Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent calendar

You know those cute little advent calendars? You open one little compartment each day of December as a countdown to when Santa arrives with his sleigh full of toys for good little girls and boys. Being the chocolate lover that I am those foil-wrapped waxy bits of nasty chocolate probably didn't make it longer than a week or two.

This year I'm doing a different kind of advent calendar. There are nineteen kisses in this letter K. I will eat one per day. Kara and Chris will be back home in Utah for good in time for the holidays after wayyyy too long in cold, icy Michigan. The countdown widget has been on her blog for nearly a year and today she hit the teens!

Good luck on your finals and drive safely!


Thursday, November 26, 2009


Organ Pipe National Monument is located between the town of Why, AZ and the Mexican-American border. For a number of years it was the only thing that separated our back door from the imaginary dividing line between two countries. It was not unusual for us to cross that line to shop for groceries, medications, furniture or simply to go for a good plate of Chiles Rellenos.

Yesterday that crossing was impossible. Our passports sit in a file back home. They are now required to get lunch. Border patrol agents are everywhere spreading their sometimes overbearing attitude which often leaves much to be desired. And that fence, that awful fence.

Twenty feet away from the imposing eyesore while I was grabbing a few photos I came across a large brittlebush. Due to the very low rainfall here it was the only thing around in bloom. Hundreds of bees were buzzing around it. Monarch butterflies were everywhere. They didn't need passports or permission from armed, uniformed officers for the annual migration south to their winter homes. They simply filled up on pollen and flew over the top of the metal barrier and rifles.

We are also within miles of many different Indian Reservations. Mexican and Native American culture is everywhere. In many ways we are the outsiders.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Today I am reminded that we are all immigrants.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Missions accomplished

No matter where our travels take us I am always looking for old churches or missions. They are plentiful in the southwestern states and Mexico and I've been fortunate to visit many. Mission San Xavier del Bac on the Tohono O'odam Indian Reservation was on our list of stops this morning. I've visited this historic mission many times in the past fifteen years but this time was exciting and different. It has been undergoing renovations for as long as I can remember, always fronted with layers of scaffolding and partially completed exterior improvements. What a thrill it was to go up the beautiful drive and see the historical mission like it must have been three hundred years ago (except for the large gravel parking lot, of course).

Entering these old religious structures always has an unexpected effect. My non-religious self is always struck by the beauty and serenity found inside. This morning was no exception. The usual routine is to sit in a rear pew and take in the smells of the old wood, the aging statues and light coming from the windows at the top of high ceilings. There are usually candles burning at altars. Today there were hundreds of carefully placed glass jars with flames casting golden shadows all around. We spent about 45 quiet minutes at San Xavier del Bac.

Yesterday afternoon we also took a short detour to find a small out-of-the-way shrine in Tucson. An internet acquaintance had blogged about El Tiradito a few weeks ago and Zeus went along with my request to find it. (He is extremely good about that sort of thing.) It turned out to be a very small but interesting shrine, also complete with burning candles and other offerings placed at the altar. The small figurines that G and her son placed there a few weeks ago were still hanging on the candelabra.

There are two small churches on the Ajo Plaza that I have never once explored in the countless times that I've been here. They are on my to-do list for tomorrow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Forecast: Sunny and Warm

It has been nearly two years since I've travelled the roads of southern Utah and northern Arizona. We used to make this trip four or five times a year, usually fourteen hours of driving in one day to get from one front door to the other.

This afternoon while driving through the canyons of red rocks and strange formations it was as if I was seeing them again for the first time. I have missed it.

Tonight while those back home in northern Utah are enjoying a fresh blanket of snow we are looking forward to warm sunshine and mid-70s.


Friday, November 20, 2009


How can it possibly be Friday already? This week has flown by and although a lot has been accomplished there is still much to be done. Seems like I have twelve projects going at one time. Wait, I guess I do.

Wednesday was the busiest day for me. I knew it was coming and had prepared for it the best I could. First order of business was making the hand mold of the new Prince. Athena loves to make babies cry (she is very good at it) and she eagerly came to participate. We really don't hurt the babies, just make them very angry by plunging a little hand into a cold, slimy goo and holding it still for a few minutes. (Mommies or daddies are not allowed to watch.) The prince was actually a pretty good sport and Eris was standing by to comfort him when the process was complete. He quickly fell asleep.

After attending a school program for Mr. Eris, Jr. it was time to get back home for three separate family photo sessions. It occurred to me a few weeks ago that my great room was more than adequate for doing this and that turned out to be true. The shutter on my camera has clicked over 750 times so far this week. Ahh, so much fun! The camera-computer tether worked beautifully. My house is nearly put back in order, just don't go downstairs. Now comes the time-consuming part, editing. Working with the greenscreen was so much fun. The Eris clan were good sports and just did as I asked, including using some strange props. I even got Jubie and Bubba over for some photos! Jubie's images have presented quite a dilemma because every one of them is a keeper.

(True story: There were so many cars coming and going from our house all day on Wednesday that our neighbor stopped Mr. Eris in the driveway to make sure we were okay and that no one had died. I finally got a chance to call her at 9 PM to thank her for the concern and to reassure her that we were just experiencing a little more chaos than usual over here. )

Title: My grandkid can beat up your grandkid.

A very busy week that's not over yet. sigh.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

No turning back now. It's here.

It's officially here. Yesterday morning the snowstorm hit fast and hard. It only left a couple of inches on the ground in the valleys but the mountains got socked. Ski resorts are open and I noticed holiday lights on houses tonight. Ugh.

When I left for my Sunday morning ralk the outdoor thermometer said 16 degrees. Brrrrrr. An extra shirt, leggings and double gloves took care of it. Love those layers. Oh, switching to the heavy wool/Thinsulate hat helped a lot.

The ralking clothes are laid out on the dresser ready for tomorrow morning. I haven't gone swimming for months, always telling the swimming ladies that I'll be back in the pool when the weather gets bad. That hot pool is looking mighty inviting right now but as long as there is no ice on the road or freezing wind I'll probably stay outdoors.

$1.86 plus a wallet. The wallet was in a Park and Ride partially covered with snow. The green bills hanging on a money clip caught my eye after I nearly passed it by. Turned it over to the local Sheriff who happened to be at Wendy's for a cuppa. Richard L. can relax now and not have to spend all day tomorrow cancelling that huge stack of credit cards!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Problem solved.

Camera->Computer->Monitor. Seems fairly simple, right?

I knew that Nikon software needed to be installed on the computer but the new program messed with my editing software. Tried connecting various ways then gave up and uninstalled Nikon software. Tried new HDMI cords directly from camera to monitor. Nope. Gotta have the computer to navigate the image to the monitor. Reinstalled only part of the software and just like magic, it worked!

There really is a reason for this madness but I won't bore you with it.

My brain hurts.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dreaming of brown

I miss it. Sometimes the urge is almost more than I can stand. Occasionally I give in to temptation and have one little piece. It's been two months since I severely restricted my intake of the sweet, brown, melt-in-your-mouth substance. Usually I can work my way through the cravings with a banana or rice cake. Checkout lines at the grocery stores are pure hell. I'm forced to stand there while the little old lady in front of me searches her patent leather purse for a checkbook and then takes ten minutes to fill it out. Meanwhile I'm surrounded by candy bars that beg to be devoured. (I can finish off a Milky Way in three bites without breathing.) I've learned to pick one up, turn it over, check out the calorie count and then put it back. Most of the time.

The little Prince came over this morning for a short visit. As he gnawed on his pacifier and drifted into sleep his expression was one of pure bliss. For some reason it reminded me of Ghirardelli chocolate, Milky Ways, Hershey Bars and of course, chocolate covered jelly rings.

Now if you will excuse me, the rice cakes await. I can dream, can't I?


Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Landing Pad

They go by many names. My mother called hers The Junk Drawer. It was in a corner by the telephone and everything under the sun was there. Except for a pen that worked, a telephone book, the right kind or size of screwdriver that you needed right now or a paper clip. I'm sure you have one in your kitchen as well.

In my house I call it the Landing Pad. Everything just kind of lands there. It is in the corner of the kitchen island, the first place to set things down when coming in the house. My keys and cell phone are stored there. The rubber bands off of the newspaper are corralled in a dish to be recycled to the carrier. Reading glasses, pens and pencils are there.

Unfortunately, over time lots of other items find their way into the drawer, sometimes because the doorbell rang and I want to clear the junk off the island. But more often than that, I just plain don't know what to do with an item so I shove it in there, out of sight and soon forgotten. Until the drawer won't close anymore.

Today I cleaned out the Landing Pad. Here are a few things that were hiding in there:

Eight (yes, 8) eyeglass cases plus five reading glasses.
Three old cell phones (the girls will be delighted!).
A mass of jumbled up ear buds, probably three sets.
Various road finds (2 golf balls, man's watch, jewelry bits, car wash tokens, etc).
Six road find tools that went in my tool box.
Unidentifiable single keys (I think I know what the #48 fits).
Motel room key from a Fairfield Inn somewhere.
Stack of Great Harvest cards, probably enough for three loaves of bread.
A strange piece to my camera. Binged it and found that it is a filter holder for the flash unit.
Cough drops to last a year and five tubes of lip gloss.
A torn dollar bill that Zeus offered to take to the bank. No, it goes in with the rest of the pieces.
Lots of bits of paper that went into the recycling bin.

Now it looks like this. It won't stay that way for long.

$4.06 plus a Sony Memory Stick.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's all good.

It's been a good day. A very sunny, warm, good day.

Here's my list of good things that happened.

1. Went to the big SLC to attend photography workshops on lighting. Learned some new techniques from both classes and also realized that I knew more than I though I did. Unlike a few years ago, the mere mention of f-stops and apertures does not faze me anymore.

2. Picked up the new brown backdrop that I've been trying to find for over a month. I'm ready to go!

3. Listened to Rod Stewart and Bette Midler croon the oldies at top volume.

4. Got good news from both Athena and Eris tonight! Being a very proud mother is one of my FAVORITE THINGS!

5. Someone peed on a stick and it came up positive! Yippee!!! (Not related to #4.)

6. Wore jeans that I haven't worn for two years.

Yes. Life is very good.

(I know the picture doesn't have anything to do with the subject. On the other hand, they make me smile, too!)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Seeing green

In the past I have played around a little with chroma key photography, sometimes called greenscreen. If you ever watch the weather reports on television or have been to ChuckECheese you have seen this technology. The subject stands in front of a bright green background and through the magic of computers that green is replaced with weather maps. Any color will work as long as it is bright, solid and the color doesn't appear in the main subject.

Keeping our overabundance of cooties confined to our house has been a real challenge lately so today I stayed home and played with my camera and computer. Littlest and Little were here so I had some good models to shoot. Here's the process:

Start with two cute little girls in front of the screen. Pose them to look like they never fight or argue.
Through the magic wand of Photoshop remove all of the green pixels in the image.

Through some more Photoshop layers magic insert the subjects into another photo, this time an image I took last spring at Thanksgiving Point. I've been struggling with layers for a long time. All of the work today just might have been a breakthrough.

I'm nowhere near mastering the complexities of Photoshop but at least this is one more challenge well on the way. A few more images are posted on the Shooting Blog.

$1.82 plus a 20 Mexican centavo coin and a Canadian nickel. I did manage to get out yesterday but will probably take another few days off. It's not easy to run with a box of tissues in one hand while sucking on cough drops. Damn these bugs!