Saturday, November 30, 2013

Parade of Lights

One of the great things about living in a new place is learning the traditions which inhabit that new place.  A tradition here is the "Parade of Lights" which starts the holiday season here.  Texter, Gibbs, Lady K and I were bundled up for the 36 degree weather to head downtown to the walking mall to see what the annual Christmas kick-off was about.

Aside:  I have a feature on my camera I had not tried yet which is for taking nighttime pictures.  It basically takes 4 rapid shots and merges them to make 1 picture that isn't shaky since you are hand holding the camera.  I gave it a try since I wanted to get some pictures of the lights and the parade.  I think it worked really well.

First off, the stores and business were lit up.  In some of the stores, in the front window, they had 'live' decorations - members of the Nutcracker dance company that is being performed here now.  That was a lot of fun to see. 


She was in the window of Prickly Pear Quilts.  But my favorite was this one....


Unfortunately, I didn't get a really good shot, but she was all in white and the decorations were all white.  This was one of the art galleries on the mall.

But all the stores were decorated nicely.


The cookware shop.  This place has more little gismos and gadgets for the kitchen, I can't go in there.


And my favorite, Birds and Beasleys.  Which reminds me I need to fill up the feeders today before the storm gets here.

Of course, the toy store got in on the act.


The 'reindeer' in the window are heavy, rubber bouncy rides for kids.  I want one so bad.  Of course, it is for Lady K!  Maybe the lime green one?

Another favorite stop on the mall, Parrot Confectionary was packed (as usual) with shoppers for chocolates and hot chocolate


Not only were the stores decorated nicely, but outside, the light poles and the fixed trolley were decorated.  There was a little band at the trolley playing Christmas songs. 



Lady K waited patiently in all her 100 layers of clothing for the start of the parade.


And Texter and I were almost going to be arrested when we saw someone displaying a Dr. Who scarf.  Now I have to make one!


On a good note, no Daleks to ruin this Christmas.  On a sad note, no Tardis.

Now the following is not meant to poke fun at my new home, but I am use to Christmas parades filled with all the local bands and decorated floats.  However, hear there are no school marching bands (figured they would freeze their 'brass' off) Instead, it is a parade of gaily decorated pickup trucks and RV's and a couple of groups walking along with them.




The above is the local humane society with adoption dogs.  It was hard not to grab one or two on the way by.

The parade started off with a firetruck and ended with the Bookmobile from the library!




The parade is actually the 'warm-up' for the grand finale, which is lighting the fire tower which overlooks the downtown area.  The tower is called 'The Guardian of the Gulch' and built in 1874.


It is up on the hillside at the end of the mall, by the library.  So the parade starts at one end of the mall, goes up the center of the mall and ends at the library and then lighting the fire tower.  All-in-all, about an hour to 1 1/2 hours outing in the cold.

While it does make the Apex parade look like a Macy's parade event, Helena does it nicely and it was well worth putting on tights, socks, boots, undershirt, sweater, coat, hat, gloves to stand outside in the cold to watch it.  I can't wait until next year when Lady K is more aware of what is going on.  

Good job, Helena!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Birdseye Bald Loop Hike...

(Warning:  Photo intensive)

So Saturday I thought it would be a good thing to get in a hike before winter really shuts us me down.  And I learned several things on this hike, which is a good thing, despite how my body feels it has been hit by a bus today.

I started off the day thinking of 'trail names'.  Hikers often have a nickname other hikers know them by.  First, I started off with "Onion" because I had enough layers on that I could lose every hand in a game of poker and still have clothes on at the end of the evening.

Then we started the hike, I I quickly changed it to "Donkey Butt".  Not because of me being nasty to everyone, but rather that was my position in the hike, dragging along and bring up the rear.

After we hiked for days hours, I changed it to "Half-way Hudgins" because that is all I could do.  Luckily, the group I am hiking with are not 'competitive' hikers and are super, super fantastic and spare my feeling nicely.  "J" walked back with me and we had our own adventure on the way back, but that's later in the story.

My car temperature was reading 10 degrees when we started out, but there wasn't a wind blowing (for once), so it wasn't bad.  We traveled out of Helena and parked at a railroad crossing on a little road.
This was the view across the road from our parking spot. 


Lovely, isn't it.  The moon still visible over the 'hillside'.  Bright blue sky.  Dusting of snow on the ground.  IT LIES!  Because this was behind me and the start of the hike.


Lesson 1:  If you are standing at the bottom of the trail and have to step back and look up to see the top of the trail.....don't go there!  And yes, that is a person standing at the top of the hill by the center tree.

Lesson 2:  If you are standing at the top of the hill and you look down and see the top of the cap of a fellow hiker, you don't go there!


Lesson 3:  In between the ups and downs (even if you go down on your butt so you won't fall any more), there is this....


Lesson 4:  There are no "level" spots in Montana hiking, except maybe the parking lot were you left your car.






Lesson 5:  Go where no man has gone before.  Tons of all kinds of animal tracks in the snow.  A couple I could identify and others I couldn't, but now want to learn them.  One thing about a winter hike with the snow is that they show up easily.  Like I wanted to know what was under this....


It was perfectly domed, a baby igloo.  Unlike some of the other rocks I slipped and fell on. 

Lesson 6:  Sights of man are few and far between and lead you to believe it would be awhile before someone came along to drag your sorry ass out of there.





Yep, partner, I rode that fence line for miles and miles and then the horse died.

So after the great hiking group I was with waited for me to drag my donkey butt up the 'hill'....


(See they don't look like they are plotting my murder, do they?)

So while 'D' was planning another round of up and down, my body was saying....straight downhill is the railroad tracks and a road...down, down, down....

'J' valiantly offered to go with me (otherwise, I think they thought I would still be there) and off we went.  I guess now it's time to spoil the story and tell you that the others made it back to the car before we did.  But they didn't have a chance to collect the massive cockleburs on every part of their body, nor did they get to wave at the train engineers as the train went by.



And contrary to popular opinion, that is NOT the front of the train, but rather the back of the train.  Trains in this part of the country are LONG and have engines at the front and back.  (Although the idea did cross my mind at one point.)

So 'J' and I got to see the thicket along the creek we had to cross to get back to the train tracks.





Lesson 7:  Do you do it again?  You bet and for this reason right here....







Friday, November 22, 2013

Only a Couple More Weeks

School is winding down.  Only about three weeks left, which means a push on a couple of big final projects.  I am I also on the last leg of NaNoWriMo which I will complete, well ahead of time this year.

But here is a picture of one of my latest homework projects.  We had to design a web page for ourselves (based on a template they gave us).  I think I am finally catching on to part of this 'design stuff' in that I used Kuler to pick out the colors based on one of the images I wanted to use.  


The text on the page is just to hold place, but I am pleased with how the colors turned out and I would change up some things on it, but at least it gave me a idea of moving forward with my final projects.

But my friend Marie, over at Musing Crow Designs  brought up a valid point the other day and one that I have been struggling over....how to do everything we want to do and not feel like we are a "jack of all trades and a master of none".  It's funny how Marie and I have waltzed around each other in real life (worked for the same company, lived in the same parts of the country, same similar interests and never met - YET).

I love mixed media art - ATC cards, art journaling.  I do needlework, knit, and crochet.  I sew - mainly quilts, now.  I love to write and read.  I work part time at a library, which means books are constantly following me home.  I have a grand daughter that's 8 months old (in two days).  I want to hike and explore more of Montana.  And photography - how could I forget photography and working with Photoshop!

And next semester will have me completing a certification in Basic Web/Graphic Design and I will be  about 2 classes short of my Associates Degree (which I will have to pick up elsewhere).  I have a goal of a Master of Fine Arts for myself.

See, too much to do and only 24 hours in the day.

Marie brought up this point and stated she has decided she is going to have to make her focus in this one particular area, that she is dissatisfied with being 'scattered' all over the board.  And I am feeling the same way.  

So after some pondering on the subject, I think, (as of this moment in time) that I am going to concentrate on my writing, photography and to satisfy my need for fiber - sewing quilts (and related projects).  The knitting projects and the cross stitch ones I have in my to-do box, I will complete, but not at the pace I was originally going to do them.  And I probably won't replace them (or at least not right away).  

That is the plan....at least for this moment in time.   Now to finish up NaNoWriMo!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mainly Mandalas Homework Project

I had a midterm project due in one of my graphic arts classes this week.  My idea was to go with a central theme, one that I could use my pictures for and not have to resort to stock photos.  So I chose to go with a mandala them.  One of the parts of the project was we had to embed a YouTube video into the layout.  Since I didn't want to have to embed someone else's video and issues with rights and all that, I created my own slideshow of my mandalas I had created.  Actually, I think it turned out well and the music which I got via YouTube fits nicely with the mood I wanted to create.

So here it is.....


Monday, November 04, 2013

And Yet Another Newcomer

Birding, as you can tell, has become almost on obsession lately.  I am loving it when there is either a swarm of birds or a new one comes to the feeder.  This Saturday, the 9th, Project Feederwatch starts, of which I am entered into.  An excuse to stop every few days and watch the birds.

First off, let me apologize for the quality of the pictures.  Apparently, they just don't understand they are suppose to come out when lighting is the best, it isn't all gray, overcast and yucky.  Nor are they suppose to be up under the seat on the patio where there is a shadow.

But I noticed this little black-headed fellow hopping around and had to stop and take a look.



Just like he is suppose to do, he is feeding on the ground, sifting through the leaves for seeds.  My little Dark-eyed Junco.  My first Junco I have seen.

It's hard to tell from the pictures, but that dark head really pops out at you, even in the bad lighting.  I wish the light had been better as he does have some reddish/buff areas on his back and sides.  

Then I noticed he had a friend along with him.  Or I guess these days, his 'significant other' or 'companion'.


A pretty little thing, she is.  

Now if they tell their friends and more come by.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Norther Flicker Sunday

I had filled the feeders back up with a mixed seed and put out a peanut butter suet block in the far feeder.  Lady K and I were enjoying a quiet Sunday morning with an extra hour in it, when I caught sight of a rather large bird at the feeder.  One much larger than my little finches and sparrows.  And one I had never seen before.

A bright chap with that red patch on his face and all the dots and lines and colors.  I scrambled to take pictures (I keep my camera by the chair in the room) as he was going to town on the suet.


As you can see, he dwarves the other birds at the feeder.

This is a Northern Flicker and being on the western side of the country, he is considered a Red-Shafted version of a Northern Flicker.  As you can probably guess by his beak, he is in the woodpecker family and normally eats ants and beetles.  One of the few woodpeckers to actually feed on the ground.  Hopefully, I can keep him hanging around for the winter.

Note to self:  go buy more suet!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Happy Halloween from Helena

Say that 3 times!  Actually, sorry about the belated post, but it has been busy.  

First off, before I get to the 'sweets', I have to say I tip my hat to the Downtown Merchants of Helena.  They put on a great Halloween for the little ones.  



This is strictly for the younger set (older ones still in school) and takes place up and down the walking mall.  The stores and businesses participating all display this sign in their window. It was really nice to take the little ones out during the day (no scary dark), safe (no traffic) and fun (no competing with the big kids). 


So this was the scene, downtown, on Thursday.  Texter, Lady K and I got there just as it was starting at 11 a.m. and there were already plenty of people out there.

The second thing I noticed about this event was the number of dads out there in costume with their kids.  I overheard several saying they had taken off work to come.  And how cute is this!


You can't beat Curious George and The Man in the Yellow Hat.  This father was tall and lean and it was such a perfect pairing.  They were having so much fun.



Lady K was honoring the Armed Forces and her dad.  She was dressed up as a Marine Sergeant.  Texter dyed a onesie tan and ironed on stripes she downloaded.  She made her a blue and red 'dress' tutu out of tulle.  Because it was cold she had on a pair of navy pants underneath and a white long sleeve top on.  We needed the tutu so people wouldn't think she was a boy.  I crocheted the cap and we used extra buttons Gibbs had on it.

However, in walking downtown, people loved the 'ballerina sailor' costume.  Sigh.


Despite the cold wind (and it was windy), Lady K was getting into the spirit of the thing.  She was taking in all the people in their outfits.


And her skirt was good to chew on.


As you can see, she was having an absolutely terrible time.  Her favorite thing was to chew on the candy that had crinkly wrappers.  Twizzlers were good, because they make lots of noise.


I was enjoying it as we went into several stores we hadn't ever been in before, especially the art galleries.  I found the pottery a couple of them had on display to be fantastic and really reasonably priced.  People might be getting Montana pottery for gifts from now on.


Even the planters, past their prime, were showing fall colors and participating in the Halloween theme (despite the last of the snow).


Despite pictures showing her chowing down on candy, she only actually licked on part of a sucker.  The rest was just in her mouth to hear the paper rattle.  After all she is too young for candy....and the only reason we took her is so Texter and I could have her candy!