Thursday, January 29, 2015

Red Rock Country Fences

If you drive up Utah Highway 163 from Monument Valley to Mexican Hat and Bluff you see fences go along the highway on both sides. Just what are they fencing in? This is vast land where nothing much grows - desert. However, perhaps the fence shall keep the sheep away from the road; we didn't see any sheep, though, but I do think they are here (like those Navajo-Churro sheep). In the winter there aren't many cars here, but during the summer months it must be quite crowded with tourists.

This was Christmas Day morning, and we were practically alone on the road. In the distance you can see the mesas, buttes and spires that are so typical for Monument Valley. We had been there the day before, but now we wanted to visit the Valley of the Gods and drive up Cedar Mesa afterwards.

It is not the most welcoming landscape; however, it holds a certain fascination and the red color is just amazing.

It was an overcast day when the sun cast accents in the landscape, illuminating the mesas in the distance.

To the other side it looked quite different - this is the view of Valley of the Gods from the highway. A rough desert landscape where the sun and clouds were chasing each other - but that's a story for another post.

I'm linking up with Theresa's "Good Fences".


Check out my Valentine's cards in my Etsy store!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

In Flight

Texture: Kim's "golden" (one of my go-to textures) blended in multiply at 75%; brushed texture away from geese; levels adjustment on texture only

There are a lot of Canada Geese at my lake. They have their specific places where they hang out. I often hear them flying over our house - they always make a lot of noise while flying. However, the biggest noise (at least in my opinion) they make when they are about to land in the middle of the lake. You can hear them early enough to get your camera ready and try to photograph them in flight - not always easy. 

I love how these two came down almost simultaneously - as if they want to win the "simultaneous flight" in the Canada Geese Olympics! It is amazing to watch - and just pretend you hear them, too.

Almost there. And when they land, they just stop. Period. Can you imagine that with our airplanes?

I'm linking up with Kim's "Texture Tuesday".

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Gratitude

This has been a very short week, a week with my main gratitude happening towards the end of it.
Here goes:

We had our citizenship interview on Friday in San Francisco. We had applied for US citizenship in September, had our biometrics appointment last fall and received the invitation to the interview at the beginning of January. We were quite excited about it, but the closer we approached the date the more nervous I became as well. There honestly was no reason for it. Thanks to a very nice immigration officer who made me feel relaxed the interview was over way faster than I had thought. I didn't blank out during the test portion (which was my main concern) which is the second part of the interview and after that I was free to go. The Geek had his interview at the same time (with a different officer of course) and he also passed. It will take a few weeks until we will be scheduled for the oath ceremony in Oakland.

Since we know that morning commute to the city is pretty heavy we left early and thus avoided any traffic congestion. We were at the Golden Gate Bridge shortly before sunrise. We had time and stopped to watch the sun rise over a foggy San Francisco - in the photo above you can just see the top of the Transamerica Pyramid and if you know the city you will also recognize Coit Tower if you look hard. It was such a beautiful morning and a hopeful sign for the day.

The weather was lovely that day and we decided to enjoy it after our interviews. We drove up Conzelman Road to the Marin Headlands. This is one of my favorite roads in the area. It offers great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, especially in the evening when the setting sun throws a golden glow on the bridge at it shines in a warm red-orange tone. No such luck this day since it was way too early, but we didn't care. It was beautiful anyway.

Yesterday Kaefer took the SAT at our local Junior College. She wants to go to university after she will have graduated from high school in spring 2016. She knows that she needs to pass several tests for that, which means that this spring will be loaded with AP exams and perhaps even subject tests. It's a bit crazy, but she knew before that Junior year is the hardest year in high school. So we were quite grateful that she had the opportunity to take the SAT already in January, and of course she hopes that she did well enough. Some of her friends had decided on this date as well, and they could encourage each other while they were waiting in line.

While Kaefer took her test, the Geek and I decided to take a short hike in our State Part. I used to hike there pretty often, but I haven't been there even once last year. It was gorgeous to be back again. We hiked the Rough Go Trail (in the photo above) up to the ridge and then back again (since we were running out of time). I had almost forgotten how beautiful it is here! We saw some deer who weren't afraid of us and passed us rather closely. Every time I see them I'm thankful for the wildlife we have here.

Although we didn't have much rain in January, the hills in our county are green and juicy - the cows are definitely happy cows around this time! I took this picture out of the driving car while going along the highway on our way back from the city. I just love the hills, the meadows and the solitary trees - this is so typical for my county. Only most of the year the hills are brown and not green.

I haven't really baked very much since the beginning of the year. A few breads, but nothing major and I didn't try anything new. Except I'm still trying to improve my baking rolls capacity. In Germany we eat a lot of rolls, they are freshly baked every day and usually you can get them early in the morning in the bakeries (starting at 6:00 am). These rolls are very different from the dinner rolls you can get here. I haven't found anything here that really compares to them, that's why I still haven't given up baking them myself. Every time I get closer to our German rolls, but so far I haven't made one that is "it". Last week's batch, though, came pretty close - another item on my gratitude list.

That's it for today. Now it's your turn - what are you grateful for this Sunday?

A good way to express your gratitude is to write in your journal.
Journals in different sizes are available at my Etsy store,
some of them featuring my artwork as a print.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Snow Fence

It's winter, so time for a snow fence. This particular one I saw in Arches National Park this past December.

This is the parking lot for the trail head to Sand Dune Arch (only a few minutes to walk) and Broken Arch which you can see in the top right corner in the photo above. It had snowed the night before and was still snowing in the morning, but then the sun made its way through the clouds and there was even some blue sky. It was very cold, though, especially in the shade.

Sand Dune Arch is hidden among these tall rocks and almost completely in the shade. The ground among those rocks is sandy, beautiful soft red sand - hence the name. I thought that the color of the wooden fence matches its surroundings perfectly.

This is the view to the right, away from those rocks, and as you can see, the next storm was already forming. Quite the dramatic sky, don't you think?

I'm linking this beautiful fence in one of my most favorite national parks to Theresa's "Good Fences".


New in my store
classroom Valentines for pre-school and elementary school kids


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Gratitude

As I had thought, this week passed by way faster that the week before. I was almost surprised how fast the weekend was here, time to reflect on gratitude.

It was another week of gorgeous sunsets when the sky was almost on fire. The photo above shows the best of them. After that the fog slowly settled in again.

I love the fog. It cools the region and brings some moisture when we're lacking rain. It's not much, but it certainly is better than nothing. It also prevents nights from being too frosty around this time. We can have some severe frost here which can do a lot of damage to all the citrus trees in the area. I love foggy mornings when you can't see the sun but there's a hint of it rising beyond the mist. The fog has a different color, the entire mood is different.

One day this week a woman in my exercise class brought in some oranges from her garden. She had so many that she generously gave them away. I took a few home, and after I had taken a few photos of them I ate the first one. I can't tell you how sweet and juicy they were. It was pure delight!

It was my birthday last week - I'm just grateful that I have birthdays in my life and I hope for many more in good health. I have seen too many friends leaving this earth way too early - there can never be too many candles on a cake! I was overwhelmed by all the good wishes I received - I have such wonderful friends! Otherwise it was a beautiful quiet day that gave me a lot of opportunity to read without feeling guilty. In the evening, one of my good friends and her family invited us over for a birthday dinner including cake and ice cream. Such a lovely evening!!! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Her entire family is delightful, her youngest daughter was a Girl Scout in my troop, she is the same age as Kaefer. They also just got a new dog, and it was great meeting her. I am such a dog person (animal person, really)! This is their old dog, Afton, who died a year ago.

I discovered a new visitor at my feeders - a Western Tanager. These birds don't come to my place very often and I was so happy to see one. They usually migrate in the winter to the South. This only shows how unusual this winter is.

Yesterday it rained a little bit again - every drop counts! It is so beautiful to see the green hills around us! I can't get enough of it. The magnolias are flowering - I just have to look out my window to see my neighbor's huge tree covered in pink and white flowers. It is breath taking. Sometimes when I go outside the air has a special fresh smell that it only seems to carry in very early spring - it smells of new life and anticipation. There is a slight almost unnoticeable mild breeze that I can feel - it often happens in January and then disappears again for several weeks.  It makes me long for spring although I hope winter stays around a bit longer and brings much much more rain. We still need it (I sound like an old broken record with my repetitive wish for rain).

What are you grateful for this past week?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Burro Fence

We had been warned!

We were driving along Route 66 when we came upon this sign by the side of the road. "How cute!", we thought.

A few miles later, we landed here:  (be prepared for tons of pictures)

Welcome to Oatman, Arizona, the burro capital (of Arizona? the Southwest? the USA? the world?)

Of course we had to stop and take a closer look! It took us some time to drive through the tiny town because of the burros who don't get out of the way just because a car wants to pass them. No way!! At the end of the town we found a parking lot, left the car and went to meet the burros.

Although they are wild and we were warned that they bite and kick they never did. All they wanted was the alfalfa that you could buy in paper bags and feed to them. Kaefer carried the bag and therefore she was very popular with the burros.

What about a beautiful burro ear?

And here is the only fence I could find in Oatman, Arizona. Honestly, I only saw it when I looked at the photos back home - when I was there I was actually looking at the burro who didn't join the craze in the road. She probably already had her share of alfalfa!

The animals were curious and wanted to explore the Geek's camera (and he took some great close-ups!)

The burro bar...

Some of the smaller burros had little signs on their heads telling people not to feed them. Here's the reason why:

A different kind of - fence?

I guess the shop owners were a bit annoyed about the people who fed the burros in front of their store and the bits of alfalfa that were lying around (and other burro "gifts" as well probably).

This is Flapjack, the only male burro in town. He must have a good life... He was pretty sassy, but very cute as well.

I'm linking up with Theresa's "Good Fences" and Eileen's "Saturday Critters".

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Morning Light

Yesterday I wrote that I want to spend more mornings at the lake, and today I did just that. Right after I had dropped off Kaefer at school I went to the lake when the sun wasn't even up behind the hills. The sky already showed some change as you can see in the picture above, but it was still rather dull.

However, that changed very soon.

The sun was hitting the mountains behind the lake and the light was reflected in the water. So beautiful. Since the storms in December there have been a lot of branches, tree trunks etc. floating in the lake; I could also see quite some damage.

This one is for Texture Tuesday: I turned the original photo to black & white, brushed the color back on the floating tree and did some levels and saturation adjustments. Then I layered the photo with kk_yesteryear in color burn at 75% because I liked the dramatic effect. Another levels adjustment on the texture only so that the image is not too dark.

The real stunners though were on the other side of the lake:

You might think we're still in autumn and not in January - this is how our trees look like in winter. When the first sun hits them in the morning they glow and are quite breath taking.

This cooked tree has always been my favorite and it's a lovely foreground for the trees on the other side:

I am linking up with Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday - if you follow the link you can see some stunning photo artwork! And if you want to see how others capture the light, please go to Nature Footstep and her Catching Light meme.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Gratitude

Every year I feel that the first full week of a new year crawls by incredible slowly, and after those first few days the weeks seem to chase each other throughout the year. This year's beginning was no exception - something I really enjoy by now, knowing that this feeling of time passing slowly will not last for long.

There was time to enjoy special moments and be grateful for them.

Like two very amazing sunrises that I could witness from my bedroom window. The sky shows these incredible colors only during winter, the colors are clear and very intense. It gives the beginning of a new day a completely new meaning. Sunsets were amazing as well!

It was the first week of school, and we're back to our daily routine. Interesting how fast that happens. I wake up on my own at 5:45 and get up just a few minutes after that. My daughter is the same. This week we left the house for school a few minutes later than usual, trying to break the old pattern, only to find that the parking lot at the school resembles a zoo - and returned to our old pattern. It's so much nicer to start the day in a more relaxed way.

I'm happy that I am back to my workout routine, although I want to mix it up a bit and spend more days at the lake this year. I haven't done so this past week because I first wanted to have five straight days of exercise to get back into it. There was only one day when I felt like there was lead in my legs, but the others were fantastic. I'm thankful to be back to my activity level.

I am immensely thankful for the heating in our house. We had some colder days with lots of sun and clear skies, but it comes at the price of lower temperatures, especially in the mornings and evenings. During the day the sun heats our house by shining straight in through the large windows. These clear and dry days (oh, how I miss the December rains - please let there be more rain!!) made it also possible to work in the garden. My poppies from last year have re-seeded like crazy and I need to pull a lot of them so that they don't crowd out everything else. Not my favorite kind of gardening, but it needs to be done. It helps that the ground is still wet and everything pulls out easily.

While gardening I discovered a new visitor to our garden, a little black cat. She hangs around the bird feeders which I don't particularly like, but she also just sits on top of the fence. She is still quite shy, but by now she doesn't run away immediately when she sees me, but keeps a safe distance. It has been a long time since I last had a feline companion in my garden.

Speaking of animals, there are two or three coyotes roaming the forested hill across from our house. The first time I heard them howling was in December. After we had returned from our trip I didn't hear them, but this week I heard them twice. They howl in the night, and one night they appeared to have been pretty close. Sometimes I hear only one coyote, sometimes at least two, but I don't think there are more than three of them. Some of you might remember how much I love coyotes. They're my spirit animal, I love their howling and the place they occupy in Native American legends. I just hope that nobody goes nuts and shoots them.

I started an online photography class called "The Art of Photography" with RMIT University in Australia. While there wasn't anything new to learn in the first week, I love the class and the way it is set up. The instructor explains everything in a very clear way, often with interesting examples. I did all my quizzes for this first week and now want to start my first assessment.

Last but not least, I am grateful for good bread (this is something I could mention every Sunday). I missed hearty bread during our trip (although I enjoyed the Navajo fry bread very much) and I started baking bread immediately after we had returned from the Southwest. Our favorite at the moment is this whole wheat bread.

What are you grateful for at the end of this first full week of 2015?