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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 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.

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.

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.

May 202013

Weekly Photo 20/52 for 2013: Little Bird by Kristen Koster on FlickrToday’s weekly photo post continues the urban wildlife theme. We have a variety of birds that visit our back yard. Humming birds, some little yellow songbirds, a pair of hawks and we can hear an owl nearby at night.

I’m not sure exactly what type this little guy is, but I think he may be a junco? The ones we have love sitting on things that poke up. Like the chairs, the sprinkler heads, the head for the half-barrel fountain. Sometimes they sit in nearby trees or on the roof lines. But this little guy was happily sitting on one of the patio chairs when the dog decided he was invading HER space and told him off in no uncertain terms.

Settings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/500 • ƒ/5.6 • ISO 1000 • 300 mm

Weekly Photo 12/52 for 2013: Iceplant

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Mar 242013

Weekly Photo 12/52 for 2013: Iceplant by Kristen Koster on FlickrToday’s weekly photo post could be considered cruel and unusual punishment for those of you stuck in winter mode. Here, spring has definitely sprung and the hills are green (this is usually seen as a bad thing here because by fall it will make abundant tinder for raging wildfires) and the flowers and trees are blooming. From the amount of pollen on our cars, I’d think we were back in Austin, TX. I’ve never seen it so thick here. I got to watch a stand of pines dump pollen on a couple of students walking beneath them the other day. A good strong breeze caught the trees and it looked like someone had taken a huge bottle of yellow talcum power and dumped on them.

The iceplant pictured here is a succulent that’s used for sunny hillsides and in some of the medians on the streets. Once it gets in full bloom, like phlox, it looks like someone came along with a bucket of bright magenta paint and stood and swung it. Apparently, it also spreads to cover the area really well and can be quite invasive as well. Good thing it’s pretty.

Settings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/100 • ƒ/5.6 • ISO 100 • 35 mm

Weekly Photo 11/52 for 2013: Flowering Hedge

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Mar 172013

Weekly Photo 11/52 for 2013: Flowering Hedge by Kristen Koster on FlickrToday’s weekly photo post is NOT a daisy! Spring is starting to burgeon here in full force. It’s been in the low 80s this week and the flowers are loving it.

This also means that it’s warmer at night and that means foggy mornings. I was going to grab a shot of the sun coming over the hills this morning, but I got sidetracked and by the time I remembered I had been going to grab my camera, the effect I was looking at had gone.

Timing is everything. Ok, maybe not EVERYTHING, but certainly a huge chunk of getting some of those great shots! The other day I was coming back from school and a plane flew between me and the summit and the way the sun flashed off it was very cool, but of course, the plane veered off and I didn’t have my camera with me, let alone turned on and ready.

Settings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/100 • ƒ/5.6 • ISO 250 • 55 mm

Social Media: Where You’ll Find Me

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Mar 152013

Social Network IconsThis week my accountability group’s How I Write series asks, “Which social media platforms do you do? Which do you prefer and why?”

I’m not an extrovert by any means, but I can almost pretend to be one on the internet for short periods of time. I do have a tendency to lurk, but I have met some great people through various online social media networks that I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise.

I think the most important thing when trying one out is whether you like the atmosphere and the people you connect with. Surround yourself with positive people, people who inspire you, make you laugh. While it’s important to find “your tribe”, it’s also important to look beyond it to escape the filter bubble

Daily Social Media


Likes: In and out quickly. The instant information when something happens. The cocktail party atmosphere. How approachable most people are.
Dislikes: 140 characters. Straight web interface. Impending death of Tweetdeck — I need to find a replacement.


Likes: Games. Groups, ability to find people you’ve lost touch with. More than 140 characters. Ability to filter what updates you get from some people.
Dislikes: Games. Privacy issues. Repeated sharing of hoaxes or just plain misinformation.

Frequent Social Media


Likes: Online photo sharing and organization. Groups if I want to read them. Random pic(k)s!
Dislikes: I always forget to check the groups. Some of the organization tools are a little clunky.


Likes: Finding new books from my friends! Tracking what I’ve read.
Dislikes: I tend to lurk on groups, not sure why.


Likes: Ooooooh, shiny! Lots of neat stuff out there.
Dislikes: Ooooooh, shiny!

Forgotten Social Media


Likes: Ability to do hangouts. Clean appearance. Communities seem like a good idea.
Dislikes: Circles aren’t necessarily intuitive to set up and use. Is it just me or is it still VERY quiet?


Likes: Easy to find cool new things! Great way to help spread the word about cool things on the net.
Dislikes: Remembering to use it! (Yeah, I never got into digg either.)


Likes: I like listening to new music. I like listening to old music.
Dislikes: Remembering to open up something other than iTunes, heck I even forget that some days.


Likes: Umm… I never really got into it. My kids use it and love it though. I like looking at other people’s when they’re linked from twitter.
Dislikes: Remembering it’s there?

I’m sure there are several others I’ve forgotten I signed up for. You’ve also probably noticed that LinkedIn isn’t on the list. I’ve gotten numerous invitations (Haven’t we all?), but don’t feel like I have time or really a good reason to be there. (I’m happy to listen to reasons why I’m wrong though.) I also currently use YouTube and IMDB, but I don’t post or comment on either of them.

I do also use NetworkedBlogs, Technorati, Gravatar, WordPress, and Blogger (for commenting on other blogs), but those are much more passive than the platforms listed above.

YOUR TURN: Which social media platforms do you do? Which do you prefer and why?

And if you’d like to check out the rest of my accountability group, you can find their blogs here:
Alexia ReedKimberly FarrisDanie FordEmma G. DelaneySusan Saxx