Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Mashup

Things around here have been a bit 'off' the past week, therefore I didn't get my Instagram Challenge pictures for the past week or so (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).  Some things are getting done, others aren't.  But then, that's life.


Last week I was out walking the dog and happened to see this bird (and about 5 others) being chased by a hawk.  Now what is particularly interesting is that these birds roost in a tree across the street from me.  They are white doves and I don't know if they are owned by the guy whose dead tree they roost in or not, but they will circle around the area periodically as a flock.  Anyway, they were being chased by a hawk.  Off in the distance, it appeared to be another couple of hawks.  My take on it, pair of hawks teaching baby.

Anyway, the flock went from 6 to 4 in a matter of about 30 minutes.  On one hand, I was delighted to see hawks in action (although I never actually saw "the moment").  On the other hand, I felt sorry about the falling white dove population.  However,  the next day, the flock was back up to 6 plus doves, so I am really confused now.


Some people agonize over the perfect pair of jeans...or haircut....or shoes.  I agonize over the perfect calendar/planner.  So much so that I have thought about drawing out my own and having it printed off.  I want a 'month at a glance', preferably on 2 pages.  Then I want a week at a glance, covering two pages.  Then I want a daily page.  I can get month/week or month/daily, but not both, hence printing out my own.  I have also heard about the "Arc" planner and we have a Staples, so I might go in that direction.  I need 'to-do' pages, pages to plan out my blog postings, menu/shopping list pages in addition to calendar pages.

Part of my problem, and I know it's genetic because Texter has it too, is that I love paper/pens/office supplies and all the assorted gadgets and widgets you can get to go along with it.  And despite my love of tech, I am still very much analog when it comes to my planner.  I'm so confused, especially when I see all the Arc stuff on Pinterest.   We shall see.  I have a month or so before I really start twitching about not having 2015 in place already.

What really has me antsy is that school starts in about 3 weeks.  FULL load this semester, but feeling good about it.  I am pursing my Associates in Graphic Arts (having dropped my pursuit of Associate of Arts).  I happened to go look at my 'program evaluation' the other day and found out that the Communication and Psychology class that I needed to take this semester, I didn't have to take it, as an English and an Anthropology class, which I had already taken, were substituted for them.  AND, I only needed a upper level English and a Philosophy class to finish out my Associate of Arts degree.  I dropped the COM and PSY and picked up an ENG and am wait listed for the PHI class.  I'm so excited!  The 18th of August can't get here fast enough.


Yes, Lady K is well aware at 16 months old what the phone is for.  And the computer.  Problem is trying to keep them out of her hands.  I have to remember to turn off my mouse and keyboard, or my files on my desktop are relabeled.  Texter's little Apple keyboard died, so we gave it to her to play with as it is just her size.  She's not stupid.  She knows it's not attached to anything.  I think she messes with it to humor us.  

Which brings me to the point of my rambling....Savvy will be here shortly and will be living with us while she gets on her feet, finds a job here in Montana and saves up to move into her own place.  And she is not use to little hands into every single thing, whether it is nailed down or not.


So I will leave you with this picture of an approaching rain storm with the sun setting in the background.  Hopefully, this time next week, we will be getting up to take Savvy on a walking tour of downtown Helena.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pictures of Big Sky Country Skies

One thing about the apartment and it facing west from my bedroom and balcony is that I tend to stop and pay more attention to what is going on in the sky more.  Facing west, with about a 180 degree view, we can really see the storms approaching over the mountains, which makes for some dramatic sights.


We had a few days of afternoon thunderstorms coming in.  I need to perfect my ability to take pictures of the lightning.  Here I only got a bit of the start of the strike.


On this particular day, the clouds were just 'boiling' and had a yellow cast to them.  From my days in the South, weird colors in the clouds like this wasn't a good thing.


It continually amazes me how you can have these massive cloud formations and then clear skies.


And an panoramic view of the sunset on this particular day.  The storm clouds really make for a dramatic view.

My taking pictures of the clouds has rubbed off on Texter.  While I was at work on day, she took pictures of a fire in the hills.  It really wasn't as close as it appears (which is a good thing).  She has friends on several of the emergency squads and had gotten a heads up on the fire and my balcony gave her a great vantage point.




They believe it was started by a lightning strike and went from about 3 acres to about 18 acres before they got it contained.  The middle picture is where they just dumped water from an airplane on it.  I really have to admire the firefighters who go in for these wildfires.  It's not like they can drive up to it and park on the street and fight it.  They are lucky if there is a road anywhere near it and then they have to hike to it, carrying their equipment.  My hat goes off to them.

So my balcony and view is a constant source of an ever changing source of amazement.  It makes me stop, slow down and see what is going on in my world.  And some of that is rubbing off on Texter.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Connect with The Gauguin Connection


I admit, I have become a bit of a jaded reader.  It really takes a lot for me to run around telling everyone "READ THIS BOOK", but "READ THIS BOOK!!!"

I came across it on one of the ereader mailing lists I subscribe to.  It was free (and still is) on Amazon and I thought, why not.  The title and the premise of the book caught my attention.  I had it on there for several days and started reading it when none of the other dozen books were close at hand (baby was sleeping and didn't want to wake her).  From the very start I was hooked and resented any interruption (go away Texter and your ovarian cyst and crying grand daughter).

Genevieve Lenard, the main character, is a high functioning autistic who 'reads people' for a high dollar insurance company in Europe.  Dr. Lenard has her routine and her space and does quite well being left alone to go about her business.  Her boss, Phillipe, needs a favor for an old friend investigating the theft of guns from an European agency.  Soon there are Russians, murdered artists, an art thief and assorted others impinging on her well ordered routine.

Genevieve is delightful in her bluntness (who at one point hasn't wanted to talk to people the way she does) and you cringe at times at her lack of social skills and misunderstanding of euphemisms.  But she has a champion on her side who wants her help in solving the murders of the artists and is a calming influence in this otherwise chaotic mess which has become her life.  Besides, who wouldn't want a handsome, sexy art thief breaking into their house all the time?  Besides Genevieve?  All this mess is unsettling.  So today, when I go to work, I am going to have to write up my recommendation to order these books for the library.  We have several patrons who I know will love this book as much as I do.

Estelle Ryan has created some great characters who seem very real.  I know there is a Dr. Lenard running around out there and Colin has my permission to come through any entrance into my apartment he wishes, as long as Vinnie comes too.  I could use some help with cooking and cleaning. However, I do have two big problems with the book.  One, it ended.  Two, I'm going to have to wait until my next paycheck in order to get the other three books in the series.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Symphony Under the Stars Out of this World

WARNING:  Two videos and lots of pictures!  The two videos are not the best due to the wind, crowd noise and being hand-held.  

First off I need to tell a dirty secret or two.  I hate crowds.  A few select friends, fine.  But crowds annoy me.  Mainly because they won't behave like I think they should and just stay out of my way.  And then there is the getting there and back, cars everywhere and people driving like jerks.   That said, when I found out about the symphony at the local college being outside I couldn't resist.  See, I made myself a promise when I moved to Montana to be a bit more 'social' and this fit the bill.  Mainly because I could WALK there and not have to put up with drivers.  Also, I now have Lady K to think about and 'socialize'.



This is just part of the crowds there.  They expected 15,000 to show up and I think they were right.  One good this is that while the concert was free, they did ask for donations to our local food bank.  They collected 15,000 pounds of canned goods which met and exceeded previous goals.

Lady K and I went up Saturday morning to put out our blanket.  We were several hours too late it seems.  All the spots on the hillside were claimed Friday night (now we know), but we were able to find a spot right on the front, just a bit to the side of the stage to squeeze our blanket in.  Only problem is that it was a main thoroughfare, so lots of traffic all through the concert (and why can't people SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!)

And to make this unpredictable, we have been having several days of really bad smoke haze in Helena from the wildfires in Washington and Oregon.  I mean like can't see the hills and I know I have had really bad headaches.  A couple of co-workers are on meds and inhalers because of it.  But as the concert drew closer, the winds came in and blew a lot of the haze away, so it was quite lovely outside.


It took someone a few minutes to scope out the situation and then get into the mood.  This is my party girl!


Texter and friend, B, spent most of the evening following Lady K around the grounds.  She wanted to experience it all!  Texter, I'm sure, was hoping she would sit and chill, so mommy could listen to the orchestra.  Texter wants to join and play trumpet. 



The orchestra on stage.  And I learned a secret about one of my co-workers!


Someone didn't let a little thing like being a stranger stop her.  She flirted and played with the people on one side of us.  She got chips and giggles.  Maybe I should have played and flirted and gotten some of their wine.  I know better for next year.


There were some 'older' girls (5-7 years old) up and dancing just over from us.   Someone was intrigued and watching very closely.

Did I mention the theme was DISNEY?  Oh, sorry about that.  Yep, that was the real draw, the whole concert was Disney tunes from their movies.  Savvy is two weeks late getting here for it as she is my Disney girl.  So part of going was to be there in spirit for her.  Of course, if she was there then she would have probably been arrested for telling people to sit down and shut up.  And singing along.

Anyway, one of the first songs they played was "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas.  It is one of my favorite songs from the movies.  It was just as the sun was going down and has it was playing I noticed two birds (probably seagulls) overhead.  It just blended so perfectly with the song.





At the intermission, we were close to sunset and darkness.  We did have some lovely views of the sun going down.



There were two ladies sitting behind us which were part of the chorus for the performance.  They broke out glow sticks when it got dark and Lady K felt it was her duty to investigate.  After all, other people had them too.  Soon they were all playing with the glow sticks.  It was magic to Lady K. 




Somehow, with darkness, even the stage became more magical and exciting.  AND IF PEOPLE WOULD SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!


And I discovered something about a co-worker, he plays in the symphony.  Even someone who has worked with him for years wasn't aware of this.  But see the lady in the brown?  Just at her right shoulder is a gentleman playing bass cello.  That's my co-worker!  I feel so 'cultured' now, I know someone who plays in the orchestra.

The final segment was tailored to Savvy and I.  The clip is long (about 11 minutes), but it does include the fireworks at the end.  The focus does go in and out during the filming, but it was totally dark (about 10:15 pm) and I am lucky it came out as well as it did.  The songs for this finale were from "Beauty and the Beast", our favorite.  I really, really wish she could have been here.



I did learn a few things from this experience.....

1.  Walking there was the bomb!
2.  Put out my blanket the night before.
3.  Take food and drinks.
4.  Come earlier.

I can't wait for next year.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Instagram Challenge Day 17 - My Town and TBT

The first picture, the one of my town, I showed a couple of days ago.  I was feeling really lazy this morning (gearing up to clean out my car), so I am reusing it.


There was a dedication going on in the park by the library.  The horsemen are the 4 Georgians who discovered gold in Helena.  This is an example of the many, many activities which go on, summer and winter, all over town.  Most are free to the public.  Like this Saturday, Symphony Under the Stars.  Bring your blanket, find a spot on the hillside and listen to Disney tunes played by our symphony.  Free!  And then fireworks.  Hopefully, I will have some pictures of all of that to share come Sunday.

And for Throw Back Thursday - let's go back to the 70's.....


Note the huge glasses and the polyester shirt.  And the no tummy bulge and skinny upper arms.  Those were the days!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Instagram Challenge Day 16 - Favorite Quote


Today we are suppose to show our favorite quote.  I have a friend back in North Carolina who faithfully collected quotes she liked.  In fact, I thought I had a quote file in a document, but couldn't locate it.  I toyed with the idea of Sojourner Truth's "ain't I a woman" speech she gave at a Women's Right rally in 1851.  I have always loved it and in case you don't know what I'm talking about, here is what she had to say....

Delivered 1851
Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio 
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say. 

But what has my heart at the present moment is the bumper sticker being used by the Montana Wilderness Association "Keep It Wild".  To me they are speaking to how I need to live my life, not necessarily keeping the wilderness wild.  It speaks to me about not following the 'norm' and being more courageous in how I live.  It tells me I need to start taking the next step and putting my writing, my art, my photography out there in the world, for better or for worse.
So, at least for today, "ain't I a woman keeping it wild!"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Instagram Challenge Day 15 - My Happy Place

Now I realize there can be a couple of different connotations of 'happy place', but I will keep it clean this time around.

Have you ever gone somewhere and you got the feeling, even if it was the first time you were there, it was 'home'?  Or walked into a building and just knew where everything was and the people made you feel like family?  That's my 'happy place' - the Lewis and Clark Public Library.


This is my view from the circulation desk of the library.  Four days a week I come here and it's not a job, it's not work, they are paying me to play is how I look at it (with health insurance and retirement benefits!)

We had been in Montana only 4 months and were in getting our library cards and I saw the sign looking for part-time circulation assistance help.  I hemmed and hawed about putting in for it, figuring someone who was in the community already had a shoe-in for the job.  And I got an interview!

The interview was a panel interview and it was conducted by 4 of the nicest people I have ever met, all of whom I am fortunate to now work for.  From day one, I was welcomed with open arms and open hearts - no one is a stranger, everyone was immediately accepting of this "Southern gal" who had never experienced a Montana winter.

I now have a partner in my book addiction.  We have promised each other our support - in never quitting the habit.  I work with a couple of women who are a few years older than myself, who put me in the dust, energy-wise.  In fact, as we speak, one is at Glacier National Park in her little RV and has me down for snow shoeing this winter.  That's what I aspire to - don't stop till you drop.

So 'My Happy Place' is filled with co-workers who are really co-family, patrons I have come to know over the past year on sight and all of whom put up with my quirky sense of humor.  They have all embraced not only me, but Texter and Lady K and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Savvy to include her into my Montana family.  I can truly say that Montana is now "HOME".



Monday, July 14, 2014

Instagram Challenge Day 14 - Get Physical


This is my main form of exercise these days - trying to keep up with Lady K.  She has a natural ability to puzzle out how to move things in order to achieve her goals.  In this case, she knows this is the door to outside, the car, 'go'.  And she is determined to open it.  I had just finished watering my tomatoes and she felt she needed to be outside too.

Climbing up on chairs and other pieces of furniture is her mainstay.  Mine is stopping her before she takes a dive.  If you leave the tray off her high chair, she is in it, sitting there before you know it.  She has climbed onto my exercise bike (which I need to do more of myself).

I escape to the library for 20 hours a week in order to bend over, pull books from a bin and check them in, putting them on carts and walking to and from the front of the circulation area to the back, assisting patrons.  That's my other form of exercise and much less exhausting!

I don't think my watching the Tour de France is considered 'getting physical', although at times I feel like I am pedaling for them.  And with the temperatures in the 90's these days, a hike is not on my calendar.  I don't do heat!  Guess I need to get my yoga on.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Instagram Challenge Day 13 - A Free Deal Instead!

Today's challenge was to take a selfie without makeup.  Any selfie I take of myself these days is done sans makeup.  I haven't worn makeup in ages.  In fact, I don't even have any.  I think I bought some mascara a few months ago, but Texter has it.  So rather than bore scare you with a picture of me as you see me every day, I thought I would pass on this little gem I discovered - Perfect Effects 8 Free Edition. 

It works with Photoshop, which is how it came to my attention, but apparently you can use it as a stand alone program, without having Photoshop.  This afternoon I played with it a bit and will share some of the before and after pictures to give you an idea of how it worked for me.

This is the original we took at Spring Meadow Lake of Lady K earlier in the week.












This is with a couple of filters applied and a torn edge border.
  


For a vintage photograph look.


And a couple of filters and a soft oval edge.

Not content with just pictures of Lady K, I pulled a few more pictures from my files to play with.

Once again, the before picture of Morrell Falls I took a few weeks ago.  With this picture I went with some of the black and white options you can apply. 

A couple of filters and an edge applied.

This picture I really, really liked how it turned out.  Very Ansel Adams-ish if I say so myself.  I might have to have this one printed out and hung. 



This one I pulled into Photoshop and played a bit more with it.  But you can begin to see some of the effects you can achieve with Perfect Effects 8.  It was very easy to download and install and start using.  I recommend you watch their video tutorial.  It's not long and it walks you through the program.  Helpful, especially if you are not familiar with a program like Photoshop.

Once again the before....





And the final picture was additional Photoshop play.  But the first two were in Perfect Effects 8 and you can see the richness you can get with colors and the borders they have are a lot of fun.  There are also textures you can apply for a film scratch, grunge, crumpled paper effects.  Hours and hours of digital photo play.



And one last picture I played with, a couple of different filters and a border to give it that vintage photo look.

If anyone does download and use it I would really like to hear how it worked for them.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Instagram Challenge Day 12 - What In My Purse

Well, money definitely isn't!  However, there is a lot of other stuff in there. 


First, I love purses, but I am super picky about them.  So I don't own many.  They have to be large, because of all the stuff I carry.  No cute, little handbags for me.  The black wallet is a replacement for the card case I had all my cards in which I lost about a month ago.  What an ordeal replacing everything.  I do have to have something I can grab out of my purse and run into the store with.

The brown pouch has all kinds of 'stuff' in it.  I usually have cards I've picked up, spare change, lip balm, just an assortment of things.  I have plenty of pads and index cards to jot notes on, along with a ton of markers and pens and wash tape for journaling on the go.  A couple of packs of gum, some dried apple slices (to pretend I snack healthy) and my keys.

What is not shown is the large calendar I usually have in there, my phone, journal and a book and/or my iPad.  So you can see why I need a large purse.

Note:  Kitten not included!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Instagram Challenge Day 11 - RSL Bible

I think the main reason I enjoy Gala Darling is her ability to say 'to hell' with the norm and to chart her own path.  And while she might not fit into the box mainstream society would put her in, she has her own 'box', occasionally standing on it to yell, and her own following.  One of the things I have my eye on (after I pay for classes and books this semester) is her RSL Bible.

Today's challenge was to instagram the 'bible'.  But I don't have it - yet.  So I took a picture of the books I have received over the past month (or so) which I need to read and review.  In fact, I took back almost all of the books to the library so I could get started on them. 


As you can see, I have a bit of a reading obligation I need to get underway.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Instagram Challenge Day 10 - #TBT

I have only recently heard of (or it registered on my wee brain) about TBT - Throw Back Thursday.  So the picture I selected as a double meaning as I put on a new swimsuit last night.  It was sad. The new swimsuit has these Betty Bombshell boobs built in.  However, mine are more like 'stick of butter at high noon on the sidewalk'.  I could put Lady K in the top of my swimsuit and still have room!

So I'll leave you with the nicer picture....


My grandparents had a cabin near the Kentucky Lake, right outside Big Sandy, Tennessee.  We spent lots of time there growing up.  And while everyone else skied, I never learned.  I was a bit too scared as I had seen too many cuts and gashes from submerged stumps in the lake.  I preferred floating.  In fact, I still prefer floating. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Instagram Challenge Day 9 and Mid-week Update

Originally, I was going to take a picture of the Chinese Beef and Broccoli from the 5 freezer bag meals I made.  I forgot.  So instead my instagram picture is a picture of a picture of chicken and dumplings made with my mom's recipe.  Here is my RSL (Radical Self Love) Meal - 


And to play catch up - 

I have made two of the 5 freezer bag meals, the Creamy Italian Chicken and the Chinese Beef and Broccoli.  My opinion (and Texter's) - they are not the best things we have ever eaten, but they're not bad.  The Creamy Italian Chicken needs water added to it in order to make more of a sauce.  That would help it.  I also found, cooking it for 8 hours is probably a couple of hours too long.  My chicken, even in chunks, got a bit dry.

The Chinese Beef and Broccoli disintegrated after 8 hours in the slow cooker.  And we did add the broccoli much later (about an hour before we finished cooking).  My strips of beef turned into tiny shredded beef.  Once again, not great, but for convenience it was ok.

Updates in other areas - 

Tour de France and Knitting - lots of watching, little knitting.  I have only added about 100 rows in 4 days of viewing.  Need to up my game a bit.

Cookbook - I put it on the back burner with plans for Savvy coming to Montana.  But plan on getting back on course.

Garden - With the warm temperatures keeping Texter and I in front of the fan in the afternoon (no AC), the tomatoes are loving it. 


These are my scarlet runner beans I'm growing.  I was hoping for a better showing, with them growing up the balcony.  They better get busy or the frost will get them in a couple of months.


My garden inspector.  She is looking for the tags in the pots so she can remove them. 




My Juliet grape tomatoes.  They are all coming along, what I think is slowly.  However, people familiar with Montana growing think they are doing great.  We'll see.

Trip to Arizona to pick up Savvy - 3 weeks to go!  I need to clean out the car and vacuum before I leave.

So there it is, my challenge of the day and other things going on in my life to date.  Now I need to go watch the TDF and finish organizing that pile of paperwork.