Dec 31, 2012

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!


For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


Happy New Year & Happy Trails.



Dec 27, 2012

My Hometown


In my previous post, Going Home, it was sad to see the homes I grew up in being torn down or in such disrepair.  But your comments were very intuitive.  It isn’t about the houses, really, its about “the house that built me” and I was one of the fortunate who had a good childhood.  C-ingspots – yes, we are close to the same age – I’ll be 52 next year; the Class of ‘79. 


I know those who grew up in the sixties believe they lived in the age of innocence but in a way, we did, too.  It may have been the 'dawn of Aquarius’ but not in our neighborhood.  We played ball in the streets and came in for supper when the 6:00 whistle blew.  It wasn’t until I was in high school that I started stepping out a bit… or a lot; depending on the perspective. 


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Our town had a population around 2,500 – 3,000 when I was growing up.  While there this past week, my son commented that it has everything!  A movie theatre, a bowling alley, a skating rink, a swimming pool and a Pizza Hut.  But alas, no Walmart.  It is 50 miles from a city and as my sister pointed out; a good place to raise kids but not real exciting for young adults.  Today the population is about 1,000 less and I would bet the average age is quite higher than when I was growing up.   


Last year, John and I took the horses down home.  We camped in the city park and rode to some of the places nearby.  I took some pictures of the high school and Main Street and shared them in my story Take Me Home.   This time I had my new camera and just wanted to shoot some pictures of my favorite houses in our little town. 




Over the last few decades, the town has kind of reinvented itself as a Victorian capital.  I was quite impressed with their marketing campaign.  Many residents bought some of the older more notable homes and brought them back to life.  It cleaned up a lot of the old neighborhoods.  This was a house a friend of mine lived in.  In the 70’s, it appeared to be a non-descript, single family home.  The people who own it now brought it back to its original turn-of-the-century grandeur. 


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This house sat in a corner lot across from the city park.  Growing up, I remember it in a state of disrepair.  If I recall, it had the old asphalt shingles as siding and there was certainly no curb appeal.  An amazing transformation, huh?


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Across the street is the Lew Hunter home.  He is evidently some screen writer but I can’t tell you any of his works.  A quick Google showed he has a website but I’m not interested enough to read it.  I much prefer admiring his home.  I love a house with a turret. 


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There are a couple more with turrets in the same neighborhood.  I don’t know the history of them except that they didn’t look like this in the 70’s. 


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I do recall when growing up that there evidently was a pool table upstairs in this last house that was ours for the taking.  Dad never could figure out how to get it down the stairs so it wasn’t to be.  I wonder now if anyone got it out of there?


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Finally, the Crilly Mansion.  Because it simply is.  Still owned by the same family, now its second generation, its upkeep is remarkable. 


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I recall my mom saying that her older sister used to clean this house years and years ago.  As a child, I recall going here for Halloween more interested in catching a glimpse inside than scoring another piece of candy.  My own sister, who is acquainted with the wife of the current resident, got to tour it recently.  She pointed out the different rooms as we slowly drove by.  


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It used to have a water fountain on this side of the house.  In the summer it would be illuminated with varying colored lights.  Today water features are not uncommon but back in the 70’s it was a rarity. 


I usually save this blog for my horse related activities but with the temperatures in single digits and quite a bit of snow still on the ground, there is not much happening equine-wise.  Thanks for letting me share some more memories and a glimpse of my hometown. 


Dec 26, 2012

Going Home




We went “home” for Christmas.  My dad has been gone for eighteen years and it’s been 7 years since my mom died, but my sister and her husband still live in the hometown so we go “home” for Christmas. 


Growing up, I lived in just two houses.  It’s funny, but since I graduated from high school many, many years ago and moved away, I bet I have lived in a dozen or more places.  Granted, John and I have been here since 1992, but still, there were a lot of homes in between.  But growing up, just two.  The 3rd Street house and the big 2nd Street house.


I know they say you can’t go home again
I just had to come back one last time
Ma’am I know you don’t know me from Adam
But these handprints on the front steps are mine


The first was a tiny 2 bedroom house that Mom and Dad bought shortly after they were married.  The thing I remember most about living there was Dad having sand delivered about every spring so we would have a new sand pile.  I am sure that sand delivery was worth every penny to my mom as we would spend morning to night digging tunnels and roads and homes for our Barbie dolls in the sand while my brother would plow through with this Tonka trucks. 




I also remember learning to ride my bike down the sidewalk in front of this home; still recall the places where the pavement was broken up or where we could get some air under our tires.  Still almost fifty years later, I could name you all the neighbors on 3rd Street; mostly now long gone, too.  Sitting in that front room, I recall my mom watching President Kennedy’s funeral; I shouldn’t remember, I was not even three years old yet, but I do.  A few years ago when I was home visiting, I saw they were tearing that house down.  I took a few pictures of what was left; much preferring now to rely on memories.   




We moved to the 2nd Street house when I was in grade school; perhaps 4th or 5th grade?  It was a step up in our book; a large two story home that was once a single family house and then later there were apartments put in upstairs.  The house was old and in need of updating; something my dad had neither the skills or money to do.  I can’t imagine what it cost them to heat that house.  Mom was very thrifty, turning down the heat at night and harping at us to turn out the lights when not using them, now a good habit I still have today. 


I bet you didn’t know under that live oak
My favorite dog is buried in the yard




I tried to find a picture of the entire house, but couldn’t.  Some exist but not in the albums I have here.  In this picture, you can see some of the porch of the house.  I smiled as I look at the flowers that mom and I would plant every year.  Always annuals and mostly zinnias and marigolds, all planted from seed. 


You leave home and you move on and you do the best you can
I got lost in this old world and forgot who I am


After we left, Mom and Dad moved into a duplex that they inherited from a gentleman they cared for.  John and I worked many weekends renovating it into a single family home.  It was easy for them to care for and they were comfortable.


The house on 2nd Street was sold very cheap.  If I remember right, my parents let the new owners make payments on what was probably a $3,000 sale.  Yes, that is the right amount of zeros.  This is a very small town with about every business that was offering jobs, folding up.  In reality, the house probably should have been sold for salvage (beautiful woodwork and doors) and then torn down.


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It’s been close to 25 years since my parents sold this house and I mourn what has become of it over the years.  While it was clearly a “fixer upper” when we were living there, I can’t imagine what it is like inside today.  Driving by the 2nd Street house this past weekend, I almost hated to take this picture.  This angle showed it at it best.  Another shot showed the side and back yards littered with car bodies and old appliances.  Where we once had a beautifully  manicured pet cemetery, it now resembled the house of a hoarder. 


I know they say you can’t go home again



Dec 24, 2012

A Year In Review




Two thousand and twelve was the year of the gadget.  The iPhone and Facebook recorded every magic moment and the GPS caught every mile in the fantastic Distance Derby.  By the end of the year, I started tinkering with a new camera which hopefully will capture as many good times in this next year.


Looking through the library of pictures and my GPS tracks via Garmin Connect, it isn’t hard to recap the year.  Besides being the year of the gadget, it was also the year of  crazy winter weather.  Although the mild winter temps lent itself to accumulating Distance Derby miles early, by summer’s end, it we found ourselves in one of the worst droughts in decades. 


Derby Girls Corie N, me, Tammy M, Christine S


The Distance Derby was designed as a year long competition.  Simply put, riders GPS their miles, submit them weekly and the person with the most miles, wins the race.  Surprisingly popular, we started out with 74 competitors and will end with over 50% completion.  I will place in the top ten – most likely #7 or #8, surpassing just over 1,200 miles accumulated in seven states; Nebraska and all those states bordering our own.  I bragged about those accomplishments earlier this month. 




This winter also brought me my first injury; taking a fall from Fancy into the frozen bean field.  I’d like to say that was the only fall, but Windy decided she had enough of me while riding in Wyoming and proved that she could off me if she really wanted to and did.  But those were minor indiscretions compared to the awesome rides and trails we covered over the last twelve months. 


Case on Butter


While regrettably both of my boys have found other things to do besides ride horses, I did coax Case into one camping/riding trip this past spring. 


McCain on Blue


It had been at least a couple years since McCain had been on a horse but when a friend wanted to ride, he made the sacrifice. 




While it still hurts my heart to think about losing Ginger, Fancy has been a great addition to our family.  It’s been an adjustment for John to ride a horse that lacks the fire and boldness that Ginger had, but I think it has also been a nice break for him to have one that doesn’t lose her head in the crowd and has come along tremendously in her own right.


Fancy Me


Since I ride more than John does, Fancy has become my back-up horse.  I keep saying that John needs to find him another horse because Fancy really should be mine.  What a great find she was; she is kind, level headed and beautiful.  Just my kind of horse. 


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I was fortunate to take some awesome horse trips this past year.  Spending a week in Wyoming with my husband and good friends was a special treat, especially getting out of the soring temperatures of Nebraska.  The views from the mountains were breathtaking; a glimpse of Heaven.




For the second year, I’ve enjoyed an extended horse vacation with my best girl friends, ending with Cowgirl Weekend.  And as much as I have always enjoyed Cowgirl Weekends, I have to say that the precursor to this event – what I call “trail tasting” along the way – is quick becoming the highlight of that week.  A week of horses is the bomb for me and sharing it with friends who love to ride as much as I do is just icing on the cake.   


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I lost two of my best dogs this year.  Maddie was almost 14 years old and spent many years camping with us.  Even when her body failed her, she still tried to keep up with me; ever mindful that I stay in her sight. 


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I lost Ritz unexpectedly two days after we put Maddie to rest.  He had shown signs of neurological problems in the months proceeding and we ultimately had to make a choice to let him go as well.  He was my guardian.  Ritz was truly the dog that would protect me above himself and I know that with all my heart.  I am pretty sure he is watching me still.  He traveled many road miles with Windy and me and I miss him every time I leave home on my horse.


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I won’t go as far as saying John shares my passion for horses, but he does enjoy them.  He keeps the fences fixed, hay in the barn and my truck running.  He humored me as we spent a night in Colorado to check another state off the list and spent many weekends home alone while I was out chasing miles.  He lost his good horse and has moved forward with one that I have chosen for him rather than one he may have picked out himself.  And I love him for all he does for me and my horse hobby. 


As always, I am thankful for my friends.  The circle of riding buddies continues to grow through the Platte River Riders, the Distance Derby and other riding opportunities.  I am grateful for the gift of renewing old friendships I thought were lost and most of all, for my besties who have not only shared the trails with me but the ups and the downs and the good times and bad and the everyday celebrations that can only be recognized by those closest to my heart.  You know who you are and I love you all for your gift of time for me.




After Ginger died, Windy had to really step up.  And in reality, so did I.  John was no longer on a seasoned trail horse, thus no longer the leader.  I had to ask more of Windy and as a result, become a stronger leader.  As I crossed the 900th mile on Windy’s back, I have never loved her more.  I also said that when she took me to nearly 10,000 foot elevation in Wyoming or we rode in the 7th state this year.  Windy’s courage, success and insecurities are an extension of me; we are one.  I love this horse with all my heart.


It’s been a fabulous year and I’ve been very blessed.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Dec 22, 2012

My New Obsession


It’s the Saturday before Christmas and all my shopping is done.  And wrapped.  Usually I do not put presents under the tree until Christmas morning; kind of a throwback from when I was growing up, but this time I decided to wrap them and leave them out.  But to keep the boys guessing, rather than putting their names on the gift, I put numeric codes on each package.  It has been driving McCain nuts trying to crack the code; and it really is very simple.  I’ll see if his brother can figure it out tomorrow.  


I was hoping my new telephoto lens would have been here by now but the storm earlier this week seems to have delayed the UPS shipment in Davenport, Iowa according to the tracking number.  Maybe it will be here Monday.  I did play with some of the pictures I took earlier this week. 


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I opened the gate to the pastures and the mares headed out.  Blue missed that his girls had to go out the main corral gate before they could get to the pasture and he was just hoping for a short cut to get out there with them.  Sorry, boy.  You have to go around, too.  I love how his tail is flagged; he was throwing quite a fit. 


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In Photo Shop, I removed the color cast which took the blue tones out of the picture.  Then I used the magic wand tool and touched it to Blue and using the color enhancer, adjusted the shadows and highlights so he isn’t just a big black blob. 


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I then opened the picture in Picasso, a Google program.  It’s a free download and while not a real robust photo program, but it has some fun features.  I changed the picture to black and white and then applied the “Vignette” feature, adjusting the size of the contrast along the edges.  I think it added some drama to the photo.  Blue is not a particularly handsome fellow, but he photographs well in certain situations.  This was one of them. 


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You all thought Windy was the most photographed horse but with a face like Fancy’s, how can you not want to photograph her!  And while she may be pretty, she is the biggest mud ball of our herd as you can see on her back.  Blue or the dogs had caught her eye and I caught this shot. 


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Once again, I removed the color cast.  I then opened the picture up in Picasso and used the Edit in Creative Kit function (upload the latest version of Picasso).  I cropped the picture, keeping it the same size and it brought Fancy to the forefront.  I like that you can see the steam coming from her nostrils. 


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Just for the fun of it, I applied the “warmify” function.  It turned her coat more sorrel than chestnut (yes, there is a difference in the quarter horse world).  I thought she resembled Ginger a lot after I did this, which made me realize Fancy is not near as red as Ginger was, even though I do consider both of them sorrels. 


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This one was kind of fun.  You can see Fancy’s nose is kind of constricted.  She had been running and bucking and came flying past Windy and stopped.  She is snorting.  I liked that she was looking at me while Windy was looking off at something else. 


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I fixed the color cast and then in Picasso, simply applied the “Sepia” function.  I think I then applied the “lomo-ish” feature or one similar.  I like it. 


If you already saw these on Facebook, now you know how I got there. 



Dec 20, 2012

Picture This


So I was perusing eBay last week for a replacement phone for my son and some how I ended up in the digital cameras.  Funny how that happens.  For years I have wanted to upgrade to an SLR – even blogged about it -  and for years I have talked myself out of it.  Lots of excuses… too pricy, won’t fit in the saddle bag, pesky lens changes.  But seriously, the iPhone has me spoiled. I always have it with me and it takes pretty darn good pictures.  Who needs a big clunky camera? 




The other day Case came home with a picture a teacher took of him playing football.  It was a good picture, real close up.  You could see his face, not just his number or his red shoes.  He said, “How come your pictures aren’t this close up?”  The above picture is an example of one of my pictures and yep, that’s about as close up as I can get.  (He’s the kid right in the middle).


Well there you have it.  Reason #1 to upgrade the camera.  The kid and football!


When I’m in the mood to eBay, I can usually find pretty good deals.  Especially if I am buying used.  I found a lower end Canon Rebel in wonderful condition with a decent enough price for trying.  It was here in two days.  While waiting for the DSLR for Dummies book to arrive, I’ve been playing. 


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The dogs, of course, are my most willing victims.  Bo, for still life because he rarely moves.  And Pip, because she doesn’t stop moving.  High shutter speed, flash, no flash, that f-stop thingy…  still trying to figure it all out.  It’s definitely hit and miss.  It’s dark when I get home at night and been overcast and cold on weekends, so I haven’t had too much time outdoors to play.


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We had our first snow storm last night.  We probably got a half a foot of snow but the winds were high and there was drifting.  I worked from home this morning and over lunch, took the dogs out with the camera and took some pictures. 


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I adjusted the white balance before I went out but the sun was so bright, I really couldn’t see what I was shooting.  But I got some fun ones. 


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I didn’t take too many of the horses at midday.  They were in the corral and it was pretty drifted.  I did miss not having a zoom lens.  I did order one but it isn’t here yet.  But overall, I was happy with the pictures I took.  A definite work in progress but so far, so good.


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Late this afternoon, we went back out to put another round bale in for the horses.  I didn’t mess with the settings on the camera and truth be known, I see some good shots through the viewfinder and forget to check the LCD to see how they turned out.  When I uploaded to the computer this evening, I was disappointed they were so dark.  I did post them on Facebook because even in silhouette, it gives you a taste of our pretty first snow. 


Some of you know Funder from It Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time and Jonni from Trot on Hank.   They offered some ideas in Photo Shop (or other like programs) to lighten them up a bit.  While I have played around with these programs, they gave me some next step tips.  Take a look.


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While at first glance, it doesn’t seem like a bad shot – the sky is pretty against the snow, you’ll note the snow has a blue tint to it.  And my pretty bay mare is pretty dark. 


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Simply removing the color cast and adjusting the shadows and highlights brought this picture back to life.  Windy is once again bay! And it more closely resembles what my eye was seeing. 


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This picture was in the same sequence.  You can clearly see Fancy is a sorrel horse.  The sky is very close in color, too.  There was no sunset, per se, but a gold tint to it.


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Here you can clearly see the outline of Windy’s body and the contrast of her colors.  I like that you can more closely see her tussled mane.  In a bigger version, you can see her eye more clearly. 


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I did a little bit more to this picture of Baby.  Beside the color correction, I removed the hip of the horse in front of her and part of Baby’s own hip.  She is a big mare and not having good conformation is probably a bit of an understatement.  But she has a kind eye and the contrast of her mane against her neck is so pretty.  (And I knew Jenny from Alaska would appreciate this picture.)


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Fancy is once again a red mare in this picture.  You can even see the snow up on her belly and the contrast in the color of her mane.  I think the cows up on the hill to her left pop out a bit more, too.


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Finally, this is the one I am most fond of.  It was almost dark when John brought in a round bale for the herd.  I love watching them mill around as he gets the feeder in place.  I was disappointed that the photo was so dark and then with just a little boost from Photo Shop, I was able to bring it back to life.  Thanks, gals, for challenging me tonight.  What fun!