Sunday, December 31, 2017


The fuel prices in California are absolutely ridiculous.  Yes, we have a lot of smog here.  The reason (according to the legislature) for the high prices is all the additives to keep us smog free.  Their plan isn't working.  Maybe if they quit approving subdivisions in every square inch of the state, they would have fewer people and less cars.

I won't even begin to talk about all the taxes tacked on.  I worked in the Auditor's-Controller's office and know exactly what the taxes are and where it goes.  Believe me, it has absolutely nothing to do with repairing roads.  It's all about Welfare!!

I won't go there this morning however ... it just makes me too mad and I'm liable to have a heart attack.  Suffice to say the fuel prices are KILLING me ... AND my wallet!!  By the way, the price of fuel is higher in my little corner of the world than it is in any neighboring County.

SO ... this isn't a picture of the pump when I filled up my rig, it was when I filled up my diesel truck. As you can see, it only took 25 gallons and it cost me $95.00.  Imagine what it is when I have to fill the entire 50 gallon tank!
The sad news is I had to fill the motorhome with fuel yesterday too.  My one station had so many trucks in line they went clear out to the street and around the corner.  I went to TA Travel Center instead, where I managed to get in to an RV pump, taking up half the parking lot.  $250 later, I had a full tank.  That's almost $350 dollars of fuel in one day!!

I zeroed everything out, only to discover my fuel gauge says I'm only 3/4 full.  What??  I know 60 gallons went in and that's what the computer said I used since my last fill up ... so how come the gauge is wrong??  I hate it when this happens because now I'll worry about it, worry wart that I am!!

Back home, it was time for the big wash.  Up on the rooftop I climbed to scrub down the chalky white gunk.  I would give just about anything for a solution to this problem.
The white paint oxidizes .... it rains ... and this mess appears all over the rig from top to bottom.  I had the roof waxed last year, but it didn't help.  I have two things at hand ... The Solution and Aero 303.  Any hope either of those would help?  

I wasn't looking forward to washing the rig, but it had to be done.  The closest RV wash is over an hour away.  I got about halfway done yesterday and will finish up today, only because I know by tomorrow (always the second day) I will be too sore to raise my arms!!  Don't you just LOVE the RV life??
It is a tad foggy this morning, only getting worse until about 11:00 when the sun comes out.   That's when I'll be back outside in 45 degree weather washing away.  The up side is when I get done and come in the house, that 64 degrees feel pretty nice!!!
The New Year seems to be approaching at the speed of light.  Why just yesterday, I had three months of nothing to do!!  Now I'm scrambling as take-off day arrives faster than I expected.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Whose Up For Black Eyed Peas??

Sorry, that would NOT be me.  You probably have to be raised in the South to like those famous white and black beans that bring good luck to the New Year.  They never were on our ranch menu.  Oh we ate a lot of beans with all the meat from cattle that died (one day I'll tell you about that), but pinto beans were the cowboy favorite.

We even had a stove just made for cooking them.  The burner would drop down about twelve inches into the stove top, making the pot full of beans even with the top of the stove.  Mom would soak the beans overnight, then cook them on low all day, along with some bacon and onions.  They weren't my favorite, but they were cheap.

Back to the black eyes peas, I've tried them twice.  The second time only because I couldn't see how they could taste that bad!!  Instead, I choose to go with the Mexican tradition of hot tamales for New Years.  I think they bring even more luck because they taste SO much better!!

I did make one tiny mistake however ... instead of going clear across town to the Mexican market, I bought the masa at a different store, which of course means the masa was not the same.  Everyone makes it differently.  I had completely forgotten that little lesson.

My idea was to use the left over chicken, but since that didn't work out so well, I went back to my staple, sweet roasted corn and green chilis.  The masa was much harder to spread, in spite of sitting at room temperature, which of course is about 60 degrees in my house.  The good part is it went on thicker.  I like thicker!!
I also like more filling, so I stuffed them to the brim this time.  That resulted in fewer tamales.  Time for the Instant Pot to come into the picture.  In the old days, tamales had to steam in a pot on the stove for over an hour.  That's one reason very few people make them any more.  Enter the Instant Pot ... 20 minutes and they are done.  Because the masa was so much thicker, I went for 24 minutes.  
Once the first batch was done, I took the tamales out, then lifted the pot out of the machine with special tongs just made for that task.  In an instant, the rubber gripper came loose, leaving metal to metal contact, meaning it slipped out of the grip and hit the floor!!  

My kitchen karma strikes again!!  After cleaning up the mess of tamale water, I discovered the top rim was bent.  RATS!!!  Even with a pair of carefully placed pliers, it wasn't going to move.  Not relishing the thought of steaming the rest of the tamales for an hour on the stove, I put it back together and turned it on, keeping careful watch to see if the lid would seal ... and seal it DID!!!  YAY!!  I'm back in business!

I probably cooked them just a tad too long, or maybe it was the masa.  At any rate, all masa is not created equal.  This batch was very dense and al dente ... kind of like undercooked pasta.  It's hard to explain, but definitely NOT the same flavor, and I'm sure they forgot the salt.  

No matter, I'll eat them on New Years (and every meal until then) because I need all the good luck I can get!!
I have two things on my list for today.  A bath for the rig and fuel for it's stomach.  No one told me how hard it was to keep these beasts clean!!  

Friday, December 29, 2017

Five Reasons For Take-out

1.   You use up someone else's electricity to cook.  My stove is a big one with two ovens.  The smaller and cheaper-to-use one has lost it's ability to acquire and maintain a relatively even temperature.  The larger of the two is HUGE and takes 30 minutes to heat up.

Although I LOVE my Breville Oven to the moon, sometimes it is just too small.  Enter George and Suzie (OurAwesomeTravels) who cook practically everything on their Weber Q.  I've mentioned this before.  In fact, I cooked the most amazing chicken a few weeks ago, remember?
2.  There's no prep ... no mess ... no fuss.  Just drive up, turn off the diesel engine so they can hear your order and in a few short minutes, dinner is served!!  NOT as simple is finding a small enough chicken for the BBQ, washing and cleaning it inside and out, drying it off and sprinkling with the seasoning of your choice.

It went so well last time, why not try it again?  I bought the smallest bird I could find, went through all the motions and headed to the grill.  I had a fleeting thought about the gas canister.  I would LOVE to find one of those small propane bottles I could travel with, but alas, I have to use those tiny green things.

I've no idea how long they last or how much cooking I can do before it runs out.  There's no window to look through.  I unceremoniously dumped my chicken on the grill.
3.  There's no waiting with take-out.  Not much anyway ... grab it and go.  With a 5 pound chicken, you've got at least an hour to wait.  I set the timer, set myself on the couch and waited, with a watchful eye on the smoke from the Q.

4.  There's no, or at least little chance of food poisoning with take-out.  There's a BIG chance of ptomaine if your chicken isn't cooked sufficiently.  When the timer rang, I headed out with the collection pan, ready to dig in to some delicious juicy barbecued meat.

Wasn't I surprised to find it almost as raw as when I put it on the grill.  Oh for crying out loud!!  The gas can must have run dry.  I might have checked halfway through, but you're never supposed to open the lid.  After that prime rib fiasco, I wasn't doing THAT again.

I found another bottle of fuel, screwed it in and hit the GO button.  The flames seemed much smaller than before.  This doesn't look right.  I disconnected it and connected another bottle with the same result.  Okay then .... I shut the lid and hoped for the best, setting the timer for ANOTHER hour.

5.  Your food is always well done with take-out.  There's no raw in restaurants, especially the food-to-go type.  I figured there was no need to worry about how long it cooked, after all, I had my trusty thermometer with which to check for the 180 degree mark.

This time I checked for the sizzle twice, to assure myself it was cooking.  The bell rang an hour later and I removed the bird.  Looks pretty yummy, right??  How could I possibly fail?  By the way, that's a lemon I cut up and put inside for additional flavor.

In the end, it didn't quite get done ... probably due to the additional flavor.  I rather like fall-off-the-bone chicken and this wasn't it, but by then it was almost bed time.
6.  Take-out is quick (see number 3).  Actually, there are more than six reasons for me to get take-out.  It's certainly quicker than the 2-1/2 hours I spent trying to cook this chicken.  At least I wasn't using up any electricity, but my chances of food poisoning were high, it having set on the cold grill for an hour.  Luckily after eating one leg, I felt fine and think I will survive the rest.

Now that THAT'S out of the way, I can pack the grill in the rig.  I should do fast-food for the rest of the week, but how about some more tamales instead????

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The BIG Snow Storm

Not outside with the really wet and cold stuff, but INSIDE.  The kind that permeates every single corner, nook and cranny, just like a REAL snow storm.  This one however, was a styrofoam storm.

My beautiful Christmas tree from Balsam Hill may have seen it's last light of day.  I knew I had to take it down, a thought I didn't relish at all.  It come in a huge box, packaged up like a mouse trap, just waiting to be sprung.  

As I untied each section's beautiful red ribbon holding it together, it instantly became twice it's size, not to mention once it was actually set up.  That's when you "fluff" the branches, making it incredibly difficult to squash back down to box-size when the time comes.
The time came yesterday.  Remember me saying something about climbing on that ladder to put the top on?  Easier said than done and impossible to do the reverse.  It wasn't coming off, partially due to the myriad of electrical wires plugged in everywhere.  

My only solution was to lay it down on the floor.  It came apart alright, but not before depositing half the "frosting" on the rug.  This picture doesn't do it justice at all.  To make it even worse, I had to walk back and forth to the box, carrying the tree parts in a bear hug trying to make them smaller.  I got snow in places I didn't even know I had!!  

It didn't really fit back in the box in spite of my re-tieing the red ribbons.  The box is sort of closed and has two chairs on top of it to keep the branches from exploding out the top.  In the meantime, I had a HUGE mess to clean up.

I vacuumed and I vacuumed and .... well you get the picture.  It's styrofoam.  Those tiny little pieces the size of a pin head quickly became electrified and stuck to everything.  Even the Dyson Animal couldn't dislodge them from the carpet.
At long last I thought it was acceptable, even though there are still visible particles lying around.  Time to dump the vacuum ... only it wouldn't dump.  Static electricity kept all of that crappy styrofoam snow inside the bin.  I finally had to get my little dryer brush to clean it out as best I could.  
Finally!!!  I'm DONE!!         

Not so fast little Vacuum Queen.  As I walked by a hall mirror, I discovered I had as much styrofoam snow on ME as there now was in the trash can.  When I looked behind me, I saw a nice trail, kind of like Pigpen, depositing dirt as he walked.  

The WAR was ON!!  I found my lint brush and went to town.  It didn't work so good on my hair, but it sure got those little buggers off my clothes and most of the rug before I ran out of the sticky stuff.  Hopefully over the next few months, it will lose it's electrical hold and be sucked into oblivion by my vacuum.  I won't hold my breath.  

Honestly, I'm considering putting the box on the street with a FREE sign tacked to it's expanding bulge.  It's Christmas and I want to spread the joy!!!  My New Year's resolution is NEVER EVER buy a flocked tree!!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

More Christmas In The Mail

Tuesday was a day of running around.  It's not that I had anything to return, or exchange for a smaller size (yeah right) or BUY since all the Christmas sales are in full swing, I just needed to get the last of 25 bottles of Hershey's syrup.  These are the big boys, 48 ounces each, to be consumed in the ice cream sundae social at the rally in Indio.

There are another 12 bottles of caramel syrup.  I have to admit, I had absolutely NO idea just how heavy all of this stuff was going to be.  My RV bays are pretty full already and adding this much more weight made me a little nervous.  Especially since I could hardly carry the box to the rig in the first place.  When there was no room, I struggled to carry it back to the house.  I know, I should have looked first.

It ended up in the back of the Jeep, along with other boxes, that will probably make it tow with the front wheels off the ground.  To add to the weight load are bottles of juice and enough pancake mix to sink the Titanic!  I sort of got talked into not one, but TWO rallies back to back, making for twice the load.  I've learned my lesson!!
My second stop was the Post Office for my Christmas box from my nephew and the baker.  Thank goodness the big two-legged mice who live there didn't get into my goodies.

THESE are the most wonderful things ever.  Homemade marshmallows ... YUM!!  You can't imagine how soft and pillowy they are, with the pink ones being peppermint of course, and dipped in chocolate to boot!!  They tasted amazing!!  Tasted, as opposed to TASTE, because these have all disappeared!!
I'm sure you've all been sitting on the edge of your seats waiting to see what I did with all that leftover meat.  HA!!  Prime rib is meant to be eaten when freshly roasted and deliciously tender.  Although you really can gently reheat it in the microwave, the original flavor seems to evaporate.  Too much heat and it seizes up into a tough piece of leather.  

Although beef stew is a good suggestion, I had a 2-cup container of sour cream in the fridge that needed to disappear.  I'm sure I bought that for something.  At any rate, I remembered my mother's stroganoff.  Too bad I couldn't remember how she made it.

After searching the internet, I found a very simple recipe.  Onions, mushrooms, beef broth, a can of mushroom soup, along with the meat and simmer until tender.  A big dollop of sour cream at the end gives it the creamy yumminess.  Add noodles.  

What they don't tell you is that this recipe is for 25 people.  By the time I dumped in the first four ingredients, my pan was overflowing.  I dug out my largest chicken fryer, so heavy I can hardly lift it.   At long last, stroganoff!!  It actually tasted VERY good, but I knew in minutes that sour cream could be added to the mayonnaise on the list of things my stomach hates.  

I had a second helping because it was so good!!  I only have 23 more helpings to go, all of which went in the freezer ... probably not the best idea, but what's a single girl to do.  It was too tasty for the cemetery!!
In preparing for the Indio Rally at the Fairgrounds, I made my once a year phone call to Jim Fulkerson.  For anyone in the area requiring a rig service and oil change, this guy is the best!!  He actually comes to your door and does the work right where you are parked.  

He will be there again this year if you need service.  Seems to me it was about $100 cheaper than Freightliner, or whatever kind of service center you have, not to mention the convenience factor.  His email address is if you'd like to set up an appointment.

Back to packing and checking my lists twice!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

And To All A Good Night .....

Another Christmas is in the books.  I hope Santa Claus brought you everything you wanted or needed for Christmas.  The best part is of course watching all the little kids faces when they open their presents.

I got to see a tad bit of that when my Outlaw Sister sent pictures of her son (now 40-something) opening the box of shirts along with a gift card to Cabelas that I sent.  HIS son got the same, since they are wanting to go hunting in Idaho.  Seems that's the thing to do nowadays where they live.

I know it's not the best to send gift cards, but it's what I do so they get what they want.  Not quite as much fun to open, but it sure beats a pair of socks and the shopping makes up for it.
Lucky them, my nephew's wife Brandi (here's a funny note, my nickname used to be Brandi when I was in High School, though I can't remember why) ... anyway, Brandi is a baker and she made THIS for their Christmas dessert.  Wouldn't I like a chunk of THAT!!!

It would be nice to spend Christmas with them, but it's IDAHO and they have that white stuff called SNOW.  Driving an RV is out of the question, as is staying with anyone when you have two dogs and a parrot in tow.  
In the afternoon, I put a border on this quilt ... bet you were hoping not to see THIS one again!!  The second border material just didn't float my boat, so this one is going to Arizona to look for something different.
I spent most of the morning contemplating the leftover prime rib.  By the way, there are many reasons NOT to cook this chunk of meat.  It's expensive, it takes four hours prep time, it sets off fire alarms requiring dozens of 9V batteries, you really need a crowd of ten to eat it and when all is said and done, you are left with the biggest greasy mess EVER!!!

I also thought about Yorkshire pudding, but once I had all the ingredients sitting on the counter, I decided to pass.  The recipe makes a dozen ... that's TWELVE I'd have to eat while they were still hot.  My gut feeling told me these don't reheat very well.  I put everything away.  Maybe next year.  I nuked one leftover slice of prime rib ever so gently.  It came out perfect!

Sitting around just didn't get it for me, since none of my favorite football teams were playing.  I grabbed my latest embroidery project and hit the machine.  It's not really hard to switch from regular sewing to embroidery, but it takes time and a little patience.  
Did I tell you how much I LOVE this machine?  If it ever dies a horrible death, I'd definitely buy another one.  It's the little things I discovered, like rock your foot back on the foot pedal and it moves the needle UP instead of giving your wrist carpal tunnel by hand turning the drive.  It also very easily makes amazing things like this, one of four corners that make up a Wedding Quilt block.

I'm making the much easier and cheaper table runner with twelve of these.  Imagine making 140 for a quilt.  That's WAY beyond my attention level.
Time to get back to setting up the rig.  I always get nervous with so much to do.  Today I'll make up my list and start scratching off everything I complete.  At least that makes me feel a little better about being prepared for takeoff.

Monday, December 25, 2017


I hope everyone is having a fabulous Christmas morning and that Santa brought you lots of cool stuff.    I tried to get a cute picture like this of the puppies to post on Christmas morning, but truly, it didn't go so well.
After a couple of hours, they were no longer happy campers and I was frustrated.  This is the best I can do ... yup, photoshopped.  Merry Christmas from Jessie and Cooper.
I spent the morning with a nice cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire while I waited for the prime rib to warm up.  Not the easiest feat since my house was a chilly 60.
I know that YOU know this didn't go exactly according to plan.  This part was good ... butter infused with a myriad of spices, slathered all over the 5.83 pound roast at a cost of $46.99.  I was really hoping I didn't screw this up!!
The oven heated up to 500 degrees.  That was a surprise since I had no idea it would go that high.  In went the gorgeous hunk of meat.
I'm pretty sure you know what this red thing is.  It's a fire alarm.  I'm well aware that mine seem to be extra sensitive, even when it comes to steam from boiling water, not to mention the tinniest bit of smoke.  

Five minutes per pound is the required time to cook a prime rib.  Here's where I strayed from the path.  My oven is hotter in the back than the front.  The beautiful chunk of meat was looking amazing on the back side, but the front was not browning.  I will just quickly turn the pan around.  In my defense, this was NOT the part where I had to leave the door SHUT.  Turns out it was.

I swear there was hardly a wisp of smoke that came from the oven, but two seconds after opening the door, it was enough to set off every fire alarm in my house.  There's no way to turn them off.  You just have to endure the pain until they quit on their own.

That should have been it, but NOOOOO .... they began chirping one after another, I imagine because the batteries were toast.  There's nothing in the world that scares Jessie more than those chirps.  She instantly became a shivering mass of flesh, hardly able to walk.

So how many 9 volt batteries are there in YOUR house?  I trashed every drawer looking for some, but of course there were none to be had.  How about the RV you ask?  I found two, but needed six.  I quickly scaled the ladder and replaced two batteries.  Chirp ... chirp ... chirp!!  By now four were going off and Jessie was in a panic.

Luckily I remembered to turn the oven off at the end of 30 minutes before heading to Target for batteries.  Just what I needed ... hitting the big box store on Christmas Eve!!
When I returned from that horrible experience, which I won't even mention here, the chirping had stopped ... BEFORE I even put in a battery.  Thank goodness!  Now I can relax for an hour while the roast remains in the oven with the door SHUT!!

All of a sudden it dawned on me Jessie was not in sight.  Did I leave her outside?  I called and called, but no luck.  I went through the house, opened every single door and called louder.  Back outside .... back inside ... I just couldn't find her.  I began to panic.  Maybe she slipped out the door when I went to town.  

On the last trip through my bedroom, she must have heard the panic in my voice.  I saw her nose peek out from under the bed.  Keep in mind, Jessie does not FIT under my bed.  It took ten minutes to extract her, but at least she was safe, still shaking like a leaf.

Finally .... I could relax.  No more fire alarms ... no missing dog.  Time to remove the roast from the oven.  WOW!!!  It's just amazingly beautiful and smells even better.  In spite of all the fire alarms, I think I got it right!!
Garlic mashed potatoes, brown sugar carrots and a hunk of prime rib.  What could be better???  I have to say the beef wasn't all that tender.  You need lots of marbling for tender meat, and this didn't have it.  None of the roasts I looked at had decent fat content ... I guess that's a thing of the past.  At any rate, it was delicious with a capital D and I ate the whole thing.  
Someone mentioned yorkshire pudding ... something I've never tried before.  I thought about it as the roast was resting, but decided not to push my luck.  Today however, I have lots of time and a huge pan of drippings.  That along with my second ginormous piece of prime rib just might be the ticket.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night ... except for my neighbors who were trying to sleep this morning.
Of all the days ..... I haven't been setting my house alarm at night.  I figure I'll hear anyone breaking in and I'll just shoot them.  For the last week however, I went crazy, set the alarm and amazingly have been remembering to turn it off.  

Until this morning.  I'm happy to tell you that every single alarm in my house is in GREAT working order.  I apologize to the neighbors that I woke them up at 4:30 am when I let the dogs out.  I SWEAR it was Santa, not me!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2017


As I was typing yesterday's blog, my living room was flooded with beautiful orange and pink lights.  It wasn't the neighbor's fancy light machine ($39.99 as seen on TV) ... it was the most amazing sunrise of the year, right here in River City.

Luckily I saw it just in time to grab my camera and head outside.  A chilly 29 degrees sent me back INSIDE very quickly as I watched it through the windows!!
I finished packing everything stacked by the back door, trying to make room in the RV.  There's a reason I'm short of space, but I'll have to tell you about that later.  As of now, there is front passenger space in the Jeep, but the back is full to the brim.  

All I have left is to buy and pack food.  Not that "I" need much, but the RV rallies I'm going to require appetizer and potluck submissions almost every day, not to mention the big Pancake Breakfast.  Buck up Nancy, we have 50 coming for breakfast and dinner at the Indio rally.

In the middle of playing the couch potato game (I'm getting better and better at that pastime) the doorbell rang.  Surprise!!  My neighbor's little boy brought over a box of candy.  How sweet was that!!  Here's why ... he has a new puppy, the cutest white fluffy crazy bananas thing I've ever seen. 

The puppy thinks MY lawn is Camelot ... the place to be.  He also thinks it's his private latrine.  That is of course because it's COOPER'S private latrine.  He just refuses to go on their lawn.  Smart dog, but that doesn't make for good neighbors.  

Luckily, their sweet Mom Rachel (pronounced Raquel, as in Welch, no resemblance) makes her son clean up the messes.  As a thank you for not chasing the puppy off, I got a Pot of Gold.  It's not exactly gold, but it sure tastes like it!!!
Just to pass the time, I made another batch of cookies for the road.  I discovered too late that these have those dreaded chocolate chips in them .... the ones that get out their jackhammers as soon as they hit bottom.  So instead of dessert, they will become payment for something I require assistance with.
That was it ... another fascinating day in the life of a potato.  Oh ... and there was that cat!!!  Jessie will tell you about it tomorrow.  
The time has come to get the roast out.  I decided to cook it today so as not to interrupt my 18 hours of television bliss watching those sappy Christmas movies on Christmas Day.  I had a small panic attack yesterday when I couldn't find the email from wonderful Miss Terry with the prime rib recipe.

I had another one in the wings just in case, but luckily found the original from Terry.  Everything she cooks is fabuloso!!!  I'm all set to go ... sort of.  It's rather a waiting game at first.  It takes 3-4 hours for the roast to warm up to room temperature and almost that long again for my oven to heat.  HERE GOES NOTHIN!!!!!

Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people's things alone and be kind to one another.  That's the ending to every post from Bangor Maine Police Department's TC (who just got a big promotion), along with his Duck of Justice. If you haven't heard of him, take a look on Facebook, like their page and follow along.  You won't be sorry ... he's funny and his Got Warrants? posts look at the lighter side of Police work in Bangor Maine.  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

I Like A Challenge

I like challenges.  They keep me going.  Challenges get me interested in new things, get me off the couch and the best part ... using my brain.  That's one reason I wanted to get into flash photography.  I've had all the equipment for many years, just never put it to use.  I still haven't ..... I have six more chapters to read in the book.

What to cook for an RV rally breakfast is probably the biggest challenge I have.  As a group, we have had some great ones, but they involved a big kitchen and an even bigger oven.  I will have a tiny convection oven on 30 amp power, so when I saw THIS recipe, I thought it just might be the bees knees.

So simple ... chop up apples, cut up pre-made cinnamon rolls, stir in sugar, more cinnamon and butter.  Bake for 30 minutes.
Turns out it wasn't the bees knees after all.  It was like drinking an entire jar of honey.  WAAAYYYY too sweet for me, let alone everyone else.  This challenge failed.  Lets switch to something else.
I finished stitching the squares for this bright sunny quilt.  I probably purchased this one three years ago.  It's truly a challenge to stay OUT of fabric stores and not buy more.  I spent all day moving the squares around, taking pictures, turning them to black and white, then moving squares again.  It's REALLY a challenge to get these looking balanced.  Today I'll begin to sew it together.
On one short foray into town for those camera batteries, I spotted a beautiful feather tree.  $50!!!!!   Good grief!!  I bet I can make that for a LOT less.  That came from a little used part of my brain from when I was in my twenties and hand making everything for Christmas decorations.  The challenge was on!!

After stopping at three stores (I probably used up $20 worth of fuel) I found a thin white feather boa. Perfect!!  The cone was the most expensive, but came to only $5 with my half off coupon.  I pinned one end on the top, wrapped it all around till I was out of boa, then pinned it on the bottom.  VOILA!!  A $10 feather tree.  That was an easy challenge.  Now if I can just get all that fluff off the floor.
Here's a really dumb challenge ... keeping your fingernails clean.  A toothbrush and soap usually work for me ... I don't know why in the world I would grab a pair of brand spanking new SHARP scissors to do the job.  I'm only telling on myself so you won't do the same dumb thing.  

I pushed too hard, the scissors slipped and I sliced the end of my finger from one side to the other.  It's okay if you're laughing ... I laughed at myself!!  At least I don't have to worry about cleaning it any more since it's wrapped up in a bandage for the rest of the week!!

Today I'm playing the couch potato game as I finish reading the Flash Book.   Tomorrow's challenge ..... roasting this beautiful $50 piece of meat.  That's a lot of $$$$$$ to screw up, so I'm going to follow the recipe VERY carefully.
It's the eve of Christmas Eve!!  I hope you have all your shopping done and remember the reason for the season.  I do have to say for the first time ever, traffic is not really bad and the stores are not packed with crazy people.  In the meantime, I'm packing the rig little by little ... getting ready for takeoff!!

Friday, December 22, 2017

How To Blind Someone With Flash

Here's the book I've been reading ... the Flash Book by Scott Kelby.  There are probably many more technical books out there, but Scott has a great sense of humor.  There's a good reason people need to look good in their photos.  They all want an awesome-sauce Facebook profile picture that makes them look 300% better than they do in real life, so they can snag a boyfriend who looks 300% better than HE does in person.  If you can take that photo, you'll be swimming in riches.

Not really true, but you get the idea.  I have always hated my flash (even though I have TWO of them).  I never knew what settings to use and believe me, there are hundreds on the back of that very expensive piece of equipment.
And lots of equipment there is!!  All of this stuff works without being plugged in to the wall, meaning batteries are a MUST-HAVE, along with the corresponding battery charger.  Since the cardinal rule of flash is that it NEVER be attached to your camera, you need a Commander which does.  It sets the flash off wirelessly and requires a specialty type of battery, which of course I didn't have.  A trip to town was required.
After reading the first three chapters and spending an hour trying to navigate all the buttons on the commander AND the flash to Manual settings, I thought I was ready to shoot my masterpiece.  Here's the first shot.  If this were a person, I'm pretty sure they would be blind by now.  Think Nancy ... how can you adjust any one of ten knobs so this looks better!!
The thing is, I'm reading a book about portrait flash and trying to turn it into low light landscape images.  So far I'm failing miserably.  Next shot ... too dark.  Back to the book.  Seems the flash needs to be on a tripod.  While thinking about all that, my too-old batteries died a horrible death.  RATS!!
Three chapters later I discovered the flash is too close, it needs a cover to diffuse the light (more $$$$) and I have the CAMERA adjustments all wrong.  I decided to try a picture of Jessie, since she's a little closer to human.  Again, WAY too much light, as proven by the schnauzer puppy shadow behind her.   Poor girl blinked for five minutes after I took this one.  
I read a couple MORE chapters to discover each setting changes something different.  Even though I've taken class after class, I had no idea that when it comes to flash, changing the shutter speed changed the lightness of the background.  Moving the F-Stop changes the light on the person.  This STILL isn't what I'm looking for, but it's much improved over the first couple of images.  
I learned one more important thing, other than how NOT to blind someone, and that is it takes time.  There's no point, shoot and run to the next spot (which I tend to do) with flash photography.  It takes lots of time to set up, shoot a couple of test shots and make adjustments, not to mention battery charging time.  

I have a long way to go.  Good thing it's the age of digital images so I can just DELETE DELETE DELETE!!!  I hope by the time I get to Arizona, I'll be a little better at this, having read the entire book and purchased the light diffuser.  And more rechargeable batteries.  The light stand I have in stashed in the garage ..... somewhere!!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Camera Envy ... It's A Disease!!

There is nothing worse than a bunch of photographers getting together.  A horrible disease begins to grow, permeating the entire group.  It's called Camera Envy and is the cause of many overcharged credit cards.  It usually ends up with big smiling faces, but causes the disease to grow even more throughout the family of friends.

Having met up with my old instructor and a classmate with seemingly unlimited cash reserves, we were drawn together like magnets.  Let's meet up again and check out Frank's new gear!!  The disease set in quickly.

Frank makes good money as a prison guard, plus he has a father retired from several jobs, making for lots of disposable cash.  Together they make up their new venture, H & H Photography.  For a time, Frank had the same gear as I, so Camera Envy was not a problem.

Out of the blue, he sold ALL his Nikon gear worth around $12,000 and switched over to the new Sony Mirrorless cameras and lenses.  This baby sells for $4,500 WITHOUT the lens.  It weighs less than half of my camera and the images are stellar.  I know because we sat in his house and looked at the latest wedding images he took.  I do have to insert a note of caution here ... a fancy expensive camera does not always mean fabulous images.  It's all in the operator.
Although the disease spread quickly, thank goodness the accountant in me did some quick addition and brought my brain to a screeching halt like a shot of penicillin.  Nikon lenses don't play well with Sony cameras, meaning you have to sell literally everything and start all over from scratch.  Then there's that part where you  have to learn an entire new system of menus with thousands of settings.  No thank you!!

I really like my Nikon because all of the important I-need-to-change-this-constantly settings are on the OUTSIDE of the camera.  The Sony has them all buried in menus.  There's nothing more frustrating than trying to find something 10 steps down.
Unfortunately, it did not go well for the Instructor.  He had all of his camera gear stolen from his vehicle a few years ago.  The insurance company of course denied everything and he had to start all over, purchasing some of my gear.  He's not loaded down with $$$$$ worth of equipment and he's not an accountant.  I'm pretty sure I see a Sony in his future.  I'm clairvoyant like that!!

Here's my tip for saving money.  Do NOT take a photography class of any kind.  Camera Envy disease is just waiting behind that door like THE BLOB, to overtake and smother you into maxing out your credit cards, thereby limiting your intake of important things like food and a roof over your head.

Just for the fun of it, I played around with my camera a little bit, trying to further convince myself I don't need to change.  This is my Christmas tree with it's reflection in the window behind.  
You can do the same trick ... just move your phone or camera when you take the image, instead of trying to keep it still.  The movement of your hand will determine the direction of the lines.
I know, photographers are weird.  We're always coming up with crazy images of blurry tree lights and garbage ... things most people would never think to photograph.  
Luckily I was saved from the final results of Camera Envy ... I haven't purchased a new camera.  I did however purchase a new book on Flash Photography that promises to make me LOVE my flash, which I now hate with a passion, having spent three hours yesterday trying to get it to work wirelessly.  I failed miserably.  I'm re-reading the book!!