All posts by XingfuMama

Amateur photographer seeking beauty in both the memorable and the mundane. Sharing pictures, stories and meditations from here and there.

Journey to a magic kingdom

This Journey wasn’t to Disneyland. A few weeks ago we went to the Olympic National Park and took a short walk up to Marymere Falls.

The hike  (it’s really just a walk, there is a short steep section but it has stairs) starts at the Storm King Ranger Station on the shore of Lake Crescent. It doesn’t have the awe inspiring grandeur that is present in other parts of the park but is has a magical charm.

The desert

I have spent more time in the Desert than I care to have done. For me this is primarily the Coachella Valley in California which is part of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem, a rain shadow desert east of the Santa Rosa Mountains. Although I don’t particularly like the desert, I have been going for over forty years.

My first visit to the desert was in 1972. My grandparents had moved there to work as caretakers for a compound in Thousand Palms, and my family drove down to spend Christmas with them. It was out of my experience to be in a place that was warm in the winter.

The landscape was so very different from our home in the Puget Sound area that it was intriguing. The stark landscape was beautiful and the plants and animals that adapted to the harsh environment fascinated.

Especially the palm trees that popped up seemingly out of nowhere. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend visiting the Thousand Palms Oasis, a preserve run by the Nature Conservancy. Here are some photos that my dad took on that original trip in the area of the Thousand Palms Oasis, it was not a nature preserve at the time.

I don’t hate the desert passionately, but find it unpleasant to be there. My curiosity about it as an environment has been satisfied or fried out of me and “been there, done that”, in most cases more than once, to the local spots of interest.

The area has grown up and there is not as much desert there as there used to be. All the construction feels the same, visit one faux adobe shopping center and you have pretty much seen them all.

I hate that jaded feeling, I pride myself on being able to find interesting things to see and do where ever I go, but the heat, aridity, wind, and that extra large, sharp sand that infiltrates no matter which shoes I wear to cut into my feet really make it hard to keep a good attitude going.

One disturbing reality is that, as the population of the area has skyrocketed and the faux adobe developments have proliferated, the open desert has often been treated as a dump. I wrote a bit about this in my post The Ephemeral, The Eternal & Trash. An example: near where my property was someone (probably someone who had a contract to dispose of the waste from a dog park) had dumped a series of three foot high piles of doggie doo-doo along the edge of a dirt track. As the years pass it is becoming dust in the wind, but I first noticed it something like six years ago and it was still distinguishable last year. You see furniture, tires, sometimes even whole households’ worth of stuff, just dumped. It sits drying out and being sandblasted for a very, very long time before it either blows away or is buried.

Here are some pictures from my trips to the desert since I discovered digital cameras (if you have read this far you need a break, and the desert does have it’s own, rather stark, beauty).

My most recent trip was last month, when I went down with my grandmother to sell the property. My post Was it all a dream? was from that trip, which I meant to be my last trip, but on returning I promised Grandma that I will take her back this winter, if all goes well (she loves it there…or at least the idea of it she formed in her head 40+ years ago).

It was not my first “last trip down”, my post I am on a Journey…, is from another “last trip” to the desert, and My Worst NightmareStyling in Palm Springs-Practical, but not pretty and Nightmare Part 2 are about the trip last August. I was surprised how many of the posts I have written have been about the desert.

I don’t long for my last “last trip” any more, because I realized that it will mean that Grandma is no longer able to travel.


Three minutes thought

I started this post as part of Quote Challenge*, to post a quote three days running. Of course I wandered off course…in fact I haven’t posted since this came through over a week ago.  I think the commitment caused me to have a block and I am too stubborn to do anything else until I get this over with. So here are three quotes with some asides. Not quite right but I need to get un-blocked.


Quote 1: A favorite of mine is

“Three minutes’ thought would suffice to find this out; but thought is irksome and three minutes is a long time.”

How very true that was when A.E. Housman penned it, but it is even truer now. Just think he penned it! It wasn’t a video clip or a pretty picture with the inspirational quote in a fancy font across it, or a tweet. How many “likes” would it get today? Maybe a bunch if it came out as snarky.

How we use words has changed so much…or has it?

Quote 2:  I don’t know why this came to mind but there was a great comic in last Wednesday’s paper: Arlo and Janis by Jinny Johnson.

“so, you speak into the phone and it sends a text to Robin”


“and she’ll speak into her phone, and you’ll get a text back”


“phones have come a long way from when you just talked to each other.”

Just think how much effort has gone into technology so people can talk to each other! How irksome is that?

The point of developing voice recognition technology is that people feel the need to talk to machines as if they were people. Now interpersonal communication is filtered through what machines can understand…Does anyone else find that a tad creepy?

3) I have a vague memory of a quote:

The only way to get good luck is to keep your eyes on the ball, stay in the fairway…and don’t overbid your hand.

No idea who it came from and the Google couldn’t do anything with it, which probably means I mis-remembered it. I took my eye off the ball and overbid my hand trying to do three posts in three days.

*Quote Challenge:

  1. For three consecutive days, you have to post a quote.
  2. Acknowledge the blogger who has nominated you. Thank you to Mia at I am rooted but I flow for thinking I could pull this off. Sorry I broke the chain.
  3. Each day you have to nominate three different bloggers.
  4. Let the bloggers know you have nominated them.

No nominations….but if you want to post a quote by all means do so.

This,  and many of the “prize” things floating around don’t seem to work for me: it takes me too long to figure out what to do and find someone to pass the buck to. The harder it is the less I want to nominate someone else for the difficulty.

Does anyone else out there choke like that?


Socially awe-kward

Is it just me?

I have always been socially awkward, so it should come as no surprise that the “social”-on-steroids world of the internet is not working well for me. I have been learning about social media of late. It has been inspiring Awe in me, but not in a good way.

My simple view of social media is that it is to connect people, a way to keep in touch or get to know and share with people we don’t get a chance to see very often or who live far away. For the “platforms” doesn’t seem to be the goal anymore. The goal now is to connect an infinite number of advertisers selling crap to the poor souls looking for real people to connect with who are prone to accidentally click, hover or swipe in the wrong place.

As some of you know I started a new blog, Goin’ with Grandma. Since what I wanted to do is try and find other people who travel with elderly relatives to share experiences, lessons learned and tips. I really have no interest in “monetizing” the site, but I am trying to figure out how to find people. So I have connected it to Facebook, Pinterest and my partially finished Linkedin profile. I signed up for “Bloglovin'”, and have been using Yoast SEO.

Getting things set up and linked up has been educational, but not effective as a way to find people in a similar situation. If my goal was to have my inbox filled with even more ads it was effective. Most of the ads are to help me become a social media butterfly (got news for them: I am a worm not a caterpillar).

The SEO thing (that means Search Engine Optimization) goes counter to what I was taught about good writing: to use a variety of words instead of the same phrase repeatedly. Long sentences using a rich and varied vocabulary are to become a thing of the past so that computers can figure out what we are trying to say and send us “traffic”.

I was inspired to write on this topic by a survey sent to me by Bloglovin’. Several of the questions were a little outrageous to me, I am pretty sure based on question wording that they are actually collecting data for Instagram marketers. However, I’d like to share one question with you that made me laugh out loud:

What is your favorite new social trend that gained popularity in 2016?

  • Boomerang
  • Yik Yak
  • Shots
  • Ello
  • Hyper
  • Facebook Live
  • Haven’t heard of any of these/They are not relevant to me

I would have checked the last box. Clearly I am not their target demographic. I guess I will always be the person standing beside the door wondering whether to go in or go home…even sitting in my own living room typing at my own computer.

Have you ever felt that way?


Analog-Open-Pure…oh RATS!

Analog-Pure Open…Open-Pure-Analog…Pure-Analog-Open…

Those are the three Daily Post prompts for today and this week. I am not feeling inspired, but I am stuck at home waiting for my new counter tops (yeay!!!!), so I decided to write a bit. Now I just need to find a topic. The only thing that comes to mind is rats.

Rats are an analog problem. No amount of digitizing will make them go away. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to type “rats” a bunch of times, highlight the words and hit delete, like a digital effigy?

When I looked out the window this morning there were three rats conferring beside my husband’s car (my car has been living out on the street since the Mouse Droppings episode early this year). I was not fit to go out so I banged the window open and shut a couple of times hoping the noise would drive them away. They went, but without urgency. Two moseyed for the trash/compost/recycle bins and the third went under the car.

My dinghy genius.

My husband is a genius, with that goes being a bit quirky. One day he was on the phone with his sister and I was doing my exercise DVD. He interrupted me to have me look out the window to watch a rat going back and forth from the compost bin to under his car. He kept chatting with his sister casually and even spent some time describing the antics to her. This was a few weeks ago. His response to the rat problem was to go and buy a sling shot (it is still in its wrapper).

Mine was to go out and try to remove some of the mess and clutter in the back yard so they would feel less at home. He really is not disturbed by the rodents, even though they are obviously in his car. One notable day I worked like a whirling dervish in the garden while he placidly played with his sailing dinghy (I think it is technically a skiff).

That obviously didn’t work. Last weekend my dinghy genius casually said “they seem to have a pretty substantial warren under the walkway”. I vigorously went after that area. Fearing for his little science projects, he did finally move the composter, which seems to have been a rain shelter for the vermin, and made a nice protection for their main access to the warren. It has not been very active as a composter. Since then I have been going out and shoveling dirt into the exit holes as they form.

Ever since the mouse droppings episode we have had a pest control company (that specializes in being green and pet friendly). I called them a couple of times and the guy finally came out today. He added a bait station with a different bait (the original problem was mice) right under the car. He may have done that just to appease me, if so it worked. For now anyway, I fear this saga will continue.

The onion isn’t the only oddball

I tossed a dandelion into the recycle bin…in Seattle there is no greater sin.

I had a vision. Making it a reality was thwarted because I hurt myself dumpster diving after a dandelion. So, when I took the blue denim out to make a backdrop for the plant I wanted to photograph: I couldn’t get the stakes in to hold it properly, everything sagged, the stake wasn’t really tall enough and I couldn’t reach anything taller, every move I made hurt, then I started sneezing, which was really painful.

KSM-20160601-Top-setting_Onion-02So the picture isn’t just of an odd plant, a top-setting onion with two levels of top-set on the top set; it also represents a crazy lady playing with fabric and plant stakes in the backyard, who can’t even do a good job of it because she dumpster dove after a dandelion.

It is a curious plant, like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. This year they seem particularly prolific and several had top-sets on the top-sets. The one pictured was over five feet tall and had meandered three feet or more laterally from its origin (it has since collapsed, that is what they do to put down roots). It was hard to photograph because the garden is very busy with all the plants that surged in May (hence my attempt with the denim).

It all seems to fit with the definition of oddball Cee has posted:

Meaning of oddball
noun – a person or thing that is atypical, bizarre, eccentric, or nonconforming
adjective – whimsically free-spirited; eccentric; atypical

Both the onion and I seem to fit.

Cee’s Oddball Challenge

Parsley? A flower?

KSM-20160612-Parsley-03I was working/playing in the garden this morning. We had a great spring for growth, and we aren’t the most regimented of gardeners. That means that we have lots of volunteers in the garden (I have never planted a potato, only thinned them). Today the parsley was in full bloom. I normally leave it to go to seed. I love parsley so letting it volunteer is much easier (and more reliable) than planting it in regimented rows.

Parsley is a cousin of Queen Anne’s Lace. It is less ostentatious but in some ways I prefer its subtle charm.

Cee’s Flower of the Day

Chaos continued

KSM-20160611-Remodel-05KSM-20160609-Remodel-02The chaos has gone on so long that her majesty has become accustomed to it. The remodel just finished week 5 and the major milestone this week is that the refrigerator is back in the kitchen. The built-in bookshelves by the fireplace are done but there is so much stuff in the living and dining room that it is hard to get them loaded.

Now all we need is the kitchen sink…and countertops, stove, dishwasher…..some doors and handles on the cabinets. Okay, so the end isn’t quite in sight yet.


The prize.

The on-going clutter is starting to wear on me. I lost two sets of keys this week (that is what I do when life overwhelms me). I found one of them today so maybe things will turn around soon. I am trying to keep my eyes on the prize: the amount of usable cupboard space in my kitchen will be about double what it was. The nifty swing outs for the corner cabinets are going to make crawling on my hand and knees with a flashlight to find the pans at the back of the cupboard obsolete.

Following a winding road to the light

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge: Week 22. There are three topics: bright spots, S-curves and flipping the horizontal axis.

Bright spots:

A bright yellow rose, the same one taken from 2 angles, the first one shows the sky, which competes for attention since it is as bright or brighter than the flower, the second, with just the fence in the background the flower really pops:

You can really see this by changing the pictures to black and white:

This is a potato blossom that I edited for another post, by trying to reduce brightness of the foliage so the blossoms dominate in a busy picture. I would say this move was moderately successful. There is still some competing brightness on  the leaves, but the only plant that catches your eye is the potato. In the first one there are two glowing spots (I think from my camera since there is nothing physical in those locations). In the second I cropped them out but there is a bit more bright foliage.


My take away from playing with this is: I find it really helpful to switch the picture to black and white mode (I use Adobe Lightroom and it is easy to do) to evaluate where the brightness leads my eye. My perception of cool and warm colors warps my sense of brightness (I didn’t realize that the sky was brighter than the rose until I changed to black and white).


Here are some very different pictures where a serpentine curve seems to be part of the composition.


Flipping the horizontal axis:

These are all of birds. I was hoping that the pictures of birds taking off out of the frame might look better flipped, but they don’t. To make these two look truly good I would have to keep the bird going the same way and somehow shift him or her to the left of the frame, possible, but a bit beyond my current skill level. I definitely favor the birds facing right.