Countdown 2 Xmas: Mail Toys Snow Night

I’m back at Tourmaline’s Countdown to Christmas. Let’s see, where was I?

Day 19: Mail
I almost always send holiday cards through the mail. Usually they are late, but this year I’ve mailed them all before Christmas! I order my cards from Shutterfly and couldn’t imagine what to send in this coronavirus year! The one I chose was amusing & appropriate, I thought – it just said “Well, That was CRAZY! Happy 2021 (finally)”. It included four photos, one a selfie of me and Dale in masks, one of Hazel, our cat, and two scenic. (I am unable to copy and paste it here and I used up all the cards!) I had Shutterfly print our return address on the back of the envelope, so sending them was easy! I only had to add my half-page letter, address, stamp, seal, and mail!

Day 20: Toys

Day 21: Snow
We haven’t had any (yet)! But here are some photos from last winter.

Day 22: Night
Last night, for the first time in 800 years, Saturn and Jupiter were to line up in the night sky, and we would see them as one brightish light near the horizon. We were going to go to a park after dark to look at this phenomenon, but alas! It was cloudy!

What I like about night at Christmas time is all the holiday lights that brighten up the darkness when the days are short and the sun sets before 4:30 p.m.!

5 Things I Hate (?) About Summer (!)

This is a tough one to write about, since my favorite season is summer – it would be a lot easier to list 5 things I LOVE about summer. But since this is Dr. Tanya’s topic for her 5 Things challenge, this week, here goes…

1. Humidity – I would love to live in a drier climate. It can be a mild day, but I still sweat due to the high humidity here in Midwestern USA!

I’d rather be living in the orange or yellow zones! Seriously, most of the time our humidity in the summertime is 70-80 %, even though the map shows an AVERAGE of 55% for northern Illinois.

2. Extreme heat – temperatures in upper 80s and above. I just have to stay inside an air conditioned house in those conditions. I admit, though, that I didn’t mind it while traveling in Europe last year during a heat wave – maybe it’s less humid or maybe I was just having too much fun to care!

National Weather Service issues heat warning | News ...

3. Bugs, especially mosquitoes and stinging insects. This is the one thing that every summer brings, and one of the few things I don’t like about this season.

Mosquito Control & Removal | How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes | Orkin

4. Excessive air conditioning – I realize it’s highly desirable to have air conditioning, but many buildings have cranked up the air conditioning so that I feel cold – after all, we are wearing summer clothes, we don’t want to freeze in a restaurant! Hotel rooms, too – I hate their air conditioning – it’s usually noisy and I don’t sleep well in air conditioned rooms.

LG LT1216CER: 12,000 BTU Through-the-Wall Air Conditioner | LG USA
In our old house, we relied on window units like this one and fans. Now we have central air.

5. Getting into a hot car that’s been sitting in the sun – I can open the windows a little bit and put a sunshade over the windshield while it is parked, but these things don’t help too much – and if I’ve left a water bottle in there, the water is warm, ugh!

21 children have died in hot cars this year | Fox 59

In the past, at the top of my list would be “sunburn” – but I don’t get sunburned anymore. My lifestyle has changed and I tend to protect myself, if needed, with sunscreen, but mostly by wearing a hat! And I just don’t go lie on beaches anymore – skin cancer is too much of a risk!

A Photo a Week: Rainbows

I so rarely get a photo of a rainbow – or at least a decent one! Rainbows are so ethereal and fleeting – one has to really be in the right place at the right time to see one! Therefore, I always consider it a special moment when I do get a photo of a rainbow, the subject of Nancy Merrill’s A Photo a Week.

The most recent photo I took of a rainbow was strictly by chance – I was taking a walk in our community last month and sprinklers were on. In the mist, I saw a rainbow and fortunately my camera was handy. Not very scenic, though.

However, the rainbow photos I’m most proud of were taken three years ago on our trip to the Dakotas. (If they look familiar, it’s because I have posted them before.) We were on our way back into South Dakota from a side trip to see Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. We’d taken a picnic for dinner, but had to rush because it started to rain. For a while, we were driving through pouring rain. Then the storm let up and South Dakota greeted us with a double rainbow! Sometimes we could see the fainter outer rainbow, other times no – but the rainbow stayed with us for several miles.

LAPC: Spring Sprang

“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.” -Marty Rubin

The beauty of spring is watching the first plants pushing up above ground, and seeing the early flowers bloom.

Budding hyacinth in April

Daffodils emerge
Gentle breezes caress me
The sound of birdsong.

And tulips!

What a strange thing! to be alive, beneath cherry blossoms. – Kobayashi Issa

After the pandemic arrived and we were on lockdown, one of our joys was watching the swans, and the expectation of cygnets. I wrote this haiku dedicated to the swans:

Cob* fluffs up his wings
To threaten the geese on shore
And protect his mate.

Swimming by the shore
Swans gliding, white against blue
Wag their tail feathers.

Male swan makes a nest
Lined with some sticks, grass and leaves
Mate will lay eggs soon.

*”Cob” is a male swan.

And then she began to lay her eggs…a total of five by mid-April.

A pair of Canada geese swim with their goslings in May. (The swans lost their eggs in a violent spring storm!)

Meanwhile, the warm weather brings people out walking, with their dogs, and stopping to chat.

The cute doggie on the left is my favorite dog here – his name is Bodhi!

And when were walking, we listened to the sounds of nature…including the pecking of a woodpecker.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #105: Spring

CB&WPC: I’ve Looked At Clouds

Cee’s black & White Photo Challenge this week has the topic clouds. This is an interesting topic, because one of the things that makes cloud pictures spectacular is color – especially sunsets. I tried and rejected several photos because they just didn’t have appeal without the color. Others, however, look even more dramatic in black & white! So here’s what I chose.

I’ll start with clouds seen from above (through an airplane window).
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I got some dramatic sunset photos in black & white when I looked for strong contrasts between the clouds and the sky.
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The variety of the shapes of the clouds makes this an interesting photo in black & white.

2-6 sunset from our room at Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge (2)
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Sometimes, what attracts me to take photos of clouds is the variety of shapes. It can be especially dramatic in the wide open spaces on the prairies of North Dakota…
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…or a sunburst over the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
KODAK Digital Still Camera
More subtle effects over the pond on the campus of our community.
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In this photo, the clouds are reflected in the rippled surface of the water.
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Sometimes, instead of a prairie, a dramatic landscape – such as majestic mountains – enhances the photo, offering a dramatic contrast between land and sky.
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The official title of the following song is Both Sides Now. But this is a pretty rendition with ethereal moving clouds. Although the song was written by Joni Mitchell, who sings it here, it was first recorded by Judy Collins, which was the first version of it I heard.

CFFC: Vanishing Lines

These are some examples of vanishing and leading lines for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge.

Last night in downtown Mt. Prospect
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Barn lines at Wild Bill Cody’s Scout’s Rest Ranch in Nebraska
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On the road in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
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Rest stop at Rocky Mountain National Park
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Roller Coaster Road near Harper’s Ferry, Iowa
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Crop lines, Israel
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An old, unused railroad track along the river dock, Regensburg, Germany
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Landscapes Around the World

Nancy’s A Photo A Week challenge this week features landscapes.

These are some landscapes from my travels, and closer to home.

July in Austria – scene looking down from Melk Abbey, where the Inn and Danube Rivers meet.
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Austria – cruising the Inn River near Schärding
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June at Kinderdijk, Netherlands
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February in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
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Mount Kilimanjaro – on a flight from the Serengeti to Arusha, Tanzania
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Des Plaines, Illinois on a snowy February day
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June at Devil’s Elbow Bridge, Missouri
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June at the Painted Desert, Arizona
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May at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
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June in Arches National Park, Utah
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December along the Nile River near Luxor, Egypt
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The Changing Seasons, Jan. 2020

A NEW CHALLENGE! Here’s what the host, Su Leslie, has to say about it:

“About The Changing Seasons
The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.
If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:
The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):
Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them
The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):
Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.”

Here is my contribution for January 2020:

Family and friends: 
Left: Colorful family members – my brother-in-law in lederhosen and my grand-nephew (we were at his house to celebrate his 18th birthday) in a flamingo suit we bought him last year; Right: Friends we rarely get to see nowadays, at dinner in a restaurant called Nando’s, which features Afro-Portuguese and South African cuisine.

Cats:
Top L: our cat, Hazel; Top R and Bottom: Two of our four “grandcats” (our daughter’s cats), Freddie (being held unwillingly by our daughter) and Stevie.

Home:
Our senior living community as it looks in this relatively warm January 2020: At right is my car during the only major snowfall we’ve had this month (which is very unusual, but we have had brutally cold as well as mild Januarys these past several years – none has been just “average”, I guess a result of climate change. I’ll take the mild winters any time, though!).

My artwork:
I love to draw and am taking an art class, which has inspired me to renew my artistic output! For the leopard cub I used a special technique, using dark Sharpies so it bled through the paper, then used the back side to color in with pastels. At right is a portrait I did in art class. We are focusing on portraiture this session.