is not happy or is always grouchy.  May not sound like much, but it does have a lot to do with it.  They or it will challenge me, perhaps because I am in a good mood or am whistling a "happy tune."

For me, I see myself and life as happy and peaceful. But it's a happiness and peace that comes with having faith in God- believing in Him and His Word.  Though I don't believe in "robotic" faith, which is following things because you are told to.  It comes from spending time with Him, going to church, attending a Sunday School class, asking those questions your been wondering about.  And, contemplating what you've learned.  And, as I like to say, "going from there."

First, you need to determine your belief in Him, accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, and begin your journey of faith and belief.

As for my doubts? Doubt usually happens when Satan wants to mess up plans God has for me. My faith often goes through a time of question, which isn't weakness, then grows stronger in those times.

The Scriptures which have helped me in times of doubt or struggles with faith, are these:

[1] Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, 
the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 ESV

[7] For we walk by faith, not by sight.
[8] Yes, we are of good courage,
and we would rather be away from the body
and at home with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:7-8 ESV

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday's Foto

(C) Allen Pearson
Every season, I look for this particular color of Verbana to plant in my garden.  I love the mix of the purple and white in the blooms.

In my area, it's an annual because it gets so cold. I plant it every year since purple is my wife's favorite color and I like the white.

Coming up on my blog within the next week or so, if not earlier, is a gallery of "Garden Perspectives."  If you love gardening, you won't want to miss this exhibit on my blog of beautiful flowers and nature found in gardens, backyard or formal.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

March Gardening

I can’t believe it’s March already- my hibernation ended last weekend, for the most part, as I headed out into my backyard and began some garden chores to prepare for spring.  Next thing you know, it’ll be time to mow the yard and plant a few annuals.

The first task I tackled was to trim back my Knockout Roses.  Last year, though beautiful to look at, the rose bush had grown large enough to make it extremely annoying and prickly to mow around the bush.  Since it wasn’t too cold on Saturday afternoon, trimmed them back by going to the joint of the limb and making a clean cut, not flush against the plant, but not torn.  I have two rose bushes which need to be trimmed, one needs to be transplanted, but think I’ll wait on that.

Crocus Blooms
(C) Allen Pearson
Another task I will do this month and early March is to clean up the backyard.   Between my dog who loves to play with sticks and the storms over the past few months, I have left sticks and brush debris strewn throughout the yard.  Having a big dog who thinks every stick is a toy and must destroy it into 20 bazillion pieces probably makes it seem like I have more sticks than I actually do!  I’ll rake these up and clean up any dead lawn debris.   I won’t do any lawn repair because it’s best to do that in the fall.  And, with a big dog who likes to run, play and dig, there’s probably not much point in doing this anyway.

Every March, no later than the first day of spring, I trim back all of my butterfly bushes.  I trim these back to around 3 feet from the ground.  The bushes will grow quickly by June and have some beautiful blooms.   If I miss a year, for whatever reason, it becomes a huge task the following year so I try to do this every spring. 

What I call, “Garden Spring Cleaning” will start pretty soon too.  Since I love to feed the birds and have quite a bit a few Daisies, Black-Eyed Susans, and the occasional sunflowers, I leave the spring-summer’s growth through the fall and winter months.  The birds can nibble on the thistle and other seeds throughout the cold months.  Then, in late winter-early spring, I go out and cut the plants back.  And, I have to admit that I don’t like the fall weather coming in, meaning summer and its fun are fading away, so I have a hard time going out to clean up the garden.  By the time late winter arrives, or early spring, what was cold weather isn’t as cold anymore – so, time to clean up the yard.

Oh, and of course, my buddy Noah will be joining me again this year.  Wonder what he’ll get into this season!!  Which reminds me, if you have a dog like I have that wants to garden with you, remember to keep their safety in mind.   Noah likes to get into plastic bags and rip them to shreds.  This year, I purposely placed the trash bag with the branches from the rose bushes out of his reach!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wednesday's Words

"Spring Crocus"
(c) Allen Pearson

"Wait for the Lord:
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord."

- Psalm 27:14

Monday, March 11, 2013

How to Get Started As a Landscape Architect

Landscaping is an exciting albeit very involving trade. Landscaping architects design beautiful landscapes and work closely with contractors to bring these designs to life. If you are aspiring to become a landscape architect, here are five things you need to consider.


Every trade requires a theoretical foundation to ensure success. Remember being a landscape architect is very different from being a landscaper. The architect designs the landscaping from scratch while a landscaper is more of a handyman who fixes up landscaping aspects. Also, landscape architects deal with far more complex landscaping projects than landscapers. For instance, an architect will design the landscape for a whole business park while a landscaper may be tasked with maintaining a part of or the whole area once it is complete. Diploma and degree programs offer theoretical knowledge in design, measurements, quantifying and so on.


Whether in formal education or through apprenticeships, there are certain skills you must acquire in order to succeed as a landscape architect. Top of those skills is the ability to measure, quantify and work with your hands. It is true that many landscape architects do not do the actual contracting work themselves but it is also true that you have to be able to build what you design, even if on a minimized level. Learning how to adequately project the requirements of your design will also ensure your designs are realistic and practical.


Joining associations or getting certification is not necessary but can be of great benefit especially in getting exposure in the industry. Many big contracts require certification and/or licensing (where it applies) so you may have to consider getting these. Another advantage of getting involved in associations is that you are able to keep up with legislation governing your profession. If you work independently, it is difficult to stay abreast of all the different things happening in the industry.

Interpersonal skills

After you have formalized your skills and gotten your education, learning interpersonal skills will be the difference between success and failure for your career. Whether you work for yourself or for an employer, you will need to do a lot of discussing concerning your projects and designs. This can be a difficult thing especially when you get criticism for your designs. Unless you can keep a level head and be open to changes you may not fare very well in this trade. Consider you have spent hours to prepare a design and the first thing a client/ employer says is they don’t like it. Learn how to work with people, take criticism positively and not take things personally.

Business skills

Finally, you may ultimately have to launch out on your own and here you will need some business skills. Most small businesses fail not because they do not get business or there are no profits but because of mismanaging the business. Whether book keeping or marketing or customer care, running a business requires serious business skills and working as a landscape architect is no different. A simple course in basic business skills may suffice at first but as your business grows you may need to hire professionals to do the technical business stuff.

Landscape architecture, just like any other profession, requires passion, dedication and perseverance. It is not a get rich quick scheme and neither is it a no-skills-required profession. You must dig in and be prepared to go the extra mile in order to succeed.

Scott Ryan thinks of himself as a lanscaping artist while tending his patch of green. Whether he is better at that or at writing for Polished Concretex we cannot tell.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday's Foto

"Crocus of Spring"
One of my favorite signs of winter ending soon and spring not far off, is the blooming of the crocuses.  I usually see them in my neighbors yards or a local park- an instant "pick up" for the day.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How to Photograph Lightning

Natural hazards such a lightning and storms can produce stunning photographs. A flash in the sky seems hard to capture but there really is no hidden tricks about photographing lightning. If you've got a little preparation, persistence, ideal (bad) weather under your belt you’re good to go. Below, I've helped you out a bit with the ‘know-how’.

The Preparation
Forget about photographing a storm that’s already happening, composition will fly out the door. Plan your location before the storm actually arrives. Look for a striking foreground and other features that will be interesting if silhouetted against a strike of lightning. Your location should be away from the city lights. It should also be somewhat sheltered, so you can stay relatively dry during the rain while you snap away.

Make sure to keep both eyes on both short-term and long-term weather forecasts. If storm looks like it’s about to hit, keep your camera gear such as tripod and rain covers close and ready.

The Perfect Storm
Not all storms were made equal. If the storm is too far away, if it is weakly electrified they might not be suitable for lighting photography.

The Set Up
Turn off the auto-focus feature when setting up your shot. It simply won’t work in the dark. Instead, manually focus the lens on infinity, and leave it there for the whole shoot. To capture the lightning you’ll need long exposures and a lucky charm that lightning will strike when the shutter is open. It is best to shoot at f/8 for fifteen to thirty seconds, with the ISO set at 100. As always when working with long exposure use of a tripod is vital to avoid the shaky hand effect.

Most digital cameras have a built in noise-reducing feature that reduces noise during long exposures. Turn it off! The camera is out of action while this feature operates, and you won’t want to miss any lightning that comes your way. If the camera is at ISO 100, the noise will be minimized anyway. Noise can always be fixed up in Photoshop at a later time.

The Safety
Remember, no photo is worth dying for. Pay special attention to where a storm is moving, and don’t cross its path, you never know how things will turn out. Unpredictability is what it’s all about, it makes photographing lightning exciting and special. Next time you hear of a storm brewing, view it as an opportunity!

About the Author
Sam is a amateur photographer and a journalist who is passionate about photography and gadgets. He is still searching for that perfect shot.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wednesday's Words

(c) Allen Pearson

"For therein is the righteousness of God 
revealed from faith to faith: 
as it is written, The just shall live by faith."

- Romans 1:17

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday's Thought

"The Heaven's"
(c) Allen Pearson

You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.

Revelation 4:11

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday's Foto

"Dogwood Blooms"
(c) Allen Pearson
Today is the first day of Meteorological Spring, March 1.  One of the days of the year which I look forward to ever since the first cold day or frost which began the fall season.  My favorite day, is the first day of Spring, March 20, as it means we are on our way to another season of glorious warm to hot weather.

Today marks a change in the weather pattern.  It may snow, and we could have a huge storm with inches and inches of snow but it won't be staying around for a long time like storms in December or January do.

In celebration, I had to share "Dogwood Blooms" created for my wife who loves the bloom of a Dogwood.