Monday, July 25, 2011

Broken in..

My house in the last couple of weeks has been broken into twice that I know of.  Before you panic and start to wonder about the neighborhood I live in, I should tell you I know who the intruder is.  Here is his mug shot.
His name is Jackson and he is a cat burglar.  The biggest problem is that he closely resembles my cat Meeko.  It's not good.  The first time he broke into the house, I was working in the kitchen and felt a cat head butt my leg and bent down to pet the cat.  Meeko does this to me all of the time, so I didn't think much of it, but when the cat meowed, I knew it wasn't Meeko.  AAGGHH!  I picked him up to take him out and what does the little brat start to do, he purrs.  Not a sign of a guilty conscience, I would think.

Jackson's house borders mine via our back fences.  He's lived there for years and I never knew he existed until a couple of weeks ago.  His family went on vacation and they had a housesitter/catsitter stay at the house while they were gone.  Great idea in theory, until you factor in whether Jackson liked this person and he DID NOT and subsequently moved out for the duration.  He found my neighbor's yard first.  Being a very friendly cat, he saw the 3 kids who live next door and do not have any pets and decided they could love on him and they did.  They played with him and petted him and let him hang out.  All fine and well.  Friendly cats are rare, and at that point he was not venturing into my yard or house.

Jackson soon figured out that I have two dogs, Basset Hounds Humphrey and Bacall, and Meeko, my mixed breed cat.  Jackson liked to sit on the fence and bug the ever lovin' crap out of my dogs.  It got annoying, but since he wasn't in the yard.  I would call of the dogs, who are secretly afraid of most cats, especially when they are up close and in swatting range, and told them to be quiet.  Then one day, while enjoying the sun and warm weather, I was in my favorite outdoor chair, with the dogs lounged out in the yard next to me when I had a cat land in my lap.  It wasn't Meeko, but Jackson.  This signaled a new troubling sign with him.  I took him to the fence with the dogs blissfully asleep and sent him on his way.

I thought this solved the problem, until the first break in occurred.  How do you tell a friendly cat when you're sending him on his way that he's not welcome, when his only response is a big ole loud purr.

Break in two solved my problem!  At 5 am, the other morning, I was awakened to the sounds of a good old fashioned cat fight.  Snarls, hissing, growling and the whole shebang.  Meeko, who is a very very very timid cat, was defending her turf.  By the time, I got out of bed, Jackson was LONG gone and Meeko was on guard and has been every day since.  She goes out into the yard where she can see everything and keeps watch. 

I haven't had a break in since.
Safe from cat burglars.
Melissa

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Thumbs....

I have two distinct thumbs.... one is black and the other is very very green.  The black thumb of plant death occurs inside the house.  House plants run screaming for help when I head their way in the nursery.  I don't know why I can't keep a plant alive inside, but I can't.  I either over water and drown the poor plant or I forget to water it and it dies of dehydration.  Sunlight?  It's either fried by too much sun or asking what is sunlight.  I can't seem to win.

The green thumb shows up every spring, normally speaking up in early March in its excitement to get outside and plant.  You see, my green thumb is the outdoorsy type.  It loves digging in the dirt and planting and growing mainly vegetables, but also has had success with native plants.  It's fun to see plants not run in the opposite direction when I'm choosing them.

My garden has had a fun year with all of the crazy weather we have had.  I still have a lettuce patch that I am struggling to keep up with and have given some to my neighbors.  My tomato plants are happy clams.  I go out into the garden and get my hands dirty, feel the sun on me, and think life doesn't get any better than this. 

Why can't my outdoor thumb speak to my indoor one?  Or should I just enjoy my outside time, which is where I prefer to be anyway.

Some of my lovely lettuce.  It is soooooo green and tasty.  My only complaint, slugs love to live at the base of the plants in the moisture filled area.  I practice organic gardening, so my slug repellent is me.  euwwwww!  I pick them up and throw them away. 

Ya!! My tomatoes survived the cold wet spring!  The bonus, every flower on my plants have set into tomatoes.  Now for my confession, I don't eat raw tomatoes.  They make my tongue itch like crazy!  It's not pleasant.  I do, however, LOVE LOVE LOVE homemade tomato sauce, especially my Aunt Shirley's recipe.  I bottle it by the gallon to get me through the long cold winter.  Also, I found another use for tomatoes, I make tomato powder.  I dry tomatoes in my food dehydrator until crumbly, then grind them up in my Magic Bullet until it becomes a fine powder.  It's an intense tomato flavor.  :)  Plus, you can add equal parts water and tomato powder to make homemade easy tomato paste as needed.


This is a massive success for me!  It's Kale.  I've been trying for years to grow kale with no success.  This year I tried a new area, and I've got Kale growing.  I am so happy.  I've become addicted to kale.  Crispy kale, kale salad with fruit, and sauteed kale are appearing regularly on my dinner table.

I tell you this tale of two thumbs, not to show off my garden, but to show you that if you can't grow a plant inside, try going outside and vice versa.

Melissa

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sparkler Fun!

While at Sugarhouse Park on the 4th of July, I took a photo a child playing with a sparkler.  It left a line of light in the photograph and made a very cool effect and gave me a great idea.

So tonight, in my backyard with a little help, I had some fun.  Even though this is a couple of days late, the sentiment stays the same.

Ok, now for the details,
on my Nikon
ISO set at low 2.0 
Aperture set at 10.0
Shutter speed at 2.0'

a few tips, have the sparkler holders wear dark clothing and stand at least 10 to 15 feet away...

Have Fun!
Melissa

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Photographic Adventure....

I've given up on my 365 photo adventure.  It's not a bad thing--it's a realigning thing.  I found out that when I was taking a photo a day, I was taking a lot of snapshots, not photographs.  I started the adventure to improve my camera skills with my new Nikon camera, not to take a snapshot a day.  I get my camera out about once a week now and actively look for things to shoot and in a way to expand my skills.

The 4th of July gave me a perfect excuse to work on my skills.  FIREWORKS!!!  Nighttime photography and movement are 2 things I really need to work on.  A learning experience!  I scoured the web for tips and advice before I left for Sugarhouse Park and realized once again, that a tripod, would be essential.  Uh-oh, I still don't have one.  How do I get around this?  Can I get around this? or Will my pictures not turn out?

Why don't I have a tripod?  When I purchased my camera, I was given a great piece of advice.  Don't buy a lot of gadgets or lenses your first year.  It's something I've taken to heart for a couple of reasons.  #1 Photography is not a cheap hobby.  Most gadgets are not cheap!!!  #2  You may think that when you get your camera, you will shoot a lot of scenery, but you find out you like taking pictures of people.  If you bought all of the stuff for scenery, you will then have to invest in more stuff.. #3  Learn how to work with out all of the gadgets... You'll become a better photographer and if you ever forget something, you can still take photos.

Back to Sugarhouse Park and the fireworks,  we found a great spot and waited.  I took photos of the crowd to test out my lighting (a lot of people had purchased glow sticks and others were lighting sparklers).


Kids playing with glow sticks.....  Uh-oh, I have a lot of blur.  It's kind of cool though...
A little girl playing with a sparkler.  Love the effect!!!!  It gave me an idea for something to try when I get home.  I will post the results after I do it.

Finally, around 10 pm, it was time for fireworks!!!!  The big show, just me and 60,000 other people crammed into the park.  Here are my results...

My first shot... partially out of frame, but kind of cool.  I can see the need for the tripod!!!  The shutter speed needed for these shots is sooooooo slow any movement of the camera equals blurring.
It doesn't even look like a  firework. does it?  Once again, I moved the camera while the shutter was still open.  In addition to a tripod, a remote for the shutter would be useful.
Better,  I about passed out from not breathing during this one.  :}


Closer, but still not detailed.  I'll take it!!!
My favorite of the night!!! I actually accomplished something I had read about.  With a long exposure setting, you can actually capture multiple fireworks in one shot by putting a piece of black foam in front of the lens between the fireworks.  It is still blurry, but YEAH!  It worked.

Lesson of the night, a tripod and a remote for your camera are essential for non blurry firework shots.  If you don't mind the cool effects, have fun without one.

The other thing that I noticed...I didn't really watch the fireworks.  I shot them.  I was concerned about shutter speed and framing.  For me, it kind of took away from the fireworks experience.  Fortunately, everyone knew I was experimenting and learning, so they understood when I ignored them.  A beginner's trial, I guess.  Maybe, a tripod and a remote would help with that.

I do know this, at the end of the year, a tripod and a remote for my camera are at the top of my list.  I have had a number of instances this year where they would of made my life a lot easier and ended up with better photographs.

My year of photography learning continues...
until next time.
Melissa