Saturday, December 31, 2011

Out with 2011

Today is it. New Years Eve Day, 2011.
Yesterday we had a 'wintery mix' of precipitation.
I think that is the weather-person's way of saying...*Hey, something is going to happen, we're just not sure if it will be ice, rain, or snow!*

We had ice and we had rain...and then we had snow.

Today the forecasters are ominous.
They predict snow and harsh winds for late tonight. I mean the kind of winds that will blow you off the road...that is, if you can see the road because the wind will be blowing snow. Wind gusts up to 55mph!

Oh, let's not forget about the heavy fog this morning and glazing of ice on roads.

Although it did decorate plants with a beautiful 'hoar' frost.

But I must admit, this winter has been mild compared to last year. So I should be grateful.

Have I made any New Years Resolutions?

My only wish on this New Years Eve is that the snow and the harsh winds hold off until I am safely home and tucked into bed.
Then let 'er blow!

So from our house to yours:
...and let's not forget Morris also!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fractal Program Mandebulb 3D

If you enjoy fractals you will definitely enjoy this program called Mandebulb 3D. It can be downloaded from for free.

Warning...this program gets to be fun and addicting!
You'll want to explore the depths of fractals and the different formulas that go along with it.
I won't pretend to understand how this really works, but I have found video tutorials and blogs that would help anyone get started.
These are:
Mandebulb 3D Tutorial Part One a YouTube video by kitchedon.
Mandelbulb/Mandelbrot Tutorials a blog by Mandelwerk
Mandebulb 3D - Negative Tutorial by *Fiery Fire [at deviantArt]

Here is a screen shot of what the workspace looks like:

Looks intimidating and messy. But if you take time to look at the tutorials, it helps quite a bit.
You may spend quite a bit of time working on a fractal, only to decide it was nothing and not worth saving.

But. Then you get one fractal that simply slaps you up side the head and you know you've got a good one!

And don't be afraid to take it into a post processing program and add your own special touches.
For the fractal featured above I added 'mist'. I grabbed a photo that had clouds in it...
I selected it and dropped it on top of the fractal....
Then made the cloud photo black and white, changed the layer style to screen and decreased the opacity to about 33%. I used a rough brush to erase any place the 'mist' seemed to interfere with my fractal.

Here are a couple of other fractals I've stumbled through.
One of my first attempts:
Going wild with colors!
...and then experimenting with parameters:
The possibilities are endless.
And lastly, the program will also allow you to produce an animation. This is my first attempt which isn't very good I admit...

But there are some fantastic ones on YouTube:
They are simply amazing...

If you are creative, you'll enjoy this!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Thor, the Funny Donkey

Meet Thor. Our funny, wise, silly, entertaining young Jack.

He is always ready to greet you.
The moment he hears the squeak of the back door [perhaps we should get it oiled?], he begins a long and continuous loud braying sound that would make anyone who has never been around donkeys cover their ears.

It could be a noise so awful as to make you think of fingernails screeching down the chalkboard.

We love donkeys and their screeching...or braying is music to my ears.
In the middle of the night you will hear Thor or any one of the donkeys answer with a loud bray to the coyotes calling in the hills around us.

How unfortunate I am.
Unfortunate...because I didn't have my camera!

The other day I watched quite amused while Thor picked up a stick as large as a baseball bat...and began playing with it.
He tossed it.
Retrieved it.
Then came over to his partially frozen water tub and stuck the stick in it.
I swear he was stirring his water!

I ran to the house and got my camera, switched it to video, and came out prepared to 'catch' Thor in the act.
Instead, he dropped the stick and trotted over to me.

Did I mention that I think Thor knows exactly what a camera is for?
He stood and pointed his ears, as if to pose.

Later, I glanced out the kitchen window and watched as Thor returned to his game with the stick.
He definitely is quite the character!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve the Night Animals Talk

When I was a child I heard a 'legend' that animals got the ability to talk at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve.

My Grandmother was excellent at telling these sort of stories.
But as an animal lover I held on to this tight and believed her.

I believed that at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, that magic happens.
However most Christmas Eve's were spent in the city where we rented a house.
The cat never talked, rather he seemed perturbed by me interrupting his sleep.

Later we had dogs. They sleepily thumped their tails and rolled over so I could scratch their bellies.

So for a long while I forgot the 'legend' that Grandma told me.
Until I moved to a place where I could keep equine.

One Christmas Eve, I went out into the pasture where some of our mules were...and my horse Cheyanne.

The night was clear, the stars were shining brightly illuminating the snow that crunched under foot.
My animals looked up and walked quietly over to me. Their breathes leaving frosty plumes in the starry light.

Will I tell you what happened next?
Well, I'm not sure myself. Did I hear them speak?
No, but I believe I heard their thoughts very clearly.

Maybe it was that I wanted this legend to be true -- to hear them speak in human tongue.

Maybe I needed it to be true.
Maybe I needed to believe in the magic of Christmas Eve.

The Animals’ Christmas Eve

In the barn on Christmas Eve, after all the people leave,

The animals in voices low, remember Christmas long ago.

One small hen, upon her nest, softly clucks to all the rest:

“Little chicks, come gather near. A wondrous story you will hear.”

The Animals’ Christmas Eve, a Little Golden Book, by Gale Wiersum and illustrated by Jim Robison.

Go ahead, believe in the magic.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter Solstice

This morning I celebrated the Winter Solstice which marks the beginning of Winter and the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

How do you celebrate?
I usually like to take a nice long walk on the eve of the solstice and capture a sunset from up on the ridge.

[This taken in 2007]

This year, I didn't get the chance to walk up onto the ridge... but this morning...

I awoke and was able to sit in the kitchen with a cup of coffee and watch the morning sunrise paint the sky with beautiful pastel colors.

In the utter silence [except for the ticking of the heater in the living room], I sat and watched as the colors paled and gave way to a light blue sky.

The tips of the trees over the meadow were tipped with orange light.
The horses and mules all stood quietly as if observing the beautiful morning also.

As the light of day grew stronger I was able to watch a doe pick her way through the neighbor's woods.

*Welcome winter,* I thought.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

At Midnight

It was just before midnight...

And under the tree...

The Toys they were ready,
For at Midnight they were
To talk, walk -- so promised the Red Teddy...

And so they rearranged gifts,
And had fun

Getting in the Christmas Mood!

Spoiled Dog Lives Here ~ by Morris

Well that is what HE says.

SHE says I'm not spoiled, just privileged.
I like it when SHE takes naps on the couch.
That means she brings out her flannel covered pillow and this soft fleecy blanket and I usually snuggle my way into the deal.

SHE doesn't mind.
SHE says I'm like a live 'leg warmer'.

I like it even better if she leaves the blanket and the pillow[s] on the couch. Then I can make my own little JRT nest and ignore HIM!

Last night was so sweet.

SHE came down to sleep on the couch because SHE got her ribs hurt when HE gave her the big huge Bear Hug a few days ago.

The doctors said she didn't break a rib, but sprained all the
muscle stuff so it hurts to breath or do most things.

SHE called it an intercostal muscle strain ... says it is one of the worst strains you can have.

HE feels really really awful terrible bad. In fact HE even made her lunch two days in a row. That is amazing.

SHE says she will get better but sometimes she has to lay just a certain way and the couch supports her laying this funky way so that it doesn't hurt when she breathes.

ALL I know is that I am not in the dog house and am loving all the extra cuddle time.

I'd think HE'd be in the dog house you know?

After all, I've only licked her right in the face after eating nasty stuff...and yeah, I can be a pain. But I never strained her.

I do know however that when SHE let me out to do the 'business' this morning, we both were overjoyed at seeing the snow.

I'll bet HE won't let HER take me for a hike with her sprained muscle stuff.

I guess I'll just snuggle in the nice blankets and enjoy my cuddle time!

Life can be most excellent for a little dog!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Planes, Trains, Automobiles...

Public Transportation seems to fail miserably whenever I take it.

When I've flown, I've been meet over 90% of the time with long delays in airports. Okay, I do understand that delays cannot be helped.
But as service in the air industry gets poorer and poorer, my expectations while having a nice 'friendly flying' experience get worse each time I go.

So this past week I decided to experience taking the Amtrak to visit my son.

The trip down wasn't too bad. I missed my connection to the town of Sturtevant by literally 30 seconds.
I was given a refund and my son picked me up in Milwaukee.

The return trip was some sort of comical nightmare.
We should have known when we made our first stop and all the lights and power went off on the train.
My 'seat mate' and I looked at each and wondered allowed...

"Could this be a good sign?"

Within moments we were on our way again. I was able to watch a brilliant orange to red sunset as my seat mate talked endlessly on her cell phone. Other passengers were conversing and it was interesting to watch the interaction.

Other passengers buried their heads in books or stared off at nothing, not wishing to be engaged in 'passenger chatter'.

The train slowed.
Again, everything shut down.
Now more people looked around and wondered outloud...
"What the heck is going on?"
No announcement from the conductor.

We made our Columbus stop, and the Portage stop with the lights going off each time before the train proceeded.

Then finally the train slowed to a standstill.
Lights out. The fresh air filters, out.

After what seemed like an eternity...

An unseen voice came over the PA system.
"As you may have noticed, we have been having trouble with our engine..." the voice said. "We have our conductors out working on the problem. We'll notify you soon what the situation is."

The voice paused and then said..."Do not try to exit the train, do not try to open windows. You must stay on the train. You may not leave. Thank you."

We all glanced at our watches. Cell phones lit up the dark as people scrambled to call those who would and should be picking them up on the properly scheduled time.
Nervous laughter.
Some whispered cussing.

Someone called out that they should just go online and order a new train engine from and have it UPS'd same day.
Another said..."Well, then we really be here a long time!"

The group surrounding me started playing noises with their cell phones to pass the time. People recorded their voices and turned it into 'Robot Voices'. We laughed like kids.
We thought we should get together and go to the lounge and have a party at the 'bar'.

Someone got out gummy worms and passed them around. Another got out Oreo Cookies and passed them around. Pretzels appeared.
Bailey's Cream appeared and was given to anyone who had an empty container in which to drink from.

An array of people of different ages, racial backrounds, geographical backrounds, and educational backrounds suddenly seemed to meld together ~~ determined to make the best of a crappy situation.

Jokes were told, laughter abounded. People stood up and wandered from car to car.
Funny, the conductors seemed to have disappeared.

When one did walk hurriedly through the care one of us yelled out..."Hey, what about a keg of beer while we're waiting?"
He mumbled over his shoulder something about the wish for a Fifth...of Jack...and continued.

Okay, they were obviously not having a good time with a 17 car passenger train, crammed with people.

Nearly 2 hours later, when things had gotten pretty darned stuffy, the train lit up and we began to move.
No unseen voice explained a thing.

I thought that was pretty crappy.

But now we had a 'band' of travelers that had taken a potentially uncomfortable situation and had made it an experience worth remembering.

3 hours late, I got to my destination.
I have to wonder if what happened was a fluke, or was it a constant with trains?

After all, I really did enjoy the train ride.

Maybe I'll re-thank my options next time and drive my car...or maybe
...I won't.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Whirlwind Visit

Any time I get to visit with my son and his wife it is always fun and interesting...I'm guaranteed to be worn out by the end of the visit.

After picking me up at the train station we went out to eat at The Noble.
What a wonderful surprise to find out that one of the owners was a childhood friend of my son's...and this friend David Kressin had left an indelible impression on me when I'd last seen him over 16 years ago.

Funny, comical, and always easy with a smile...I'd often wondered what and where this young man had gone.

What an incredible place he and his fiance, April Woelfel, have created!

The next morning was a whirlwind shopping blitz. REI & IKEA.
We were all over northern Illinois.
& Lincolnshire for supper at The Cheesecake Factory.

I must stop here a moment and talk about the IKEA experience.

Really? 3 Floors of displays? A map to get around the store?
Arrows on the floor to help you keep track of your directions and headings...

While I sat on furniture, tried out beds, I guess the most fun I had was...
in the kitchen 'supplies' area.
There it was.
A bin chocked full of kitchen timers.
Just waiting for a mischievous elf like me...[and son].

Couldn't help it.
The child in me took over.
How many timers could I set to 10 minutes in 10 seconds?
How many timers could I set to go off at 2 minute intervals?
It was a wonderful challenge.
We did well.

The timers kept going off at intervals even as we left that floor.

I think one should have to take a sanity test to go shopping with my son and his wife.
Actually I am just kidding.
You just better be in good physical shape to keep up with them.

Our nights are filled with 'movie' marathons. I don't have many movies at home, so this is something I really look forward to on my visits. is one of the reasons I decided to take the train for travel. I won't be making a 4 hour drive tired!

Friday, December 09, 2011

An Amtrak Adventure

[La Crosse Train Station~so very much like I recall stations as a kid...the wooden benches and wide open spaces.]
[The Milwaukee Station. Modern, clean, comfortable]

Well the train trip did not exactly start off perfect.
There was a delay of 45 minutes which I was assured by other passengers...would be made up in time for me to make my connection in Milwaukee.

The trip itself was very relaxing and enjoyable. As I said, I did not have to worry about traffic, weather, or a mechanical breakdown.
The price was reasonable, and although it takes a bit longer than driving, it was not as stressful as driving!

However halfway through the trip the train had to stop and 'sensors' on an axle had to be checked.
After a second time, the conductor came over the speakers and said Amtrak had to follow Canadian-Pacific regulations and continue at 30 mph for 5 miles and then do a re-inspection of the axle.

I began to worry about making my train connection in Milwaukee.
As I stepped off the Empire Builder, I watched my connection leave.

Well, it isn't like I haven't had troubles before with traveling. Airplane routes are pretty notorious for getting screwed up.

As luck would have it, my son and his wife had planned on taking me out to eat in Milwaukee anyway.
So we decided I could wait for them at the station and not take the next train towards Kenosha.

I settled in with my laptop [yipee for Wi-Fi connections!] and had some very strong coffee from a station vendor.

I was pleasantly surprised at how clean and modern the train station-bus station was.

Would I do it again?
Oh sure I would!

...and by the way, Amtrak refunded the last leg of my trip back to me ... no grouchy ticket agent like those you sometimes get at airports!!!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Taking a train

So today I'm taking off and heading for adventure.

Okay, not wild adventure.
But I am taking the Amtrak train from the western part of WI to the eastern part of WI.
I haven't done this since I was in college years ago ... traveling from Chicago to Macomb, IL.

I don't know why I haven't explored it before.
The cost is about the same as driving.
The time traveled is about the same as MY driving.

I can sit back and relax.
No worries about weather, flat tires, break downs...

The only drawback, is that Morris is not going to be able to go also.

This should be fun. I'm looking forward to it!

Oh and if ever there was an argument for high speed or any speed commuter rail in our state...ease of traveling SURE would be it!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Sleeping Forest~

After making the 'Enchanted Forest~', I decided to make a follow up the the summer book. I decided to call it 'The Sleeping Forest~'...

After all, doesn't the Forest seem to go to sleep during the winter?
Yes, the plants may go dormant, but not the Forest itself. So much happens and it was a rather surprising and fun book to do.

So Why on Earth, would someone do something like this?

Well, my husband of course thinks I'm a 'great' writer and photographer.
I am neither.
But one day, I'll look back on these 'books' as memoirs or photographic journals and be rather pleased.
Many folk in my area own the 'Enchanted Forest' already, but that it because they enjoyed the common names that I labeled the wildflowers with.
It wasn't meant to be a field guide. Just more of something to enjoy looking at.

...and besides, I do so much enjoy writing and why not do it for myself?

If others happen to enjoy it, so be it!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

"Not Fond of Dogs" by Morris

So I'm resting on the couch after a hard day's hike ... and of course the napping duties in front of the heater that follow....

My other household duty is to 'hold down' the couch.
I look at it this way.
You never know when a couch may get up and want to move.

Besides, someone had left a pillow there...and a nice fleecy blanket...what better materials for a JRT nest?

...and then I heard the phone conversation.
Don't these folks know I understand most of what they are saying???

I heard HIM say to Grandson D that no MORRIS would not be coming. I could hear D complain and asky WHY?
[there is a trip to the Grandkid house today...I was so looking forward to it!]

Long pause.
Then HIM says. 'Well Great Grandma L isn't fond of dogs...'

Yup. I know Great G. L. She is the lady whose shoe I peed on when I was about 7 weeks old.
The only human ever to get her shoe peed on by me.

So...sigh. Today will be lonely as 'they' travel down to see MY Grandkids...who I may add ARE fond of me and I have NEVER peed on their shoes.

...and from what I am hearing ... SHE is planning a trip to see my best buddies in Kenosha soon. But SHE is taking a train. This means I'll be missing out on yet another visit.

I wonder why is it that some people are not 'Fond' of dogs?
What is it about us that is not to love.


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Being a Dog is Tough ~ by Morris

You can imagine the excitement I felt when SHE put on her .22 and grabbed her camera backpack!

I saw her stick a leash in her pocket and I knew...I tell you...
I knew
I was

...and we did too!
I found 'Poopsicles' and SHE didn't even freak out.
SHE just sighed.

I was the brave dog though. We got to the valley and I smelled something.
Something dangerous.
Something alive.
Something was OUT there.
So I puffed all up and growled deeply.
I woofed once and then ran and stood
bravely behind HER legs.

SHE does have the .22 pistol, you know.
I'm not stupid.

When we got back SHE said something like we'd hiked a mile according to her new GPS thingy.
SHE said I probably ran 2 or 3 at least.

No kidding.
All that stress of being look out and at the same time trying to make sure I 'mark' the woods to keep wild creatures at bay...
an old fella could use a nap then.

As a last note for the day.