Sunday, August 26, 2012

Focus 52 (week 34) All Creatures Big and Small

Again with the last minute post for this prompt - the only photos I took this week were (as usual) horses (fit into the "large creature" category), but this lesson was different -- everyone was bareback.  A small herd of horses, all bareback riders (some for the first time in a very long time) - working on finding their seat and balance.  It was funny to watch their faces as they tried to keep everything balanced and in the right place without stirrups to brace themselves on or saddles to distribute their weight.  Happy to report - no one came off, but this was mostly a walking lesson with a little trotting down the long side.  Was a good change up from the usual lessons and a good/fun way to end the summer. 

Linking up with Two Scoopz's Focus 52.  To see other images of big and small creatures - check out Jan's website.

(Eventually the herd did spread out & everyone got their own personal space - confused horses at the beginning with no tack tended to want to stay with the herd.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

This is a real place - I've removed the phone number to make it a little harder to place. Good luck!!

Linking up with Wordless Wednesday.  Click here to view other wordless images.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Weekend Rewind

Although I'm a day late with my weekend rewind, I think everyone will still enjoy some of the landscape images.  I took several (lots), so it took me a while to go through and chose a few to add to my blog post.  The weekend was a girl's weekend - my daughter & I took a road trip to visit my sister - several hours away (also the last real trip before school starts).  Once we got there, the three of us got in the car and drove even further - thought about jumping the state line in one area just because we were that close to it. 

Our first stop was Caddo Lake State Park.  I wanted to check out the campground and see the beautiful cypress trees in the sloughs.

Many of the park roads were one way and several were quite steep (for this flatlander), but the trees were beautiful and the park was very quiet.

We wanted to go on the pontoon boat tour, but couldn't quite figure out what time the next tour was.... wonder if they even remembered that sign was up there?  Thank goodness there was a white board with tour times and prices listed. 

We had some time before the next tour, so we ate our picnic lunch and looked around a little.  You can see the pontoon boat at the end of the pier.  The cove around the pier was very scenic.  I think I took nearly half of my keeper shots from this area.

I was able to sit in the very front of the boat (not many people want the sun beating down on them), so this was the view leaving the cove.  Although some of the vegetation on the water (giant salvia, hyacinth) are very invasive (some can create critical situations) - they sure do add to the photographic image.  The water was very still and dark and we were lucky to miss the rain that was in the forecast.

We made our way back to boat road "C" - we saw several people fishing and a few canoes - more lovely cypress trees, herons, blooming hyacinths, and even a water snake (swimming along the shore).  This was not an interpretive tour, but it was still nice to just see parts of the lake.  There are other tours but this is the only one that leaves from within the state park.

There were some very interesting tree knee formations - cypress trees have "knees" - I'm not an expert, so I don't know if this formation is a sign of water levels/drought or if it is just formed by chance.  The knees I usually see are much shorter (just tall enough to stumble over) and are spaced out around the tree like you would expect roots to be. 

The butterflies and dragonflies seemed unusually friendly in this park (maybe they are remembering the term Tejas - thought to mean friend).  This snout butterfly wouldn't leave my daughter's bracelet; when he finally did a dragonfly landed on her shoes and stayed there (maybe he was hitching a ride).

The next day we took another boat ride up the Sabine River - some parts of this river form the natural boundary between Texas and Louisiana.  Again the river was very calm - water like glass.  We were out before the other boaters (aka crazy people) and only disturbed the herons and sunbathing turtles.  Nothing unusual to see, but was still a nice boat ride. 

A lot of images with this post, but I did see a lot of beautiful scenery - Caddo Lake has a very interesting history and the state park was one that the CCC was involved in, but didn't get a chance to build as many structures as in other parks.  It is still a beautiful place to visit - the park staff said October is a very busy time - visitors come to see the fall colors.  They also have a great park store - books about the CCC, the state park system, wildlife management areas, and others that I haven't seen anywhere else. My sister and I had fun browsing the books (we are such nerds!!), and I managed to only buy two (this time). 

Hope everyone recovered from their weekend.  The school routine is almost here and in this household we are fighting it every step of the way - we love our summertime togetherness. 

For more information on Caddo Lake State park, visit their website at

For more information on the CCC and Texas state parks, visit this website. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Exploring with a Camera - Repetition

I didn't set out looking for something to photograph to represent repetition, but after reviewing the images from a very recent weekend trip I realized I had a few that would be great for this month's prompt.  There are many things that are repeating within this scene - the slats of the pier, the railing supports, the pier lights.  This was taken right before dark, so everything was a kind of drab color (sun was setting to the right - but the colors weren't reaching this far), so I decided to make it a black and white image (I may have gone a little too far into the "black").  I carried the tripod around this trip and it really does make a difference when trying to capture certain shots - especially in a brisk sea breeze (technically a "bay" breeze) . 

Here's another image from the same pier - just another section of it, and a little later in the evening  (it is a very very long pier, 1620 feet total in length) that I also gave a black & white treatment to - again maybe a bit heavy on the "black".  This was an attempt on my part to be a little artsy & not have everything all nicely lined up.  I do like the way the distant lights show up as tiny white dots, and the darkness approaching the bright pier fishing lights.

Linking up with Kat Eye Studio's Exploring with a Camera.  Click here to see other repeating images.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Gulf coast sunset.

Linking up with Wordless Wednesday.  Click here to see other wordless images.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dutch Oven Cooking - Canned Biscuits

We love camping and enjoy eating good food while camping.  When you camp often the traditional menu of  hamburgers and hotdogs gets old really quickly.  Many campers (including popups) now include an oven in their kitchen, but if you've ever tried to actually use it - you'll realize it isn't the best at keeping correct temperatures not to mention heating up the entire camper (not a good thing in 90+ degree heat in the summer).  Besides bringing leftovers, I started using dutch ovens several years ago to expand our food choices.  There are several recipes out on the web that are specifically for dutch oven cooking (some are very elaborate), but the dutch oven can also be used as a plain, regular "oven."  Canned biscuits are one of our favorites for Saturday morning breakfasts.  The instructions on the large-sized biscuits we usually take are to bake at 350 degrees for 14 to 17 minutes.  The steps I follow are:

-clean out fire ring at campsite (I cook & keep all hot cooking utensils inside the fire ring to keep everyone safe)
-prepare charcoal (we splurged and bought one of those chimneys - it really does speed up the process of getting your charcoal to the right ash stage), for 350 deg, 10 inch oven - 21 total briquettes are needed
-spray cooking oil lightly inside dutch oven while it is cold
-place biscuits in a circle while oven is cold
-place lid on oven and place on top of 7 prepared (hot) briquettes that are in a circle (provides bottom heat).  I usually place the lid in line with the handles of the oven, so when it is time to turn the top/bottom, I know which way I am going
-(with tongs), place 14 prepared briquettes on top of lid, spaced evenly

-set timer to 7 minutes (1/2 of the total time cooking)- no need for a fancy timer

-After 7 minutes, carefully (& with proper tools) - lift & turn the entire oven 1/4 a circle & replace on coals, then using proper tools - carefully spin the top (don't lift it - it will spin just fine still seated on the bottom) 1/4 circle the opposite way - the idea is to spread out the heat and avoid hot spots

Since the canned biscuits only need 14 (or 15) minutes to cook, I only turn the oven once or twice.  Some things cook longer & you'll turn every 10 to 15 minutes. 

-when the biscuits are finished - carefully lift the lid & place to the side (I still keep it within the fire ring) without any ash falling/blowing into oven - ashes on biscuits don't taste the best

I use a long spatula to get the biscuits out of the oven... remember that oven has been heated to 350 degrees & it is HOT.  After we are finished eating, I dump the ashes from the top into the fire ring itself, prop up lid on its side (so it can cool), and remove the bottom oven to a cooler place within the fire ring.  As long as isn't going to rain - I leave these alone & let them totally cool before wiping out & putting away.  You'll need to put paper towels in the dutch oven (to soak up moisture) when storing it - I use several paper towels and leave parts of them hanging out of the sides - between the lid & bottom.

So, the moral to this story - yes you can use those recipes specifically for dutch ovens, but you can also use it like an oven & bake regular food (I have baked brownies before -- they were excellent).  Depending upon the weather, time, etc., you may decide to tackle a longer cooking project - I have been known to break a serious sweat over cooking supper - when I first started using dutch ovens for cooking.  In the summer, I keep my dutch oven cooking down to biscuits for breakfast one morning each weekend.  In the fall/winter I'll tackle more elaborate items.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

My son, working on his first big project (he just turned 10) & learning how to use several different tools (yes his mother is teaching him these basic skills).  The bench is the "Aldo Leopold" design (Aldo Leopold - brought about the thinking behind wildlife conservation).

The bench is finished except for painting - we'll tackle that next week.  Since he was learning, we were extra careful about which pieces he was keeping for the project and which pieces were scrap or kept for another project.

I love the way this bench turned out - I may make one for myself.  I'll post a picture of the finished painted project(s) later - with links to (free) plans & a little about Aldo Leopold - give everyone a little history lesson.

Linking up with Wordless Wednesday.  Click here to see other "wordless" images.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Focus 52 (week 31) - Water (with a few toads)

Wow - been a while since I was able to contribute to this weekly prompt - I love participating, but lately I haven't been able to take many photographs, much less ones that even slightly resembled the prompt (I know I could post anything - but I like the challenge). 

Now that we've had a bit of a summer storm today (great timing), I was able to take a few shots of water & to my surprise - a few toads decided to pop out & see what was going on -- their home was flooding. 

These are Gulf Coast Toads - very common around here.  We didn't see as many last year when we were in the exceptional drought, so we are enjoying watching them this summer.  The crack in the sidewalk was a great place to get down into the cool dirt during the hot day - except when the crack fills with "flood" waters. 

Participating in Jan's Focus 52 this week.  To see other images of water - click here.

To those who attempted to comment on my blog in the past & were frustrated with word verification (I know I get frustrated) - I apologize - I think I've fixed it where commenting should be effortless (if not - please let me know).