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Mar 022014

Fragrant Rain 09/52: Photo of a raindrops clinging to a climbing vine of flowers by Kristen Koster on Flickr.com

Fragrant Rain

We’ve been getting some much needed rain here in SoCal for the past several days. The intermittent downpours haven’t dampened the scent of these pretty little pink flowers that bloom right outside my kitchen window making it seem like we’ve had a quite fragrant rain come through. Usually a steady rain here makes everything smell either squeaky clean and fresh or it brings out the deep, rich, earthy smells. So this heavy floral scent is a noticeable change.

I’m not sure what kind of flowers these are exactly, but when you walk outside and the breeze blows the right way, you get hit with a wall of fragrance, even from 15-20 feet away. It’s a heady sweet scent to match their girly pink blooms. The fence that they’re growing on has been taken over by it and they’re threatening to consume the bird feeder hanging there as well.

Hopefully the rain will help rather than hinder (in the case of recent burns areas where they’re experiencing mudslides and flooding) in the long run. Of course, lots of spring rain generally leads to lots of underbrush growth that then dries up after 5-6 months of no rain and provides lots of tinder in the fall. Vicious cycle.

I also noticed I’ve been forgetting to put my EXIF info for my photos this year. I’ll try to go back and add them at some point, but in the meantime, you can click on the photo to go to Flickr’s site and click on the … icon and choose EXIF info to see which camera, exposure, aperture, focal length and ISO Speed is used in each shot. It’s something I should pay more attention to in the shots I feel work, but I’m usually much more appreciative of the serendipitous successes than ones that I try to manufacture.

Feb 232014

I’ve been rather quiet and off the net more than usual the past three weeks because my mom passed away suddenly on February 2nd and it’s been quite a shock and as you can imagine, posting my weekly photos was the last thing on my mind. This necessitated a trip back to Maryland where I grew up. Of course, it being February, I had to sneak in between the snow storms and also be back home in time for our daughter’s 17th Birthday party this weekend. It’s challenging trying to figure out what you’re going to pack when you haven’t had to deal with winter and temperatures below freezing in about 20 years.

Dawn over Coronado Island 06/52

Dawn over Coronado Island by Kristen Koster on Flickr
This is from the early morning flight out from San Diego. Wave goodbye to the warm weather! This one was actually taken with my iPad.

A Real Winter Storm! 07/52

A Real Winter Storm!
I came to realize that while I like seeing snow and think it’s rather pretty, I don’t like the reality of the slush and the bother that comes after the pretty wears off. I also didn’t much like it every few days or so, especially when my husband and kids were scheduled to fly in on Valentine’s Day.

Pound Cake 08/52

Pound Cake
This is the cake I baked for our daughter’s 17th Birthday party yesterday. The recipe is one my grandmother got from an old German lady who refused to make it again after she tried my grandmother’s version. I suspect the farm fresh eggs and raw milk from the neighbor’s cows put her city-acquired ingredients to shame. My family has always baked pound cakes in a tube pan instead of a loaf pan. Maybe this is a regional thing? I don’t know, but they sure come out pretty this way.

Jan 272014

Photo of a Bird of Paradise plant peeking up from behind another bush by Kristen Koster on Flickr.com

Peekaboo Bird of Paradise

A bit more color from here in Sunny SoCal for those of you still gripping with cold temperatures and the occasional snowstorm. Spring is coming! Don’t lose faith!

I’ve always like these bird of paradise plants. They can always be counted on to bring a spot of color to the winter months here and the flower formation and even the leaves are interesting in the right light. What I didn’t realize before we actually had any in our own yard, was just how dirty they can also be. The dead brown flowers will rarely be mistaken for a bird of any kind. At least they don’t smell…

January has been a quick month and I haven’t found my way out of the yard yet. MUST work on that this year. I’ve been eyeing the neighbor’s tree, but that’ll be another flower so maybe it won’t count. I need to drive out to the dam one day and see if I can find something interesting there now that I’ve got this zoom lense. Unfortunately, the water won’t be spilling over like the last time we was out there.

Jan 192014

Photo of Palm Trees in late afternoon sun in Sunny So Cal by Kristen Koster on Flickr.com

Sunny So Cal

While the rest of the country has been dealing with temperatures well below normal, we’ve been having a heat wave here in Southern California. My car’s thermometer hit 90˚F on two separate days this week. Now, granted this was because the car had been sitting in the sun with the windows up, the temp never dipped below 86˚F either afternoon after opening it up and driving to school. It’s just not natural to have summer in January. We’re not in the southern hemisphere!

So why are we so hot? The Santa Ana winds have been blowing in off the desert to the east. We haven’t been getting any cool ocean breezes where we live — it’s a bit inland. But instead of having warnings about extremely low temperatures and worrying if we’ve left faucets to drip so they don’t freeze, we’ve been experiencing a different kind of anxiousness. You see, we’re experiencing a drought here in the desert (Yup, we pipe in all our water and irrigate the hell out of everything! Oh, and to ski, they draw up lake water and manufacture their own snow.) and with the winds and temperatures that high, the humidity in the single digits or low teens… we get put under a red flag warning. The means there’s a danger of wildfires. Luckily the few that started last week in the county were put out quickly, but it seems that one area closer to LA wasn’t as lucky.

Even in the middle of winter and usually when we’d be expecting a deluge of rain in about a month or so, we’re parched beneath those gorgeous sunny skies. Everywhere has its own problems. Just some insight into how paradise isn’t always what it appears to be. It looks like the winds have stopped now, but I’d send gladly ship out some of our heat if I could.

Madagascar Lace 2/52

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Jan 132014

Photo of Madagascar Lace, a lacey-leafed aquarium plant by Kristen Koster on Flickr.com

Madagascar Lace

After dealing with a couple of nasty algae blooms in our fish tanks, my husband has decided that plants are the way to beat it back and keep it from coming back again. As a result, both our tanks are looking very lush and pretty, but they’re also sporting complicated tables with fertilizer and mineral dosings.

This Madagascar Lace is his newest purchase and is one of the harder plants to keep happy. He’s been having good luck in the small tank (plants are closer to the lights) so hopefully it will thrive in there like the swords have done and graduate to the big tank when it gets big enough.

The fish? They don’t seem to care one way or the other. In the big tank they like the new thin grasses that must taste like spaghetti to them and enjoy uprooting whatever’s in their way. The smaller tank seems to like having more places to hide, but when you add cherry shrimp to the mix, this just makes it harder to tell if you have any left or not.

Fish are tricky to get good pictures of! Talk about your moving targets! And the sound of the shutter whir, just sends them scattering almost guaranteeing a blurry result. For the big tank, I’ve learned to use my big lens and sit across the room to “sneak” up on them.

January Rose 1/52

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Jan 082014

Close up macro photo of a pink rose in full bloom in January by Kristen Koster on Flickr.com

January Rose

This particular rose is one of a dozen or so that stretch in a line along our hill behind the pool. Enjoying the California sunshine and very temperate winters (It was 85˚F two weeks ago!) they tend to bloom multiple times a year. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the names of any of the varieties are, so we just enjoy them as they bloom.

As you can see, I’m embarking on another photo journey and I’m determined to make it through the fall months for this Project 52 in 2014. One of my Christmas presents was a spare battery for my camera, so I can’t use that as an excuse for not picking it up and taking pictures. I’m going to try to post these on Sunday evenings.

Several friends and family members have been asking why I don’t submit anything for photography contests or anything. I’m not actively looking for feedback or external recognition. It’s a hobby, something I enjoy for the sake of doing, but I’m not interested in having it judged. And yes, I know, just posting it on the net offers it up for comment. But again, my choice to share them with you all. They won’t all be easy, pretty flowers, but I hope you enjoy the process as well.

Aug 012013

Weekly Photo 28/52 for 2013: Pork Loin with Bacon Weave by Kristen Koster on FlickrSettings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/25 • ƒ/5.0 • ISO 1600 • 35 mm

Not quite a Bacon Explosion, but it’s still pretty tasty. Take one pound of bacon and lay out in a weave pattern. Take one pork loin and coat with dry rub of choice. Wrap and bake… um how long? HOW LONG?! Oh right.. I made it, I should know. I want to say it was 325˚F for about 90 minutes give or take. Fairly easily to do for an impressive presentation.

Weekly Photo 29/52 for 2013: Ella Quinn headed to Beau Monde Soiree by Kristen Koster on FlickrSettings: Apple iPhone 4S • 1/15 • ƒ/2.4 • ISO 500 • 4.3 mm

Two weeks ago I was in Atlanta for the RWA National convention. The Beau Monde chapter’s annual mini-conference and soiree is always held the day before and some of the ladies go all out in getting dressed up in period costumes for the dancing. Here’s the lovely Ella Quinn on her way to the party!

Weekly Photo 30/52 for 2013: Waterfall by Kristen Koster on FlickrSettings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/500 • ƒ/5.6 • ISO 250 • 300 mm

This waterfall is part of our pool. It runs the same time as the water slide. Love the play of light on running water and the sound is so soothing. Ok, this one roars between the two, but it’s still pretty!

I THINK this catches me up! Thanks for being patient and indulging me! I’ll have an interview up with Georgie Lee tomorrow, talking about the Regency and many other periods of history and her new Regency novella, HERO’S REDEMPTION.

Weekly Photo 26 & 27 / 52 for 2013: Grape Vines & Hummingbird

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Jul 092013

Weekly Photo 26/52 for 2013: Grape Arbor by Kristen Koster on FlickrSettings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/500 • ƒ/5.6 • ISO 320 • 300 mm

A consistent water source and some time have worked wonders for the grape vines we planted and trained on our arbor. The red grape vine is as tall, if not taller, then the white vine and they’re both reaching the top of the arbor. The reds are reaching for the nearby tree branches, so we’ll have to watch that. No grapes yet, but maybe we’ll get some next year!


Weekly Photo 27/52 for 2013: Hummingbird & Bird of Paradise by Kristen Koster on FlickrSettings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/500 • ƒ/5.6 • ISO 500 • 300 mm

We get hummingbirds close to year round here. They get a wide variety of flowers to choose from as the landscaping shifts throughout the ‘seasons’, so I haven’t been using the separate feeder this year. This way they get more natural food and we don’t get dive-bombed on the patio. This picture was taken out our kitchen window and I really didn’t do this little guy justice at all. The sun had caught the feathers on his head and throat just right and they gleamed a brilliant ruby, but I wasn’t quick enough and had the camera set too slow to catch it properly. Something to work on. I love their antics!

Jun 242013

Weekly Photo 20/52 for 2013: Bunny by Kristen Koster on FlickrToday’s weekly photo post is another entry in the urban wildlife theme. Despite the dog, we still have plenty of rabbits around our yard. There seems to be a burrow underneath the rocks for the water slide by the pool. This little guy (or gal?) was sitting outside my kitchen window, having breakfast the other morning. Usually, I manage to scare them off with the click and whir of the shutter but this bunny wasn’t too disturbed by it.

Settings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/400 • ƒ/5.6 • ISO 1600 • 300 mm

Weekly Photo 23 & 24 / 52 for 2013: Anigozanthos & Photo Bomb

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Jun 192013

Weekly Photo 23/52 for 2013: Anigozanthos or Bush Nugget Kangaroo Paw by Kristen Koster on FlickrMy posts might not look like I’m keeping up with my weekly photo project, but I have been taking the pictures. Our daughter has been borrowing my camera and I’m often left with a dead battery when I want to upload my photos for the week and then I forget to go back and get the charged battery until I want to take more pictures the next week. This photo is of the plant right beneath my kitchen window. The Bush Nugget Kangaroo Paw sounds so exotic, doesn’t it? I also just found out besides the lavender and rosemary we have growing in the yard, we also have a bed of chamomile right there at the base of this plant too.

Weekly Photo 24/52 for 2013: Photo Bomb! by Kristen Koster on FlickrAs I said, our daughter has been on a photo shooting kick. This includes both taking them and posing for them in her various cosplay outfits. The last day of school she came up with an idea for a project she wanted to do this summer, and tried to fit it all in that afternoon. Well, at least the photo portion of it. The dog was quite amused by this and wondered why SHE wasn’t the star of the show as usual. Nothing like having the dog pull off a photo bomb, complete with the self-satisfied grin. She knew EXACTLY what she was doing.