Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Photo Blogging Challenge (Dec. 2014): ‘Tis the Season

This is the last day of the year and it's time once again for P.J.'s Photo Blogging challenge.  This month, the theme was 'Tis the Season, and I've approached it, at least in my mind, from a traditional and non-traditional viewpoint.  Some photos will make perfect sense with the theme, while others will need some explanation.  But you already know I'm going to explain all of them anyway, so here goes.

1 and 2.  The Evolution of our family Christmas trees
Christmas day, the family gathered at my sister's house to celebrate the day.  Lots of good food was had by all and by the time the last of us had eaten the last portions of cheesecake that my other sister had made, most of us could probably have just rolled down the hill back to our own homes.

My sister's Christmas tree is the only tree in the family, that I'm aware of that has just white lights.  I believe that all the rest of us have colored lights on our trees.  Growing up, for the first ten years or so, our family tree at home was all blue.  Blue ornaments, blue lights - everything was blue on the tree.  Christmas of 1971 or 72, we went back to Indiana to have a "White Christmas."  While we were back there, my last surviving grandparent passed away.  He had been suffering from what we would call today Alzheimers disease, so it was not totally unexpected.

We ended up staying a couple of extra days because of the funeral and other family obligations that come along with an event such as this.  One of the things that ended up coming home with us were a lot of really old Christmas ornaments from my grandparent's estate.  The next year, we used those ornaments on the tree and over the next 10 years or so collected, purchased, etc., other ornaments so the tree was no longer a blue tree.  We got new light strings with multi-colored lights to add to the non-blue theme.  Some ornaments were even made.

As each of us eventually moved out of the house, the ornaments that had been given to us as children were taken and subsequently added to our own Christmas trees in our new places.  My daughter has taken her ornaments that have been given to her and she now has them displayed on her tree in her place.  My middle son didn't have a tree this year and isn't totally settled yet, so his, plus my youngest son's ornaments still adorn our tree every year.  In the near future, I'm sure this will change.

Both my older sister and I have a strong affiliation for things Disney, so it was no surprise to see several Disney ornaments on her tree.  This one of Dopey Dwarf climbing the staircase heading up to see who was up in the Dwarve's bedroom struck my fancy.  To took several shots, because the shutter speed was very slow, one thirteenth of a second, which is usually too slow for hand held shots.  I'm very pleased that this one is in pretty fine focus.  

3.  Games
Every time I blog this particular post, I look forward to the next month's theme.  This is one of the few times I'm disappointed I can't use this photo for next month's theme as the theme for next month is Games.

In our house, the kids tend to generate the games and it was no exception this year as several games were pulled off the shelves and others were given as gifts this year.  Growing up, I enjoyed playing games although sometimes found few takers.  I can't imagine my competitiveness had anything to do with that. <smirk>

The day after Christmas, the kids gathered around to play games.  My middle son's girlfriend is an artist and began sketching us as we played Settlers of Cataan.  My youngest son is on the right and he's not complete obviously, but the rest of us, moving counterclockwise from the upper right, my son, my daughter, myself and my future son-in-law are all there.  She did an excellent job capturing the character of each one of us in this drawing.  If you look closely, you can also see that each of us are labeled and identified.

4.  Trip to the Lake
My father-in-law lives up in Lake Arrowhead and for the past several years, we make a trip up there over the holidays to visit with him.  This year, he went all out for us to enjoy our short stay up there.  Blintzes, tamales, the chocolate cake that was to die for were just some of the treats he had for us.

Usually, we'll go down to the lake to feed the ducks and this year was no exception to that.  It's no wonder the ducks and geese are fat and happy up there as there were all sorts of people doing the same thing.

The shot is of my middle son on the left and my future son-in-law.  I had a couple of different shots of the two of them, plus one of them with my daughter, but this one turned out the best of the set that I took while we were down there.

Both men get along very well with each other, which is a very good thing.  We are all looking forward to July when Brian and my daughter Kathryn tie the knot.  He is very good to her and he is a very welcome addition to our family.

5.  The Granddaddy of them all
Finally, what seasonal blog would be complete without something dealing with the new year, which is literally right around the corner now.  In some cases, it's already here and you might even be reading this in 2015.

Growing up in Southern California meant watching the Rose Parade and watching the Rose Bowl on television.  I actually attended two Rose Bowls in the late 70s, courtesy of my good friend who was attending U.S.C. at the time.  U.S.C. was a powerhouse in football back then and they usually contended for the Rose Bowl every year back then.

Every year, we'd get the Pac 10 vs. the Big 10.  Since we were from northern Indiana, our allegiances were more toward the Big 10, especially since my father attended Notre Dame.  We wouldn't root for U.S.C.  We would very often root for west coast teams in other years when U.S.C. wasn't there however.

Now with the old BCS and the new playoff system in place today, college football doesn't always have the traditional rivalries we came to expect in certain bowl games.  This year, the Rose Bowl (which is the 101st edition) is giving us Oregon vs Florida St. in one semi-final game.  The Sugar Bowl in New Orleans is giving us Alabama vs Ohio St later in the evening on the 1st.  

Given that I've always enjoyed the traditional match ups for bowl games, it should come as no surprise that I'm rooting for Ohio St. and Oregon to prevail and meet in the championship game.  And yes, I will be rooting for the Ducks in the championship game as well.  I took this shot just after Christmas when we went on a hike up the Arroyo Seco, which is where the Rose Bowl is located.  Walking back down to our car, we also found a geocache.  So what else is new?

And there you have it.  This was my interpretation of the theme 'Tis the Season.  I hope you have enjoyed these shots.  Please stop by P.J.'s blog to see his interpretation and look below on that page for the other links to others who have participated this month.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I should have gone earlier in the day

But I just felt like sleeping in a little bit, so after that, I decided that I wanted my morning cup of coffee and then there was breakfast and I never got around to my morning bike ride until 9:43 in the morning.  And that made all the difference in the world as there were too many people on my chosen route of the Thompson Creek Trail this morning.

To the couple walking their dog.  Do you have to take up the entire trail?  That's why there's a center stripe in the trail to indicate the two lanes of the trail.  Then, when you hear me say "on your left," instead of moving your dog over so I can pass safely, you turn around and give me a look as if to say, "Who the heck are you?"  Only when I come to a full stop do you then move your dog out of the way.

To the woman who was walking on the right hand side coming toward me.  Was it necessary to cross over on to my side to continue your walk?  At this point, I have no idea what you're going to do since you're not looking ahead at all, but looking at your feet, so I have no choice but to slow down to an almost dead stop until I know I can pass you without having you veer suddenly into my lane.

To the the numerous people who don't clean up after their dogs.  Seriously?  The city puts dooty bags along the trail.  You couldn't grab one on the beginning of your walk so you clean up after your dog?  Don't tell me it's coyote scat.  I know what coyote scat looks like and that's no coyote scat.  And, you didn't even bother to at least have your dog crap on the side of the trail instead of right in the middle of it.

To the guy standing at the side of the trail.  This is the third time I've passed you in the past month while you were standing there shooting the breeze with your friends and your dog was on leash.  This is also the third time your dog has lunged at me as I've ridden by and the third time you've looked surprised that that has happened.  I call BS on that look.  If your dog lunged at me, then we all know it lunges at other bike riders.  Keep a better rein on your dog.

Rant over.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, December 8, 2014

John Muir Camping trip - Part 2

Last month, I told a little bit about our camping trip up to the eastern Sierra to help my friend get started on the John Muir Trail.  We'd spent the first day geocaching, getting his truck up to Whitney Portal and then finding a spot to camp for the night.  

The next morning, we got up, broke camp and then headed over to the general store at Reds Meadows where my friend Craig was planning on leaving a cache of food at the general store.  We decided to have breakfast there, then drove out to Mammoth to find a couple of caches, including a couple that were above 9000 feet in elevation for a challenge cache I'm trying to complete.

After that we headed north and decided to visit Bodie, CA.  Bodie is a state park that preserves the ghost town of Bodie in a state of "arrested" decay.  That is to say, they are keeping the place in the state it's in and not letting it get any worse for wear.

Bodie is in a pretty rugged, remote area where the only access is along a long dirt/gravel road that could jar the fillings right out of your teeth if you drove too fast on the road.  Scenery is awesome and we had the perfect weather for the day with a lot of rain clouds all about us.  We were getting sprinkled on from time to time, but that didn't diminish our spirits at all.  I went shutter snapping happy with the clouds that we had that day and got some tremendous shots.

One of the first places we explored when we got there was the cemetery.  Now I can just imagine the thoughts of some of my readers, "Why would you want to explore a cemetery?"  In actuality, old cemeteries are really quite interesting.  You can walk amongst the graves and see the history of the town unfolding right there.  You can speculate as to what happened to some families.  Was it a disease that killed the wife and daughter, or did it happen during childbirth?  Either way, I've always found old cemeteries fascinating and if I have the chance, will usually take some time to explore.  I think part of that is going to be lost for future generations as more and more people opt for cremation and have their ashes spread somewhere.  The gravestone at least is a marker and memory of someone once they passed into the great unknown.  Will we have that available to us in the future?

To be continued....

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sharpshooters are back!

Almost 2 years ago, in February 2013, I was asked to join the Sharpshooters International Photography Club.  In March of that same year, I became a contributing member of the group and each week on Wednesday, the group would post a series of photos.  Photographers in the group represented 6 of the 7 different continents and there was always a wide variety of shots.

I was a contributing member for about a half a year or so until the group took an unexpected hiatus.  Last week, the Sharpshooters returned and it's almost like it was never gone.  The quality of the work, in my opinion, is astounding.  This week's photo stream has some amazing images representing Africa, Australia, Europe and North America.  I'm very pleased to be part of this group and hope you will enjoy the images the group shares each week.

Please stop by this week's photo stream and have a look.  Also, if you could stop by the main Facebook page for the group and like us, we'd greatly appreciate it.