Monday, November 30, 2009

Macro Monday: Recipe: How to Bake a Camera

To my absolute horror--the nightmare on Ranch Road--this morning I discovered I'd left the camera outside overnight, and--in this land of so little rain--it had rained! (Guess the bets are off on which part of my body will conk out first!) I brought it in, toweled it dry, changed the batteries and took this picture. Let's call this one BO (Before Oven). Looks like a macro of a cloud.

I was crushed! How would I ever explain to Farmer Rick--now that I have gutted our main bathroom and uncovered unsightly, secret, chaotically wired chambers--I would rather have another camera instead and just finish the bathroom project in, say, 2011? That would only be a tiny inconvenience, right? Right? No, that would never do. Not when I'm the one always harping about follow through, like I had it tattooed across my...well you get the picture, no pun intended.

So, I googled 'what to do if your camera got left out in the rain', and I came across someone who said they actually baked their Canon Rebel (I can hear many of you cringing right now) and it was raised like Lazarus from the dead and it has continued working. I decided to give it a try. Even though my oven couldn't go as low as 120 degrees, I set it at my lowest of 170 degrees and baked it (without batteries or memory card) for 20 minutes with the door slightly ajar.

This way, I could at least peek in and see if it was melting. I would hate to have to explain to Farmer Rick how we suddenly needed BOTH a new camera and new oven! I'd really feel like Lucille Ball then. It got hot, way too hot to handle but held its shape. So I let it cool to room temperature. After replacing the batteries and card, here's the first picture.

For AF (After Oven) isn't this amazing? There's still a bunch of moisture under the digital screen of the viewfinder, but I'm hoping I can remove that with a little time in a plastic ziplock baggie and some silica gel. Or maybe it will need to bake longer.

Anyway, here's another vintage bird button and a maple leaf to go along with the recipe!

For more up close and personal images, visit Macro Monday!

Postscript: After a cozy evening spent by the fire with my camera (wish I could have captured this happy photo), and a night sealed in a plastic baggie with all the silica gel packages I could find from shoe boxes, and some Rainsorb thrown in, the last bit of moisture I was seeing in the display screen has completely disappeared! Whew!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Stills: The Letter T

Finally, our colors here are Turning. Fall comes very late when you live so close to Mexico. I've been thinking of it as Summer, since our Summer was Hell. This is the part of my house that used to be the Town Post Office until 1968.

I was inspired by dibear and the shot of her cactus earlier this week, so when mine opened I took one too. I know it's supposed to be a Christmas Cactus, but I think of it as a Thanksgiving Cactus as that's when it always seems to bloom.

Here's my Thoughtful Husband, Farmer Rick, icing a birthday cake he baked for me. Everyone tells me 50 is the new Thirty. This is because they are all older than me and it makes them feel better, too.

I was able to capture Starley, my camera-shy Terrier, giving me a kiss.

I got this nifty set of Tools. One of the advantages of aging is the gifts get better. Remember how thrilled you were at 14 to get just a dime store curling iron? Jewelers use dapping blocks and punches to form metal into curved shapes. This set ranges from itty-bitty to door knob size. Wow! If you've been following the progress of our chicken coop, then you'll know how much I like curves.

I also love the curves of my new Toaster!

Some friends sent me this  Ten Good Things About Getting Older card. I particularly like #5 You can take bets on which part of your body will conk out next. Remember the rib I dislocated earlier in the spring when we began the new chicken coop? Well, I did it again, on my birthday, no less! (By the way, my chiropractor goes by the name Dr. T. I will be calling him Tomorrow!)

How did this happen? Tearing apart our bathroom. Seriously, the space has been bothering me for a long time. Everything came out except the Tub and Toilet (this will eventually be traded out for a low flush model, since our water is like gold to us now). You may remember what I started with when I got this idea back in the summer. Ultimately I decided the only thing I really liked about the room was the switch plates! Well, you have to begin somewhere.

So, I began at the most logical purchasing Toast, Tan, and Tangerine Towels to match...

...and collecting Tile for the mosaic mirror surround I plan to make.

But renovation isn't all fun and is going to be a Terrible Trial of our carpentry skills.  Remember that big mirror?...well apparently it was covering some hidden Trouble!

OMG: WWBVD? (What Would Bob Vila Do?) For more takes on the letter T, visit Sunday Stills.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mid Century Modern

Yesterday for Thanksgiving I was thankful to still be 49. This morning I am reflecting on reaching half a century, which sounds so... old. Of course, I have friends of all ages, so I understand it's all relative, but I do tend to think of myself as a perennial 27.

I received this lovely birthday card from my high school history teacher, Clarice, who is 80, with whom I've stayed in touch for over 30 years. I graduated with the History Award. I'm sure my AARP card is on its way! I hear there are some pretty good discounts.

For breakfast, Farmer Rick made me tea, pancakes with vegetarian sausage and Canadian bacon. He is doing the house chores so I can be relaxed and creative today. I think being a life-long vegetarian with an active lifestyle has kept me youthful and in shape.

Last week at the grocery store the checker and sacker, having just handled my healthful food purchases, asked me if I was a vegetarian, and I said yes. They guessed my age to be 35. Sounds good to me. To be sure, my life is better than it ever has been.

Because most of my friends are tied up with the holiday, I've decided to celebrate all year long and in various ways. It's definitely a time for personal reflection on what I've been through and accomplished, but also a time to discard and pare down to the essential self and make sure my remaining time is vibrant and fulfilling. It's like New Years Eve--only looking ahead at the entire next half century! One thing is for sure, I plan to make more time for music and art.

If you've reached this milestone, I'd love to hear how it has affected your life. If you haven't, I'd still be interested to know how you would handle the second half of your life differently.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Macro Monday: Bird Button

My latest whimsy is collecting antique bird, insect, and flower buttons. I'm hoping to incorporate them into my jewelry making, or at least use them for inspiration. I am in the early phase of appreciating them without knowing much about their history.

For more up close photos visit Macro Monday!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Stills: Horses

For several reasons, this has been the hardest challenge yet, as Ed (facetiously) said. Yesterday's plan to get out and photograph horses was set aside for Phoebe, whom I posted about yesterday. Usually when I let Avo out in the morning he thump-thump-thumps (he's the most heavy footed rooster around) over to wing her and this morning he winged me a couple times and then cautiously walked around looking for her. I think not only do we need a new ewe for Finley's companion, but perhaps we need a real hen to be Avo's.

Anyway, I'm posting a photo of the only horse I own: Milda's Horse. It has an interesting story.

In the early 90's I was volunteering at the booth of a nature preserve at a fair being held at the Austin Botanical Gardens. On my break, I discovered a booth with these quaint little paintings, and one of a horse caught my eye. I had brought no money with me, and the artist was also on break.

The image haunted me for weeks. I called the organizer, and since it was the only art booth at the fair, was able to determine the vendor was a woman named Milda. Fortunately she was in the phone book, so I called her up and inquired about the little horse. She said it was $10 and gave me her address.

When I drove up, I realized she lived in an assisted living tower on the lake. Milda, in her mid 80's, not unlike my own Ruthenian grandmother, was under five feet tall and spoke with a thick Latvian accent. She had prepared Latvian almond cookies for my arrival, as she would for each of my visits over the next year. I bought the painting of her horse.

She had fled Latvia during the communist rule for France, where she studied at a national art academy. Her eyes gleamed talking about the European countryside she had travel and painted. I showed her my own paintings, which were large and realistic still life. My problem in painting landscapes was a matter of scale; it seemed I could not paint anything smaller than it actually was and make it work. Milda was sure she could help change that.

In reality I became her vehicle to get away from the home, as we would take our paints out into the surrounding hill country. She was always 'tinking' (thinking) about us having shows together. In fact, every time she was tinking it involved doing something together. Like me, Milda also played the guitar, only hers was tuned to an open G so that she could play chords by barring with one finger. She liked to sing Latvian folk songs, which we did if it were too rainy to go out and paint. She finally determined I was hopeless as small landscape painter. So we sang and ate cookies.

Then one day she told me her daughter had just died of cancer. I had never met her, nor had I known she was sick, but she lived nearby and apparently assisted Milda in whatever I didn't. Her grandson and his wife had just had a baby and were moving her to California to live with them. As it turned out, the little horse had become something altogether different and very big in my life that I was about to have to part with.

She gave me her daughter's knife and coffee grinder. Milda asked me if I wanted to have one of her paintings as a goodbye gift. I had really admired one of a blackbird sitting on a tree stump, but she said that was the only one she intended to keep. I asked her to pick, and she gave me one of a flower bouquet. We have lost touch. I wonder if she is still with us, and if so if she is still painting, singing, and making almond cookies.

Now the blackbird on the stump haunts me, so much that one day I may paint it in her memory. But at least I have Milda's horse.

For more horses, visit Sunday Stills.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Until Death Do Us Part

I should have known something was up when Avo was crowing at 2:30 a.m. This morning we found Phoebe laid out cold on our morning rounds, and on closer inspection her remaining blind eye, as blue as the Earth from space, blinked. We moved her into the sun where I fed her warm molasses water with electrolytes. She perked up a little and gummed an apple and some alfalfa, but went slowly downhill and passed in my arms.

She had been feisty, her usual self in the days before. The only thing I noticed was she was foaming around the mouth whenever she ate the last couple days, and today discovered a hard mass under her jaw and she appeared anemic. 

Nobody knew how old she was when we found her three years ago by the side of the road, poorly cared for, blind, and presumably hit by a car. She always looked sort of rag tag, but we gave her the best of care and loved her just the same. Because of the neurological damage she always walked in circles and her hooves grew shaped like bananas because she always went in the same direction. You could tell her general mood by the diameter of the circle. Our vet didn't think she'd make it, but she was one tough sheep. So tough--and much to our surprise--she dropped a lamb a few weeks later--two rescues for the price of one!

The vet did not expect Finley to live either, but, of course, he did too. For Avo the outcast rooster, she became the big fuzzy hen of his dreams and she put up with him in a way no one else would. They were inseparable. Farmer Rick and I are heartbroken, and Finley and Avo will be at a loss without her.

This video was taken just last month, you can see the happy trio together.

Interestingly, right before Phoebe passed a raven flew overhead in the direction of North. Native Americans believed the raven was an omen of death, and that they carried the souls of the dead away. North represented winter and old age.

Farmer Rick had to leave for a school rehearsal, and we will bury her before the evening performance. Death is never convenient. We put Finley out to graze earlier and I just let him back into the pen to say farewell. He did not seem to recognize or even be curious about the lifeless body of his mother; instead he looked in all directions crying out for the life force he once knew her as.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Macro Monday: Wandering, Correctly

We had our first frost last night. Here it is glistening in the morning's light on Tradescantia pallida. This is a species of Spiderwort native to the Gulf coast of Mexico and is commonly called 'Wandering Jew'. Although its provenance is indeterminate, many consider this a derogatory name yet I know it by no other. It is a splendidly beautiful trailing evergreen perennial with purple leaves and flowers that brightens up the garden so I'm not sure how this is an offense. We could just as easily call it Wandering Crazy Chicken Lady and I'd be honored!

Some interesting facts: most Spiderworts have a beautiful fragrance if you take the time to sniff them, and studies have shown as houseplants they are very good at removing toxic VOC's from the air.

Visit the up close world of others at Macro Monday!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Stills: Fins, Feathers, and Fur

Even though I live on a river it is close to impossible to photograph fish--the water is so clear (at least when there is water) that the fish usually see you before you see them and skedaddle. So, I'll have to pass on the fins category.

A lovely sunset tonight and feathers allows me to introduce you to Mr. Blue, my newest rooster, who came to live with us two weeks ago. He was among a truckload full going to slaughter with our house carpenter and I asked if I might have him. He is what would be called an Easter Egger because of his blue egg genes. His father is an Ameraucana but he is crossed with something else yet showing some Blue Wheaten coloring in his tail.  Isn't he spectacular?

And from the archives for fur I can think of no better example than Francisco. I call this photo the Big Bed Wolf. I recently had to take him on a business trip and board him for the day at my client's kennel. The moment we walked in, the staff exclaimed "look at that upholstery!"

For more fins, feathers, and fur visit Sunday Stills!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Stills: Currency

As an artist and designer, I find American money very boring compared to that of the rest of the world. Instead I am particularly drawn to ancient coins. It is intriguing to think about the lives and situations where this currency has passed.

Recently I have discovered Mauryan punch marked coins, where the artisan's hand can still be seen. The Mauryan Empire was one of the largest empires to rule the Indian subcontinent and their economy was comparable to the Roman Empire several centuries later since both had extensive trade connections. Jainism was the Mauryas' ancestral religion. These particular coins are from the King Samprati Dynasty around 216-207 BC.

Mauryan coins were irregular in shape made by cutting up silver bars and then making the correct weight by cutting the edges of the coin. I like the imperfection of the shapes.

These coins were patterned with tools known as punches that carried the particular designs, which included the commonly used sun and six-armed symbols, and various patterns such as circles, wheels, human figures, animals, bows and arrows, hills and trees, etc. The punch was placed over the silver, and a hammer was used to deliver the blow to make the particular indention. I use letter punches in making words in in my silver jewelry.

On the right you can see the back stamp punch mark on the coin that showed its authenticity.

For more images of Currency, be sure to visit Sunday Stills!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Macro Monday: Pipevine Swallowtail



Here's the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly from this previously featured caterpillar. It is the most striking metallic blue. This one looks brand new, all its scales in place, and sunning itself to strengthen its wings in my garden this afternoon.

For more close-ups visit Macro Monday!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Stills: Halloween

This is the largest pumpkin from our garden this year...well, to be honest, ever...and it was one that came up entirely on its own in the sweet potato bed. (Our best gardening is always accidental). It was harvested in early summer (which isn't normal) and it has since begun decomposing into this interesting face with big lips...kind of a happy goul.

Farmer Rick was sick all week and I've been making lots of homemade soup. Last night the solenoid in our heat pump got stuck--as it tends to do the first time we turn on the heater each season--so it was 36 degrees outside and we were basically running the air conditioner all night--frightening! Now I am sick again. We've spent the day trying to get it un-stuck to no avail so we've set up the electric blanket for tonight. It will likely be a couple days before the repair man can come to once again show me how easy it is to fix myself.

For a good scare visit Sunday Stills!
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