28 more shopping days!

Just kidding. Although, it is true; there are 28 more shopping days before Christmas. I’m not sure about the other holidays.

I have had an evolving relationship with Christmas presents. I won’t start at childhood. Okay, I will, because these are really good memories. My dad was a high school teacher and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. We lived in the mountains near Lake Tahoe. In those days we had a lot of snow and Christmas was very joyful.

When we first moved to our house, I was three. We had a long hallway lined with cabinets and windows. My dad strung Christmas lights along the roof line outside the windows, and the snow curved over the roof creating a tunnel. Blue, red, and green flashed and danced in the glassy wall of icicles.

I climbed up on the shelf above the cabinets and marveled at the snow and ice tunnel and the lights, all the while knowing that each day brought me closer to Christmas. On Christmas morning our stockings, which hung on the huge  mantelpiece over the fireplace, were filled with walnuts and tangerines and small gifts, like socks. We opened those first, then moved to the tree. I was the youngest, and hence the most excited about the gifts. Mom and Dad would select a gift from under the tree and give it to the recipient, and then we would all watch while he or she opened it. The morning was wonderful. Later I would call my best friend on our AT&T rotary telephone…yep!…and we would talk about what we had received.

I have a drawing I did from a photo that was taken of my older siblings on Christmas morning when they were coming out to go to the tree and open gifts. This was taken in Berkeley before we moved to the mountains.

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The middle period were all the years as a single adult when I felt that buying Christmas gifts was weird and forced. I couldn’t really figure out having to buy presents for people. I always did, but at the last minute. Resistance is futile! There were nieces and nephews, and that part made sense and was fun.

Then I married my husband, and he had two kids. Christmas turned to holidays as my growing family spanned many philosophies and religions. There were more nephews. My new “kids” were teens, and they brought joy with their sweet selves. We bought them gifts, put up a tree, and they bought us gifts. Christmas was a little like my childhood again. We also had a dog, and she was a lot of fun. Blaze truly understood that she was getting a gift. Of course the kids bought her gifts too. I have some great photos from those days. Here are some drawings of Blaze. (I still miss her. She was a rescue golden retriever, if you can believe anyone would let go of a dog like this.)

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I have close friends and extended family and now I have a grandchild too. Through my family and friends I have re-learned the joy of exchanging gifts. Yes it means going shopping, taking the time to bake and to make, write, and mail greeting cards, and those activities are a lot of work, but they all add up to a season of connection, a special time to express our appreciation, and, where children and pets are involved, joy.

Do you enjoy the holidays? If so, what is your favorite part? If not, how do you take care of yourself and your feelings during this period of time in our culture? Or perhaps you are in a different culture than mine and these are not holiday times yet.

Here is a little gallery of photos I’ve taken in San Diego.

Wild animals

I talked my hubs into going to the Bear and Wolf Museum in West Yellowstone. I don’t like seeing animals caged, but the museum does a lot of good, and I wanted to see a Grizzly bear in a safe setting.

Grizzly Bear

I love wolves, always have. Look at these cuties.

Wolf 1 Wolf 2 Wolf 3

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Wold sleeping 2

I invite you to watch this beautiful, inspiring, and educational video about how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park regenerated the entire ecosystem and even changed the rivers.

Wolf video

http://distractify.com/jason.mustian/how-wolves-change-rivers/

I’ve never seen a golden eagle before.

Golden eagle

Golden eagle 2

There were bald eagles too, but my photos didn’t turn out.

They are building a new area for river otters and beavers, which are once again (thanks to wolves) a big part of the Yellowstone ecosystem. The museum is great for children.

Uluru

Happy Sunday! The weather here is amazing. I need to get out and take some shots, but for today I have an oil painting of Uluru for you.

Uluru2_Painting

I am happy to report that my first ever book signing yesterday went really well. Valentine’s Day, sunny weather in the 70s, set up on the sidewalk, and a lot of friends came by to show support. It was pretty great.

Have a great day.

Nicci

Keukenhof Gardens with a California sky

Happy Saturday!  I hope you are having fun. I did a lot of chores this morning then I took an hour to have fun with digital art. I did my first sky replacement with this photo. I needed something with a building in it so that I didn’t have to do trees, which are way beyond me at this point. Laura Mackey talks about how she did some amazing work with replacements here. Take the time to look at that image, it is mindblowing. Anyhoodles, she used a bunch of tools I don’t have, and I’m not quite ready for all that, though I have bookmarked it for future reference. I wanted to get started with the simple sky replacement that Leanne Cole showed us. Here it is. I obliterated the trees behind the building, and you can see in the windows that the real sky was cerulean, whereas the California sky is indigo. However, though that cerulean sky was lovely in the windows, it was all washed out in the sky, so that’s why I thought it would be fun to put in an intense sky.

Keukenhoff

Mountain beauty

I tried something my friend Laurie suggested and took this photo on auto, then put it on partial auto and kept working it until I had what I wanted. This was shot through a dirty window. I am just loving how that works! I like taking photos through windows.

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I like taking photos through windows because it makes more of the world available. I took this one out the car window. Now I know it works, so I will do it sooner, before we descend into the trees. Then you can really see the mountain. Stay tuned for that shot. This is Mount Rose Ski Resort ,but the mountain itself is actually Slide Mountain. Mount Rose itself is actually next to where they put the ski resort.

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The other reason I like shooting through windows, like I did with the San Diego sunset and a few of the other San Diego shots, in that case through plexiglass wind barriers set up around the outdoor seating area at the restaurant, is the windows provide a natural gritty or wavy filter. That appeals to me sometimes — oddly enough, when the scenery is too glaringly beautiful!

 

 

 

Landscapes and macros

Not much different here in terms of technique yet. But the mix of sun and cloud created such beautiful effects out my window that they actually moved me out of my writer’s chair, a hard thing to do these days! This is my fave despite the power cable.

SONY DSCThe sunlight on the rain-washed oranges was lovely.

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Lest you think I can grow roses, these are the neighbor’s trailing roses.

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I don’t know how to get the leaves in the background to blur so I just cropped the photo! When I had a regular SLR camera in high school, we had these tubes you could attach to the lens and they really made the macros work. I wish I had that now. They were just plastic tubes, low tech.

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Garden extravaganza and pondering composition

Our daily walk takes me by people’s fabulous gardens. I stand on the street near their flowers with my camera, clicking away! One lady came out of her house and looked startled, but then it’s like… well I guess it’s okay. I’m not on their property and I’m just “taking” a picture… so it’s not really theft, is it? I don’t take any pictures that reveal location. But it is a little bizarre, I guess.

Okay, I don’t think the rule of thirds applies to macros. More landscapes and maybe portraits? Well… here is one where I tried it:

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Maybe it didn’t do much for me because there’s nothing but green blur on the right. I noticed my earlier picture, which was a big hit, did use the Ro3:

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Of course, the Bird of Paradise flower lends itself to the Ro3.

Here’s another one where I tried it. I do like the composition. Maybe Ro3 can be used on macros!

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I definitely think the Ro3 improved what would have looked like a mass of flowers if I’d centered the camera right on the bush. I’m feeling a little encouraged about all of this!

SONY DSCI cropped this next one into shape. It’s okay, but doesn’t thrill me.

SONY DSCWith this next one, it’s not Ro3, but I think it’s nice how the rose buds march up the plane of the photo:

SONY DSCI’d like to thank my friend, Laurie, for pushing me to get my photos posted. I missed my post yesterday. I really appreciate having friends in the blogosphere who care! It feels great. Thank you, Laurie!

And now I’m dashing off for a meeting. The writing life is a bit hectic at the moment. In a good way, but still! Have a good one, blog friends.

 

The joy of being a beginner

I’ve been writing for a long time. I still have so much to learn, but some things are getting easier.

Author at work

I did not love being a beginner writer. I declared my major English in college during my first English class because I found it so hard to express my ideas and I wanted to be as articulate as the teacher. I sought out writing in all my jobs and ended with an 18 year career in technical writing, and though I’ve been writing and studying fiction for many years, I consider myself about 30 years old (assuming a 100 year lifetime, hopefully). I still have tons to learn (one of the things I love about writing) but am able to write and edit my stories. (A new novel is in the works!)

I’ve been taking photos for a year now. My blog made me do it! Seriously, I love shooting photos and sharing them with you and really love looking at your photos. Then I wanted to do some art and quickly grew frustrated with all the supplies and mess. Although it is fun and I want to do more.

My husband observed this frustration and mess (he took the above photo), knows I love my computer, and bought me a Wacom Bamboo. The digitizer tablet came with Corel Painting Essentials, which I love. After trying digital painting and drawing, I found myself wanting to return to paper for those things, but really enjoying the auto photo painting.

Horse at the park

I enjoy being a beginner with art.

Piano is something I spend a little time on every day.

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I’m not an absolute beginner, though. I taught myself to read music as a kid and then had lessons. I would say I’m just a tad above beginner. I’m trying to unlearn bad habits and learn the timing carefully in the songs. I find this phase a tad frustrating so I set a modest goal to be able to play 4 songs well by the end of the year. This goal allows me to enjoy the process and not turn it into work.

Since I started skiing so young and grew up on a ski slope, I’m an expert in that realm, though on the bottom level of expert. I am not into extreme skiing and have no desire to improve.

I’m completely happy with my level and skiing for me is just about the joy of nature, the freedom of movement and the satisfying feeling of working my muscles. It’s also about sharing giggles, skiing stories, and good food and grog with friends and family.

With yoga I’m a total beginner. I avoided yoga because I’m stiff and the one time I went to a class everyone was doing amazing things and moving quickly through poses. I couldn’t keep up and it hurt. I hated yoga. But last fall, after getting off a 12 hour flight with an overall stiffness to my body that wouldn’t go away, and finding myself not at all motivated to get back into my weight-lifting routine, really in a state of desperation, I went to a yoga class at my YMCA.

It was called Adaptive Yoga. I figured if the yoga was adapted to people with various physical restrictions, it should work for me! And I stumbled upon an amazing teacher. I started going to all six of her YMCA classes because I love the work (enjoy the journey), want to make progress (a general, wide-open goal), and the classes make me feel well physically and mentally (a constructive, healthy journey). The teacher shares about her yoga journey and encourages us to embrace our own yoga journey while she carefully guides us through various poses.

I enjoy thinking of myself as being at the start of a lifelong journey of working with my muscles, bones, and joints, taking care of them, and increasing my ability to do poses. It should be frustrating to be so stiff. But beginning yoga has really taught me how to pursue an art:

  • Enjoy the journey.
  • Define success as showing up and doing the practice.
  • Have very general goals like regular practice and improvement.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.

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  • Make rapid initial progress.
  • Build new neural pathways, which is  good for your brain.
  • Socialize, which is also good for your brain, not to mention your spirit.
  • Cure midlife blues by starting a new journey.