Sunday, October 28, 2018

Geocaching with kiddos and dogs

October 25th

"Do you want to go Geocaching with the dogs and the kiddos?" 
the email from my neighbor inquired.

I talked to Rich about it, asking if he wouldn't mind having a day of peace and quiet and if he would be okay with Charlie and I going off hiking for the day.
He said yes.
I typed a reply...YES! I have heard of geocaching, but have never done it.

After CrossFit, I hurried did the chores and made sure that Rich had what he needed to have lunch. I packed some snacks for myself and stuffed a backpack full of light items to bring along.

I've been to WildCat Mountain State Park a few times and have even done the Old Settler's Trail twice, but I'd always had a limited amount of time and never really explored the different outlooks or the trails. I just hiked the 3 miles of up and down hill trails and always hurried home.

The first stop was the Outlook. I'd been hiking here before and for the life of me I cannot figure out why I didn't take the time to look!

Really...? The view is something incredible!

After ohhhing and ahhhing, we set off to hunt caches.
Basil and Charlie tried to wrestle as we walked and often got tangled up. The kids ran ahead with the cell phone to look for treasures.

It was a great learning experience for the kids, as well as fun. At times the app would say that they were 100 or so feet from the next cache and they'd want to cross through the woods. Since I knew the trail I suggested they follow it as many of the spots were switch backs because of the steep terrain.

We couldn't find some of the caches, especially the one that was 'hidden' near a little quiet stream. The clues left said that we may get our feet wet. However that was not an issue for the dynamic trio.

We didn't find the cache and I explained to the disappointed explorers that we'd had some rather heavy rain falls this summer and flash floods...the cache may just have been washed away!

Basil and Charlie enjoyed the trip too.

They were super troopers and walked the whole distance along with all of the little side trips.
Both of them took instant naps when we did get back in the car to go home.

An electronic scavenger hunt.
And the scenery was beautiful too!

Friday, October 26, 2018

One Eyed Pink Bear

I've never been a Teddy Bear person. Until, well...this year.

So last Friday I was walking through Wally World and here was a clearance shelf of Teddy Bears. One bear looked like it was trying to escape. The pink Bears were SO not my color. The brown and white bears looked like Percy and Chance. I moved to see if there was another color behind the Pink bears and noticed one Pink Bear had only one eye.
Something said, "Grab it. How often can you get a one eyed bear?"

I walked away.

Yesterday morning after CrossFit I went to Wally World again to grab some cereal. With our insane schedule of doctors appointments, I'd been slacking in the grocery department.
Something made me walk back over to the clearance isle.

Most of the bears were gone. One Pink Bear sat by itself. And I thought, no...I don't need another bear. Really. Nope I don't.

So I picked up the bear and stuck it in my little basket. At checkout, the lady pointed out that the bear had only one eye.

I replied, "Perfect."

Let this Bear's adventures begin. I am acquiring a pirate patch for said Bear.

Welcome Pink Bear.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Up and at 'em

The alarm rings and I grab for it. Some mornings of course I am awake before that 4:30 ding a ling.

I consider not getting up but then I remember the CrossFit thing I've committed myself to.
And I get up and smile through my first cup of coffee.

Some folks around me don't voice it but I'm sure they may be thinking...
"Has she gone daffy?"

During the WOD or workout portion of rowing, burpees, rope jumping, lifting, or pull ups [each workout is modified to my ability as a beginner...] ... I feel my parts saying NO NO! And my mind is saying please yes!

My workout mates gather around and cheer me on if I am doing something hard, or I find myself cheering another on, or helping him/her put things away or set them up.
I've found a clan of nutty people.

And suddenly that alarm is no longer intrusive in the morning, but awakens me with a smile.

And then when I do drive home...
I get these views...

And yes, I even do that early workout before driving to Madison for appointments.
Well, as long as the appointments for Rich aren't too early themselves. It is a 2 hr drive and I have to get him up and awake which is a job in itself.

This week is no piece of cake in the appointment department. But the all day endorphines seem to help.

Oh yes. I do give myself breaks. The other morning I slept in until 6:30. However my day felt off somehow.

Rich is doing okay. Speech Therapy is proving to be extremely frustrating for him and he can't let go of the fact that language and writing used to be so easy. And now some days it is impossible or he feels it is impossible.

Those mornings though are something else.

I have a purpose with each waking day.

I can handle the difficult issues that keep coming up each day with a bit of a better tempermant. This is why I get up and do CrossFit.

And ...
why not?
Tomorrow we get to RUN! OHHH my favorite!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Digital Art and Acrylic Art

I like artsty stuff, I like it better if I can do it myself.

Last night I was wandering through DIY information for making crackled paint with Elmer's Glue when I happened on something called Acrylic Pouring...or Fluid Painting.
Wow, just cool enough to be right up my alley!
I worked on some play blocks and used two different glues to 'crack' the paint. My results with the wood glue were so-so. But heck it is going in the painted block box for building, so no big deal.

The second block I did turned out even neater. Now I have to find sticks to make a welcome sign.
I use sticks because I couldn't paint a pretty Welcome by hand no matter how I tried and stencils always make a mess anyway. Glue some fake leaves to it, and viola! I have a cute sign thingy to set on the entry way table.

The last little block I messed with was really interesting. I gooed the top with Elmer's Glue, then used a 'dirty pour' method with layers of acrylic paint in a tiny cup and dripped it in one spot on the block. The I tipped it around so it would cover the whole side.
The glue is drying and separating the paints and making cracks. The paints look like a swirl of madness on the little block.
My impression? Very neat.

I'll do pictures a bit later.

Because it was soooo windy 47 mph gusts yesterday, I stayed inside and did some Digital Art also.

Here is a slightly Van Gogh layer over a photo I took coming home from my CrossFit on Friday morning. I like it and it pleased me.

Then I turned to DeepDream and decided to see what artificial intelligence would do to my fall photo.


The acrylic paints? I'd like to try something like this just once....Through a strainer, the flip cup method, or the dirty cup method...or paint with a string.

I like wild and weird stuff.

Now my favorite digital art is computer generated with a program called Mandelbulb 3D, and Incendia, and JWildfire. All free programs and a lot less messier.

This time of the year I usually take a bit of a break from the camera and do a bit of digital artwork and painting as the days get cold and dull. I also work on some still life to keep my creative juices going.

My next trip to town will involve getting a couple of cheap canvases to try some of the flip cup acrylic pour.

I'm putting up my little corner of fall decorations too. I caved in. Summer is over, fall is here, and winter is just around the corner.
It snowed here yesterday again.

In the meantime, the sun will be up in a bit and perhaps Charlie and I should go see it.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Not Puppies and Kittens!

I have to say that I have the most interesting children living at the 'top' of our driveway.
Mom and Dad are pretty darn cool too.

The kids got new pets.
And I am not talking about the 4H goats that they have. Nor am I talking about the chickens. Allie showed her chicken in open class at the fair because she couldn't show in regular 4H. Logan showed his goat in open class for the same reason.

I'm not talking about the cats that they have.


Ever hear of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches? No, I didn't either. But do you recall Allie, my neighbor's daughter who became fascinated with collecting insects for her Clover Bud 4H project?

This summer she discovered that fireflies ate slugs. So she collected them. And showed them to me...

When a little girl presents you with so much enthusiasm how can it not interest you? Allie went to a presentation to learn how to 'mount' her insects properly to show them at the Fair.
Can we just say that she is a budding Entomologist?

And Kudos for mom and dad for allowing her to explore this interest without getting grossed out.

Allie let me pet her Hissing Cockroaches.

I did not find them revolting, but actually very interesting. They eat dog and cat food and fruits. Any kind of fruits!
I did hold one and did not freak out. They were cool. They do hiss loudly.

I am amazed.

Then Carson pulled me into his room to introduce me to Sissilia. She is a Royal Python aka Ball Python. Known as a Ball Python because the will curl into a ball.

Here Carson takes Sissilia out and she curls around his wrist like an exotic bracelet. He told me it was OK to touch and pet her. And I do. Like the cockroaches ... I feel no revulsion at all. The snake is warm. Carson coaches me on how to pet her properly.

Not a great shot but here is a book image of the python and Sissilia.

We move upstairs were I can take turns petting and holding the Hissing Cockroaches and touching a python.

Let's not forget Logan's rabbits. They now live outside in a hutch. Their names are Medusa and... uh oh... OH! Skull! I didn't get their photos, but they are beautiful rabbits and soooo sooo soft!

Carson has a bath drawn for Sissilia.
It has to be just the right temperature. Baths are important as Carson tells me that Sissilia may have slithered through poo and a bath will keep her clean and healthy.

Stop the presses.

Okay....she is .. just a puppy an ordinary doggy!

How on earth could there be a normal pet? Oh...gosh. Why not!

So while Carson and I were supervising Sissilia's bath, Basil peered over the tub edge.

Sissilia turned herself upside down as if to play dead to the sudden surprise.

I found a snake to have an incredible personality and learned so much from Carson regarding their behavior.

I hope I can go back next week and hold her.

I was able to witness a 'feeding'. I didn't record it. But watched with the whole family as we witnessed how a constrictor ate. 

It was not gross or disgusting. But a lesson in nature...and very educational.

Madagascar Hissing Beetles. Ball Python. Bunnies.
Basil [Charlie loves free time rough and tumble time with her...]

I am blessed. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

When I Retire....

I had a dream of retiring when I was in my later 60's and had worked much longer.

Hold the horses! Hubby's stroke put a quick end to my part time job that paid so so very well. However it was a double edged sword, the pay was great. The hours were awful. Midnight shifts, 12 hour shifts, shift during the day or night all within the same week. But dang, that money was good and it all went into a savings for our future.

We live lean, don't do shopping sprees, and our main costs were of course the animals on the farm.

I used to drive by the Wellness Center in our town each morning and got a glimpse of people working out early on stationary bikes, treadmills, and other equipment while I was getting fuel at the local gas station.
I told hubby that when I retired, I wanted to be able to go to the gym.

He wrinkled his nose at that and said that I was just fine. ALL that hiking I did surely kept me in tip top shape.

Well. Yesterday I stopped at the new Wellness Center. There are two other gyms in town one a franchise AnyTime Fitness, and another one that boast low prices.

The Wellness Center will cost me more, however, I've had two shoulder surgeries, and one elbow surgery and the WC is connected to the local hospital and the staff are certified Physical Therapists and Certified Trainers.
Besides, they are the only ones in a 60 mile radius that offer CrossFit.

When I went over the cost with Rich I explained that it works out to about $4 per day. His argument?
Waste of money. You are fit.

My argument?
I need a routine outside of the home with folks that I am not a CareGiver for. I need to take care of me and my body to stay mentally fit and physically fit.
I can always BE more fit.

I'm doing it because I used to be crazy about staying in shape. I ran distances for fun, I rode bicycles for long distances for fun...

My father went back to a gym when he was in his 80's to improve leg strength and balance.

CrossFit is new to me.
But now that I am retired? Or semi retired, but working at caregiving, I still need something to do for me.

The flexible hours are pretty incredible too. Sessions are held at 5, 6, 8:30, 11am, and I think at 4pm and 5pm.

Well. Thank you Ed for suggesting this. I visited with them yesterday and start today.
I won't be the oldest person in the group either. There is a woman who is 76 that has been doing this for 7 years!

I'm out of here!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Editing ~ Creative Stuff

I started doing photography and felt that every photo just had to be perfect and straight out of the camera as I saw it.

I joined Flickr and started seeing other photographers doing editing and other things to photos, I met those who did abstract computer art, and... suddenly my world started to expand.

I began to learn the basics photoshop, GIMP, and other programs. I tried most anything I could get my hands on. Yesterday I came across something in my searches called 'Paint with Light Effect'. I decided to check it out.
I'd done Painting with Light at night and had a lot of fun. However, I don't often go out late at night and do photography.

It has been fun, and so I wondered what this new Painting with Light was.

However, it was not what I expected. It was painting light within a photo to dramatically change a photo.

I happened on something called the Briscoe Lighting Effect.

Tony Kuyper covers this in his WordPress blog and has a short video regarding the method that uses CreativeSuite by Adobe. I can't afford the CS by Adobe and I don't like 'renting' a program and paying for it monthly.

I started using ON Photo, the free version after Adobe went to a pay monthly fee. I kept my version of CS2.  I eventually went for ON1 RAW and I like the program. I own it and can upgrade if I want. It is a bit easier than CS, but it is not as creative.

All that gobbledygook aside, I thought I'd take some techniques and try to use them in ON1 RAW.

Here is the original photo:

Pretty boring isn't it? This is not what I imagined it to be as my eye saw the sunlight just barely coming in from the far side of the stream.

I also wanted the photo to have a dreamlike quality to it.

After a lot of missteps and start overs, I stopped here. Yes, this is what I wanted.

I edited the specific colors in the far end of the stream. I also used a texture layer to darken the sides and one more cloud layer to put the reflection of the sky in the water.

It isn't realistic, but it was something I saw in my mind's eye when I took the shot.

Here is what the ON1 editing program looks like and why it is SO easy to work with.
No, they do not pay me to talk about their programs.

I'd met someone recently who had told me how lost she was when using CS/Adobe Elements and layers.

Here is ON1 with the same photo, but I am editing it to be a black and white photo.

The original shot was pretty unimpressive too. But I wondered how it would look transformed in Black and White. I brightened the yellows, the oranges, in the color enhancer and then shifted it to Black and White and played with the sliders.

Besides ... X marks the spot.

I took this next shot and of course did some more play with it.

Sigh. It is nice but...

Black and White:

The leaves stand out in this shot, where they really didn't in the color version.

Next up?

I watched a video on how to composite a fantasy scene.

I will have to use both ON1 and CS2 for that. It is a great challenge.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Froufrou Doggy?

Thursday afternoon I gathered a few items together and stuck them in a backpack. My goal had been to get back to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve for working on some of those trails in the Trail Challenge. I'd given up hope on completing that after my MIL's hospitalization, rehab, and return to her apartment.

Between her and Rich I had nearly a full time job going on and had no real breaks other than walks around the farm with Charlie and Dixie.

Charlie started to eye me carefully as I put some trail mix into a snack bag and a few tiny dog treats. When I put on my gun belt and old coveralls he perked up his ears. I was under Charlie watch.

Even with the set back in the Trail Challenge, I didn't want to lose the strength in my legs from ... not hiking. Besides, it is so convenient to just walk out the door and go when you are surrounded by woods with little obscure trails. Hiking in cooler temperatures is just more pleasant.

"Where are you off to?" asked my husband. He was watching Netflix, sitting in the folding metal chair right next to the flat screen and the old computer that is hooked up to screen.

We'd finished up with his Telehealth appointment and he said he'd watch a show and then take his meds and a nap. He decided that it was too cold, muddy, windy, to take his walk... And.
I am not allowed to nag him, only ask once and then let it be. However I do repeat asking if he forgets his medication.

"Where are we off to?"
I looked down at Charlie.
"Adventure!" I said.
Normally I have a route planned out for one of our little walks, but this time I didn't.

"Yes, Charlie and I are going and I'm not exactly sure, but we may go the the Back Valley."  There, at least I did have an idea of a goal.

"Okay." My husband frowns and looks at Charlie. "Think he can make that hike?"

"Well," I answer, "I guess we will find out. Besides, he will let me know if he wishes to 'get a lift'."

I check my .22 pistol and decide that it really does need a good cleaning again. I check the safety and put it in the holster.

Charlie and I depart and head up the trail that the bulldozer man had made for us. Down into the creek we go, cross it and head up the other steep hillside.
Charlie is happy. His nose is working overtime and he darts back and forth, then runs ahead and stops to check on me.

I haven't brought my DSLR camera. This is a hike, not a photo journey, though often I do combine the two. I just wanted to hike. The route I sort of had in mind would be about 3 miles with several steep hills.

We come out of the woods and skirt along some cropland. There are some guys who come out and hunt this area. I find a tree stand on the fence line to our property and it annoys me as it is set up to point into my wooded area. I sigh and move on. I find another one perched on my neighbor's fenceline along the snowmobile trail along with a trail camera. I've cut across about 30 feet of this other person's land and get caught on the camera.
I stop and wave at the camera and then move on. [This is the only person in our area that has not been a very good neighbor...he doesn't live on the cropland but considers it and anything around his fence to be 'his'. I'm sure we all know folks like that.]

Charlie is happy to bounce and run along the deer trail on the snow mobile trail. He dodges the tall grass and stops to the smell scat of every critter that has passed through.

Charlie and I cross the ridge and stay alongside the woods, the wind is cold but refreshing. We dip down on an old obscure logging trail that hasn't been used in 13 years. This is one of those places that opens up into an old forest stand that is not been over run with brush.

Those spots of yellow are not leaves from the trees above, but thousands of seedling trees sprouting up.

We head down the hill towards the stream in the back valley when we hear sirens. The highway is about 3/4 of a mile below us and the way the land lies in the spot we were in...the highway sounds echo up between the hills.
Charlie stops and puts his paws on my leg. I find a log and sit down so he can sit in my lap.

He scrambles up and listens to the sirens with me.

As the sirens start to fade, another eerie sound bounces off the hillsides. This sound makes me feel a bit chilled.

Coyotes voices drift up to us from below. It sounds as though dozens of them are calling and sounding off for a hunt. Charlie shivers and looks at me. I check my pistol and it is there. The sounds of those voices chill me too.
During the coyote mating season, I don't walk with any dogs as the 'yotes tend to be territorial and I've had two dogs stalked while I've hiked with them in years past.

Eventually they quiet down and I set off with Charlie again, though I've changed our route. We won't go into the back valley we will stay above it. I walk with Charlie's cord in my hand and he goes back to smelling everything he can.

[It dawns on me a bit later that the coyote howling was probably in response to the sirens from the emergency vehicles.]

I finally stop at the place I refer to as the Overlook. It is a point of land that overlooks the valley. It is a rock outcropping high above the valley. I sit on a log and we have our snacks. Charlie has forgotten the eerie noises and is enchanted by having a dog treat way out in the woods.

The drop off is just beyond those ferns. The trees to the left hang on rocks.

We spend a bit of time just sitting there and enjoying the sounds of the woods around us.

I keep a hand on Charlie's cord as we negotiate the deer trails and climb past The Ice Cave. I can see that something has used the structure to eat small animals. Little piles of fur are matted against the sandstone bottom.

We climb out of the woods and hike through the tall grasses. Charlie leaps and jumps and I finally drop the cord and follow him. I decide to take a different way home and we go through another steep rocky dry run.

We get to the creek that leads back to our property but I decide to cross it instead of following it back to our bulldozed trail.

The water is up with all the rain we've had. The ground is so saturated that any amount of rain is cause for a flash flood.
Charlie charges through the cold water.

I want to see how the snowshoe trail I have used over the years faired over the summer and all of the wind storms...

The trail is still there but several trees have come down and I have to reroute through berry briers and multiflora rose.
I'll have to use the machete to clear a few areas or just use the trail that the 4 wheelers had left.

We come to the Merry Meadow where our 'herd' used to graze until November. It is overgrown now but we use an old cow/horse/mule/donkey/deer trail to hike back to our gate.

Charlie runs willy nilly, bouncing along in only a way he can do it.

When we get to the house he greets Rich with enthusiasm after I towel him off and remove his cord.
He promptly jumps on the couch and falls asleep.

Someone told me I had a Froufrou doggy.
I don't think so. I think he believes he is just a tough little hound.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Best Morning ... Ever!

I received a text that asked if I could watch Logan for a couple of hours while mom took a nap. 

Let me explain something. Mom works from her home office teaching English to Chinese students via the internet. She works up lesson plans and works with so many students
She had an overnight presentation [I'm sure that I am not getting the details right] and was wondering if I could spend a bit of time with Logan while she took a power nap to compensate.

I jumped at the chance and texted back "YES!"
Logan is 5 and full of surprises. I had some pumpkin projects to do and said that we could paint pumpkins and decorate them.

I went downstairs and retrieved the wooden blocks I'd saved from the house remodel. I'd sanded and painted them just for the purpose of having little people come to the house and building with them. I've got very fond memories of my children playing with blocks from my mother's house that she and dad built....and memories of playing with a box of odd wooden pieces that my Grandparents put together from the building of their house.

I dug out some acrylic paints and a few tiny pumpkins.
As a second thought, I gathered all of my acquired toys in a basket and brought them downstairs too. Many of the toys were those that Logan had given me over the past two years to 'play' with and take home when I'd watched him at his house.

I was ready when I got the text: "We are on our way."

Pumpkin painting is serious stuff when your pumpkin needs to be black.

While the black pumpkin dried enough to tip over and get painted on the bottom, Logan decided to use some red paint and then red glitter glue to decorate the second pumpkin.

While the projects did some more drying we decided to explore the blocks and toys.

And I learned how to build a proper castle.

And we filled it with Dinosaurs, donkeys, skunks, My Little Ponies and trolls. However the Soldiers were the favorites.

Charlie inspects the toy basket and then sits on the couch to watch...

And a huge battle ensued.

Toys got waylaid all over the living room floor. The castle seemed to get blown up from the sound effects...

And we went back to the kitchen to check on the pumpkins while the toys recovered...

This is a proper 'scarey' pumpkin with red diamond eyes, nose and mouth.

After Logan returned home and I came back from walking with him, my husband quipped:

It is a good thing you have someone your OWN age to play with.

I grinned. I had such a good morning with Logan! Rich enjoyed watching and talking with Logan.


I hope we get to play again.