All posts by XingfuMama

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

Rule of Thirds

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge Rule of Thirds Introduction.

My camera has an option to show the grid for rule of thirds. Discovering that feature made a quantum leap in my photographic compositions skills.

The picture in the header has the fellow in the eye of the tortoise at the upper right. Not sure how dynamic that feels since the sky is white.

Here are some pictures taken this year using the Rule of Thirds grid:



Wander on in

With the holidays approaching and life’s many errands and  uncertainties encroaching, I have found myself wishing to be one place. A place that isn’t.

Home. But not the way it is now.

I want to walk into the house and feel at home, not like I have a six months or longer list of things that need to be done just to get to get it clean and comfortable instead of dusty, stained and cluttered.

I have lived in the same house for 28 years. We have made few changes and we haven’t even done much by way of basic maintenance. It has gotten shabby.

Over the last couple of years we have made some changes, mostly to update the basic functionality of the house (having natural gas piped in and replacing a furnace that was almost as old as my mother for one). The most recent upgrade was to bring the electrical service up to code, replacing the knob and tube wiring. That project left several holes in the walls and ceilings, and today they finally finished those repairs.

One room had to be completely empty so they could replace the ceiling, and its contents are in little mounds around the house.  I have carpet cleaners coming Monday, requiring more shifting things about. The carpet is so old now that it won’t look great, but with all the construction over the past few months necessary.

I put a few seasonal decorations out after the workman left this morning, but the overall clutter makes it hard to feel like that was a good idea. I want to get things pulled together but my calendar is as cluttered as the house.

I have been to many wonderful places and there are many more places to go, but right now I would like to run away, and wind up home. Not the way it is now, the way it should be.

This post is a response to The Wanderer Daily Post prompt.

Diagonal Play

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge Diagonal Lines.

Here are some pictures of a sculpture with a really strong diagonal line (I actually took them for Week 3 of Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge, but could’t post them in China). After reading the week 3 essay I really wanted to try it out, but had to get a bus to the train station so I took these in the hotel lobby while I waited.

Which one do you like? I kind of like the first one. In some ways it contains a bit of each of the lessons about lines: The column between the front doors leads you eye up to the teapot and the backdrop of vertical and horizontal lines on the wall behind the front desk make the diagonal lines of the splash noticeable, much more than they are in the second picture which was taken about the same distance away but from the front door side. In the last, taken from by the doors but at about the center of the sculpture, the splash appears almost as big as the stream coming from the teapot and the teapot becomes less noticeable.

Some other diagonal pictures:

While this isn’t my favorite picture I did one more experiment with this one from week 6 horizontal lines…I took my favorite rendition and removed the diagonal of the beach from it.

I still like the middle one best, and I think the diagonal line of the beach is at least part of why.

Buckle your Seat Belt- the Family is Gathering

This post was started before Thanksgiving, in response to the Daily Post prompt “Seat Guru”.

FYI: Seat Guru is the name of a website that is: “The ultimate source for airplane seating, in-flight amenities, flights, shopping and airline information.”

My family will gather for Thanksgiving, some smarter members will participate by calling in to say “Happy Thanksgiving”.  We could do a National Lampoon Family Holiday movie with almost no exaggeration. If we are in the same house and nothing blows up then the seating plan is perfect. Except that there is never a plan.

Our holiday gatherings are held at my dad’s place. It is definitely a barmy old codger’s pad (rat poison in the Kleenex box, skill saw on the dining table…). There is usually a close match between the number of human beings and the number of dogs. Dad doesn’t have much seating and all the dogs are people (they sit on the furniture). So these things tend to be a slow motion game of musical chairs played to football games and home improvement shows.

In preparation for this year’s festivities, I wanted to get a fire breathing dragon drone to guard the kitchen. I figured I could use it to dive bomb and breath fire on people who came into the kitchen when I was trying to cook. My husband talked me out of it.

One year at Easter the men installed a microwave over the top of the stove where I was trying to cook a meal. This was not a smooth, everything-fits-first-time type of installation,it involved several tries where the microwave occupied the only usable counter space while the installation team regrouped. Part way through the project my sister backed her car over a bank and the installation crew went to haul her mini-van out of a small ravine. Very shortly after that her new boy friend arrived in his spiffy Mini-Cooper and we were all told not to mention the over-the-bank incident. It got so ridiculous that when my Dad’s girlfriend arrived I offered her a dog biscuit as an hors d’oevre (bless her heart she got the joke!). I could have really used a fire breathing dragon that time!

Update: we didn’t have any dramatic quirkiness this year. I wonder if we are losing our touch…maybe we are getting old. I do still wish I had a fire breathing dragon drone… maybe for Christmas.


The Spirit of a Volunteer

Pumpkin blossomWe didn’t plant pumpkin this year, but one volunteered. It had blossoms as beautiful as any tropical flower.

Only one flower set but the pumpkin grew and grew…and grew.

We harvested it to sit on our porch for Halloween. I decided not to carve it so it would last to make our pies for Thanksgiving. We didn’t weigh it but you can see it was a beauty. When we cut it open I was really glad I hadn’t tried to carve it. The flesh was over three inches thick.

I now have two gallons of pumpkin puree to use! Typical over performing volunteer.

When you’re up you’re up-Vertical Lines

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge: Vertical Lines.

This is something I seem to have trouble with: I can’t just go out and see how to use vertical lines. I went through a bunch of old photos and chose a few where I think a strong vertical line is central to the composition.

After adjusting vertical and horizontal and cropping.
After adjusting vertical and horizontal and cropping.

Here is a before and after of an old tower in Drogheda, Ireland. It was difficult to photograph because you couldn’t get far enough away to get the whole tower in the frame at a good angle and still see the whole tower. Nothing was particularly straight to begin with, and the tilt of the camera trying to get the whole tower into the frame aggravated that. The adjustments were compromises. I used the vertical and horizontal transform corrections in Adobe Lightroom, then cropped the photo to be rectangular (those corrections make it trapezoidal). I couldn’t correct everything and still have the whole tower so I iterated a bit.

Here is some play with the same vertical, a white pagoda. The scene also had vertical elements in the white stone of the mountain and a cloud hovering over the mountain and pagoda.

In the end my own favorite was the following, which is #3 above cropped to be a portrait orientation. It keeps the vertical lines in the rock and the cloud which echoes the shape of the mountain but cuts out the clutter of buildings and the truss tower:

White King Pagoda

My hindsight is pretty good, I wish I was better at composing on the fly.



Velvety Dog Ears

My touch obsession is velvety dog ears.

I love texture and touch everything. I walk along touching things.  I am very particular about the feel of my clothes. I sew and part of the therapeutic benefit of sewing is touching the fabric. There are many wonderful textures in the world.

But some dogs have the most velvety ears and I can’t keep my hands off of them. My niece Dory was one of these dogs. Sadly, she  recently passed along to that tide flat in the sky where someone is always ready to throw the bumper for her and she never gets too stiff and cold to keep swimming after it. (I hope this is what dogs go on to after this life anyway.)

In memory of Dory:

Labrador Retrievers have especially velvety ears. The good thing about this rather strange obsession is that most dogs don’t mind having their ears rubbed, even by a stranger. Yes I have been known to rub the ears of dogs I meet walking down the sidewalk. Dogs seem to like me. They somehow sense that I am the kind of doggie auntie who likes to rub ears and sometimes has a treat or two in my pocket (clean up bags too). I try not to freak out their people  too much.

I don’t know when I started rubbing dog ears. My childhood partner in crime was a black lab named Misty.I was very young when Misty came into my life so the obsession may have started back when we were both puppies.

This post is a response to the Daily Post prompt: The Power of Touch.


Looking in

I have had many experiences of being on the outside. I am socially awkward, so almost any gathering has me feeling out of it at some point. I have traveled in places where I don’t understand the spoken language well, in some cases at all, and the customs are different. To try and figure out one experience to focus on is difficult. I could almost do a series on this topic.

But the Christmas season is creeping up on us. So I am going to write about the Hammacher Schlemmer Catalog, since it arrived yesterday. It offers many different products, some which are great ideas and sound like they are high quality, and some that make me feel like an outsider in my own culture.

I remember one year laughing until I cried about the alarm clock that would go off and then jump off the table and run away so you had to get out of bed to catch it! It seemed like a great idea and I thought about getting one for my son. But he has always been good about getting to where he needs to be on time, even when he grouses about early wake ups.

This year there are a couple items that I am not quite sure I get:

One is the $95,000 “Hippopotamine Sofa”. I am not saying that if you have a stray $95,000 there is anything wrong with it. I just wonder why someone thought to create “a handcrafted sofa that is a life size majestic hippopotamus”. I like hippos and enjoyed watching them in real life during my safari a few years ago. The safari cost a lot less than the sofa and I think I would go on another one long before I would buy this sofa, which “requires over 400 hours to make due to the intricate design and the artist’s painstaking attention to detail, including the barrel-shaped body formed by a steel frame, massive snout, and short legs.” Just as well I don’t feel a need for it, the 117″ length would be an awfully tight fit in my modest living room.

Another one is the “Selfie Toaster”. “This is the appliance that indelibly brands its owner onto a slice of bread.” Last thing I want to see at breakfast is my own face. Pretty toast would be fine (although I don’t think I would pay extra for it). A flower, a snowflake, or maybe a mandala to deepen my breakfast experience, any number of designs could make sense to me. Having my “full facial details converted into twin removable stainless steel inserts…allowing heating elements to brown light or dark likenesses…onto one side of toast” wouldn’t help my appetite. The rational: “removing any question as to the ownership of the next two slices”. It all makes sense now. My cat, The Empress, the only other “person” in the house when I fix breakfast, will not be able to claim my toast.

Aside: The other day I misspelled Christmas and my handy-dandy spell checker suggested: “Christmas” and “masochist’ as the two options for what I meant. That tickled my funny bone.

Happy winter to all. I hope you can find something to chuckle about during this season of cheer.

Inspired by the Daily Post Prompt: The Outsiders but a day late, and, if I succumb to anything in the catalog (especially the Hippotomine Sofa), way more than a dollar short!

The sun’ll come out tomorrow

I can’t get the Orphan Annie song out of my head. Yesterday was very stormy: wind, rain, hail. Lots of people in our state still don’t have power. But this morning the sun was out and all was calm. A beautiful fall day.


The only signs of yesterday’s tempest in my yard this morning were the leaves on the ground and some of the hail was still unmelted. We were fortunate. With yesterday’s wind I was surprised that there were any leaves left on the tree.

One of the clues in the morning crossword was “comic strip orphan”. The song jumped into my head and won’t go away.

The sun will come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
There’ll be sun

Just thinkin’ about tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow
’til there’s none

When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely
I just stick up my chin and grin and say, oh

The sun will come out tomorrow
So you gotta hang on
’til tomorrow, come what may!
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow
You’re always a day away!

When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely
I just stick up my chin and grin and say oh

The sun will come out tomorrow
So you got to hang on ’til tomorrow, come what may!
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow
You’re only a day away

Tomorrow, tomorrow I love ya tomorrow
You’re only a day away …