Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Playing Catch Up! -- Dec 31, 2014

I definitely need to catch up with everyone.  And here it is the last day of 2014 already!  I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas!

Here at the BLM, some people participate in the Lights Parade.  They decorate their cars/trucks with lights and parade through the BLM several nights so everyone can enjoy them.  I wasn't prepared with my tripod, etc. for clear/focused night photography (plus it was windy), but you get the idea. Everyone had fun with it!

Five of us went to Lin's Chinese Buffet in Yuma on Christmas day.  The decor is not your typical red and black with paper lanterns and plastic dragons.  Lin's is a bit more "richly" appointed, I would say. There were about 6-7 double lanes of buffet items....including an all American row for those who shy away from Asian cuisine.  They also have a separate sushi station and a Mongolian Grill area...steaks, etc cooked to order.  The food was quite good....with tons of selections within the buffet.  Oh...and also a dessert lane!

Everything from fried rice to octopus!

The BLM is getting more and more snowbirds now, but it's such a large area, it doesn't seem crowded at all.  People can choose to be near others...or not.  A big WELCOME to all the Canadians that have arrived!  From Quebec to British Columbia....

As I've mentioned previously, staying in one place like I am now, the hub-bub of great travel exploration is quite diminished vs. my summer travels.  But, just like many of you with gardens, everything winters over while we take a rest.  Scouring the seed catalogs becomes a fireside activity to get us through the cold, grey winter in anticipation of spring. (At least that's what I used to do in the winter when I had gardens!)  But, now, instead of plotting my garden, I'll be plotting my route for the summer months.  I won't be pushed this year to get to any particular destination, i.e., across the entire U.S. like I was this past summer, so I'm thinking I might focus on a couple of states - definitely "out west" - and explore them to the max.

I'm still in the "thinking" stage of planning - it's all up for grabs right this minute!  

About a week ago, there was disturbing activity relatively near by....brush fires.  They started in the evening and continued on into the next day.  I thought perhaps they were controlled/planned burns, but from the reports, it was arson.  Not good! What are people thinking????  We weren't in danger here at the BLM, but the fires did run along the main road from the Yuma Proving Grounds towards the turn off road to this area...but still relatively far away....but, due to the topography, not so far that we couldn't see them. This is just one area that I shot in the morning from the RV.  Luckily, the smoke was drifting away from our area except for a short time in the afternoon when the fires were pretty much extinguished.  

Okay, on a lighter note, I had a couple of visitors wander near the RV one afternoon.  It's amazing they find enough to eat.  One particularly windy day out on the golf course we saw eight down in a huge pit by the course....we surmised they were trying to get out of the wind...which was pretty chilly.

Speaking of the weather...... BRRRRRRRRRRRRR is all I can say lately!  It has been very unseasonably cool (actually COLD in some parts of the day/night).  Down in the 30s at night.  But the windy conditions have, of course, made it seem colder.  The day temps have been low, also.  I hate to complain because it is much colder in most parts of the country, but I'll complain anyway! LOL! 

Many days it has been in the 50s which doesn't sound too bad, but that's almost 20* colder than normal plus it was overcast for many days - no warming solar effect - and very windy, so it feels more like the 40s.  We've managed somehow to play golf most days - out of sheer determination! This morning, while I didn't make any birdies, I gave myself a lot of points for just being out there! It was windy and freezing!  These are the average temps for Yuma -- MUCH higher than we have been experiencing! But I'm sure desert warmth is on the horizon!  Let's hope!  (It's supposed to SNOW in Las Vegas tonight!)


HIGH *F    LOW *F      MONTH

69               47                 December

70               47                 January

74               49                 February

81               51                 March

88               59                 April

Even with the cooler temps, we have had more beautiful sunrises and sunsets since my last post.

Love these striated sunrises!

The cool temps did bring a foggy morning over the reservoir, which was nice....

Just can't get tired of the brilliant Arizona sunsets!

 One day we had big fluffy clouds as far as one could pretty!

During this time off from posting, I also celebrated my SIX month anniversary of full time RVing on the 23rd.  Hard to believe!  What's really hard to believe is how natural this way of living has become!  No regrets is the best part!  

So, with that, I will bid everyone a very safe and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  
2015 will be a great year for us all!  
I have no "bubbly", so have an extra sip for me!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ramblings and Rock Stars - Dec 7, 2014

Hello out there!  Can you believe it's December??  Every day that passes I realize it's one more day I haven't created a new post.  With that said, there are two reason I've been MIA.  For the past week or so, my internet was a little touch and go, but I think it's fine now.  And I've also been quite under the weather for the past week...enough that I went to Urgent Care in Yuma.  As I'm writing this, I'm probably about 70%.  But I'm going to take a stab at it anyway!  The show must go on!  

What a lot of people tend to not realize is the RV lifestyle is a LIFESTYLE...just like living in a big city, a small town, on a farm, in an apartment/condo, a subdivision, etc.  It's really NOT an un-ending vacation or camping trip.  Sure, for the first part of this adventure, it seemed as if it was because I was hopping across the country, relatively quickly, showing you (and myself) a lot of sights. However, when you settle down in one spot for any length of time, IT'S WHERE YOU LIVE....and stuff happens just like living anywhere. You make friends in your "neighborhood", people get sick, your neighbors help you out (and they really do here!), people decorate their "yards", pets go over the Rainbow Bridge, you burn your hand on the stove. You cook, clean, do errands, take care of house maintenance items, rearrange closets and all that other good stuff.  It's not all fun and games!  Nothing tells you all this quicker than not feeling well.  But, once you embrace it, which takes a little while if you're just starting out full time, it is a very unique, enjoyable lifestyle!  You can live anywhere, anytime!

I trust everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We had a pot luck here at the BLM.  About 80 fellow RVers were in attendance.  There was a lot of  mighty good food!  I made Orange Streusel Sweet Potatoes.  I should have taken a photo, but I took them out of the oven at the very last second so they would stay hot.  But, I did get a photo of the "after"!  They were gone in a jiffy!  I think the streusel topping was something different for everyone.  (I had two helpings, myself!  LOL!)   I cooked my potatoes with a little orange juice in the pressure cooker, drained and added some brown sugar and a little cream cheese and a pinch of salt (a little bit of salt always enhances the flavors in something sweet like this.)  Mashed them up by hand and added the streusel topping. Find any streusel topping recipe (I substituted the water with OJ and added a drop or two of orange extract) and cover the entire top of your sweet potatoes.  Bake until the streusel gets slightly browned and crunchy.  Try them for Christmas -- or anytime!  Really yummy!

The gathering was at the "Gravel Pit Ramada". It is huge and below grade.  I could have walked over there if I hadn't been carrying a piping hot casserole, a chair, and my camera.  My friends, Karen and Brad, were kind enough to pick me up.  The ramada is also host to aerobics and yoga classes during the week and a music jam on Sunday afternoons.  Must get to that!  It was on the "something fun list" for today, but I don't think I'm feeling well enough.  Hopefully, next Sunday!

The "Rock Star" of the holiday was Mena... Karen and Brad's sweet little pooch....  she LOVES rocks! She totes pretty good size rocks around like stuffed animals.  So funny!  She had quite an audience.  She stares them down.......then.......moves in for the capture!  She rarely kills one, tho'!  LOL! what else has been happening out here at this great BLM site???

Every single day isn't "perfect" here as far as the weather.  We've had a couple of very high wind days with blowing sand and dust.  Nothing to do but stay indoors.  Although, one morning it didn't start out windy but by the time my golfing buddies and I were about half way through the course.....WOW!  It was hard to stand up.  Had dust grit in our mouths and eyes and our golf balls were carried every which way.  But, do you think that stopped us?? NO!  LOL!  But we all commented the next day on how exhausted we were from fighting the wind when we finished up that round!  

Here are a few shots of the worst day....starting first with a "normal" day overlooking the reservoir....yes, it really looks like this!

How quickly it all can change!

Really glad those days don't pop up often.....  plus, anything you have stored outside your RV is, as you can well imagine, covered in dirt and sand.  UGH!

That was outside.  Let's move indoors!  I don't think I've ever gotten around to posting photos of the INSIDE of my house.  What better time than now?  It's fairly self-explanatory!  C'mon in!  

(Yes, it looks a slight bit 'tilted' is.  When I took these I was parked along a curbside where the street wasn't flat to aid water run off.)

I feel like I took this from a relatively no-character "camper" to a home by adding drapes (I, personally, much prefer them over shades or blinds), decorator pillows, oriental rugs, "chandelier", the convenient peg boards, etc. 

Being almost 25 years old, nothing at all fancy here, but it is quite efficient.  Once you pare down to the essentials (which are WAY less than you would first think!),  there's really plenty of space for just about everything. I have extras that a lot of people may not have -- painting canvases, art supplies/paints, a boxes of some of my framed photos and the ceramic Aura Tiles I make,..stuff like that and still enough space.  

There are three things I would change if  I could.  1) the bed in the corner - IMPOSSIBLE to make up!  Looks ok here, but it took over 30 minutes to get it that way!  2) a little more kitchen counter space somehow; and 3) get rid of all the carpeting and replace with Allure wood plank flooring.  Lots of RVers have done this. It's relatively easy and inexpensive to install yourself.  It's on my bucket list! But, overall, this house is very workable.  Even with no slides (which I think are just another thing that can have problems..... but if I won the lottery, I'd probably upgrade with them!  LOL! but you don't miss what you have never experienced!), I never feel claustrophobic with so many large windows. Ultimately, it sleeps six, but I can't imagine I will never have five people staying with me!  

Finally  ----

A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has been ordering through my Amazon link! Lots of holiday shopping going on!  Still plenty of time if you have Amazon Prime... or subscribe now to start this great shipping benefit.  It's well worth it if you order fairly regularly from Amazon.  Free AND very fast shipping!  Oh....and don't forget about gift cards. No worries about what anyone needs or wants....they can choose for themselves from millions of products.  What better gift??  

I will leave you with some early morning light better way to wake up than seeing nature's effortless artwork!  

Love these striated, sunrise clouds!

A foggy, desert morning....

I will check in before the's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here!

Have a good week, everyone!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Stay Composed! -- Nov 22, 2014 take photographs....but they look like every day, boring snapshots.  Hmmmmm....the subject matter was interesting, the shot was in focus, there were no distractions, like an over flowing trash can or somebody photo-bombing the picture.  Why am I not satisfied with my photo??  Well, one factor could be the basic the subject is situated within the frame. That's what I'm going to review today.  The holidays are coming up and our our photographs are our memory landmarks.  Let's make them count!

Very often I am told I have a "good eye" for photography.  I have the same eyes as everyone else.  I just use them with the following composition "rules" in play.  I'm going to go over three (that's a magic number today!) basic composition elements that will help enhance your photos. This is my take on "photographic composition", but of course, there are articles all over the internet on this topic if this post piques your interest and you would like to delve into it further. 

The Rule of Thirds
Odd Numbers
Eye Movement

These are nothing new!  They are used in every genre of visual art....not just photography.  They visually impact your photograph in subtle, but very important ways to add interest and a subconscious, pleasing arrangement....of anything!    

SIDE BAR:  Please use your viewfinder to frame your pictures....not the LCD screen on the back of the camera.  Anytime you have the camera held out in front of you, there is no steadiness, there is often a glare on the screen and you are seeing everything around you while you are trying to compose  your picture.  Get in the habit of using the viewfinder!

OK...let's get started!   First things first....see if your camera has a "grid" feature.  This grid divides your picture into thirds...up and down and side to side...and also helps you keep a straight horizon or vertical line.  Turn this on and leave it on!  If your camera does not have this feature, just look at my examples and embed the grid into your vision as you look through the viewfinder.  I have hand drawn the grid onto my examples, so they will more than likely not be exact thirds, but will be close.  So.... what in the heck is she talking about???  Trust me, these composition elements are very easy to follow and soon you will not even have to think about them....they will come natural as you compose your photos. 

~~ All photos are from my 2014 RV travels ~~

This is a simple example of the Rule of Thirds.  The top photo is cut in half both ways.  A BIG NO-NO!  As nice as the colors are, it doesn't need all the land adds nothing to the picture.  The bottom photo is virtually the same scene...with the Rule of Thirds applied.  2/3 sky (which is the interest factor); 1/3 land in order to "ground" the photograph and the sun is not dead center which adds a hint of extra interest.  NOTE:  Nothing of interest in the very center of the photograph, yet it is more appealing than the one above it.  

Same scenario.  While it is 'okay', the first photo is cut right in half showing lots of ground and an unimportant plant.  It does show the 'vastness' of the desert but if that is the main idea, the sky should have been cropped to just above the tall cactus...some of the clouds wouldn't be missed.  The second photo has the interesting saguaro cactus in the left 1/3, the mountains and ground in the bottom 1/3 and the striated sky in the top 2/3 of the frame.  The three elements (cactus, sky, mountains) of the photo are highlighted in a more visual pleasing way using the Rule of Thirds.

As you can see, there is a lot wrong with this photo....again, it is cut in half both ways.  All you really see is the column running down the center of the photo.  UGH!  The white hats cut the photo in half the other way.  Not good.

This is an example of the Rule of Thirds and using an Odd Number.  The THREE daisies are primarily in the right third of the photo.  It would be 'snapshot-ish' to have them right in the middle.  (There is a time and place for "middle" shots!)  Incorporating an odd number of the primary subject is more interesting than say, two or four, would be.  Putting little pumpkins on your Thanksgiving table?  Use THREE or FIVE.  This "rule" applies to almost anything...anywhere!  (Except the above photo of the workers...the three columns and three men did nothing to offset the less than great composition!)

Again, the main focals are in the left third and bottom third of the photo...nothing of interest in the very center. Your eye moves around the photo. There are FIVE highlighted lily pads, SEVEN all together.

Candid "people" shots are not an exact science.  They are spontaneous, quick, and not posed so we do the best we can.  In this example, the man's shoulder is in the center of the photo, however, shoulders are not normally a center of interest so the eye automatically moves to his head which is out of center.  The highlighted area of his body is in the right third of the photo.  The truck and other two men are in the bottom third.  THREE people.  (Note:  Not all photos need to be in perfect focus...more on creating a mood or feeling in future posts.)

Speaking of movement, look for parts of the scene that draw your eye to a certain area.  In this case, the trees, mountain and rocks pull your eye to the farthest point of the lake and the mountain behind it.  The horizon line is just below the 1/3 line because I didn't want to cut off the clouds.  But the focal point is still well out of "center".

Keep your subjects moving in the photograph by having them "walk" (or look) into the empty 2/3 of the photo in the direction they are headed or looking.  Otherwise, they would be walking into the side of the frame....OUCH!  LOL!  Give them a path!

Again, movement toward the ONE subject which is in the right third of the frame.  How boring it would have been if the flower were right in the center.

There's a lot going on in this photo but that doesn't mean we can't apply the "rules" we've learned. They are all in this photo, with no focal point in the center.  Now that your eye is "trained" a bit, I think you can see them.

Rules are made to be broken!  There ARE times when you want to make the center of the photo the focal point.  This is a good example...the light at the end of the tunnel!  Note, tho', the Rule of Thirds is still active.  

This fisherman's torso is in the middle of the frame, but his head is in the top 1/3, so your eye goes there.  THREE archways...THREE children.

Another example of creative centering.  In this case, it was important to show the grasses shimmering in the sunset light.  They were more dramatic than the actual sunset.  The tree is the main focal point, however, only the bottom of the trunk is [almost] in the center...the limbs bring your eye away from center to the upper 1/3 of the photograph and the horizon line is almost at the 1/3 mark.  

Symmetry.  Sometimes you want to photograph one object.  Period.  Here's where you want to center it exactly in the middle of the frame.  No tricks or rules.  It's just centered.  In this example, I had the use of the Odd Number element, too.

I took advantage of symmetry in this photo of an interesting cyclist.  Each side is the same with the fellow in the center.  However, his head is in the center upper 1/3 with certain elements directing your eye upwards.  All three "rules" followed here.

Finally, a few samples of  NOT following the Rule of Thirds on the horizontal.  One example is a reflective "mirror image" in a body of water.  If you positioned the bottom of the photo in only 1/3 of the frame, you would lose part of the reflective image. You want the same, top and bottom. However, your eye is still drawn to the left third of the frame with the tree line, clouds and distant mountain.

These next two example are all about the clouds!  Who needs to see land with clouds like this??  Cut off the ground to the bare minimum!  But, again, the eye goes to the bottom 1/3 of the photo due to the cloud line and the position of the light/sun/color.

For "artistic drama", again, cut off the ground.  This example gives the idea of total isolation on the beach overlooking the never ending ocean. The focal point is off-center in the bottom 1/3 of the frame.  

I minimized the ground in this photo, but placed the convenient cloud line at the 1/3 mark.

I know this was long, but I hope I gave you plenty of examples of the three basic composition elements.  YOU can have a "good eye", too!  Just follow these simple "rules".  Practice taking shots around your house/yard.  They don't have to be National Geographic scenes...just practice looking through your viewfinder, dividing your photo into thirds, finding odd numbers, and add "movement" by placing your subjects so they, and your eyes, follow a trail.  Most of all, have fun with your camera!

I'll leave you with a few more samples, without commentary....just for the heck of it!  If I don't catch up with you before Thursday, everyone have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!!  And, as always,

Thank you for being an Amazon shopper through my links!  
I am thankful for your orders!