My New Ring

My first time to have a custom ring designed and made for me – truly a “one of a kind” mother’s ring!

In my long, overdue update yesterday, I failed to share one more notable thing that I want to have “on the record” here.  One of the last duties I had to take care of as the executor of my mother’s estate was the final distribution of her jewelry that had not been distributed while she was still alive.  On the advice of the lawyer, I held off making this final distribution until everything else was settled, and that was good advice.

I split the remaining jewelry with my sister, with the approval of my sister-in-law.  This was the right thing to do, since there really was not much jewelry to split anyway, and I had everything appraised early on so that I could start thinking about the best way to split it between us.  After closing the rent house purchase in May, I then took all of the jewelry to a good jeweler here and had him check everything out to see if anything needed to be repaired before distributing it, as I planned to give my sister our mother’s wedding ring with the one larger diamond.  Fortunately, all of the prongs were in good shape, and I then gave my sister her share of mom’s jewelry in early June about the time that mom would have celebrated her 94th birthday.

With the bulk of the estate matters now done, I took my mother’s diamond ring guard and my own 20th anniversary ring back to the jeweler to see if he could design a custom ring for me.  I never had a mother’s ring, and even though I’m really not a big jewelry gal, this was a ring that I always wanted.  I cannot say enough nice things about this jeweler and the entire process of designing a custom ring, too.

While it was still a little hard to even take the step to do the ring, the jeweler and his associate both worked with me over two separate visits to come up with a ring design that I absolutely adore.

My new mother’s ring – click to see it larger (please)

If this is not a real mother’s ring, I don’t know what is.  One row of diamonds is from my mother’s wedding ring guard, which actually belong to my father’s mother, and the other row of diamonds is from my own 20th anniversary ring and had several diamonds that needed to be repronged anyway.  The ruby is my daughter’s birthstone, and the garnet is my son’s birthstone.  While I think this is actually a pretty good photo of the ring, taken with my new 50mm prime lens, I think it is even prettier in person.  I also had four little diamonds left over, too.  If I lose any diamonds from the ring at some point, I will have some genuine replacements ready to go.

I picked the ring up a few days ago, and I bawled like a baby when they showed it to me.  It bordered on being one of those “ugly” cries, but fortunately, I was the only customer in the store at the time.  Once again, they were just so nice and understanding about the whole process, and it is a true pleasure to do business with great folks such as these.  This will not be a ring that I will wear every day, for sure, but I will certainly love wearing it when I decide to do so.

The jeweler also gave a me a free appraisal of the ring for insurance purposes.  I traded-in the gold from the two existing rings and purchased the birthstones new.  The gold trade-in also helped to defray the cost of the ring just a bit.  I asked him about using the existing gold in the new ring, but he said that he much preferred to use new gold instead.  I’m glad that he talked me into that, as I just truly love the look of this ring, and even the design of it is special to me, as if my mother and I “have our arms” around both of the kids.

So, there you have it – my special ring at long last.  I just wish my mother could see it, too.

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Summer Catch-up

Catching up on life and a new photography project after a little blogging break

I appreciate those of you that have messaged me about my little “time-out” here, and everything is fine, actually quite good these days.  Since I’ve taken such a long break, this will be a fairly lengthy update, while I’m in the mood to catch up here again. 😉

RV Travel Resuming Soon

We have taken a long break from travel this summer, or at least I have.  Hubby is no longer managing two departments at work, so it was time for him to catch up on his business travels, which he has done all summer long.  He recently made another trip to India, as well as various states in the US, as usual.  As summer draws to a close and kids now return to school, we will resume our RV travels on Labor Day weekend, and I’m quite ready to hit the road again!  We have not been out in the RV since April, making this the longest single stretch that we have been away from it since we started four years ago.  We are going boondocking in New Mexico before the national forest campgrounds shut down for the year, something we have not done in some time.

Hubby recently got a CPAP machine to use at night, so we purchased a good inverter and tested it for seven hours on the house batteries of the RV, turning off the heating element, and it barely even brought the battery level down.  That is great news, for sure, as he really needs to use it overnight now to help him breathe.  On most RV trips, we usually have shore power, but we will need to run it off of the battery for our upcoming trip next week.

Home Improvements

2015-06-10 20.35.33We usually attempt some home projects in the summer months, and this year, our home projects have mostly been related to our kitchen.  First, we bought a new refrigerator with a bottom freezer, which we love.  Next, we completely emptied and painted our laundry room, got rid of the extra refrigerator that we no longer need, and bought new shelving to have more storage, mainly for smaller appliances.  I also moved our Keurig “coffee bar” to that room, which freed up more room in our breakfast room.

After we finished in the laundry room, I embarked on a fairly lengthy search in person and online for a new dining table for the breakfast room.  However, I actually found a matching set of tables for both the kitchen and breakfast room, which made me very happy, especially when the cost for both was less than we planned to spend on just the breakfast room furniture.

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Hubby also built a custom “double doggie diner” for the dogs, and it can be seen in this photo.  It is such a cute piece, and it saves a lot of room in the breakfast room, as compared to having two separate feeding stations for the dogs.

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After we got the furniture in place, I spent quite a bit of time just cleaning out cabinets, lemon-oiling and scrubbing the floor by hand.  We gave some thought to replacing the floor in our kitchen areas, but honestly, we are already tired of home improvement projects for this summer and just don’t want to deal with it this year.  So, we will wait on that update for a later time when we are finally ready to do it.

Walk, Walk, Walk!

2015-06-24 23.27.53Back in June, I also bought a Fitbit Charge HR, and since that day, I have walked at least 10,000 steps each day, usually in the morning and early afternoon.  A few days ago, I got a notification from Fitbit that I had walked 500 miles since June 9, too.  The Fitbit folks provide some nice support and incentives to keep walking, even as I know these are simply automated messages.  Honestly, this is not a lot of walking for me, and on most days, it is no problem whatsoever.  One day early on, I really focused on walking for much of that day, and I hit 35,000 steps that day.  Most days, I manage between 11,000 and 15,000 steps when I add a 30-45 minute walking session to my regular daily steps.

 This has now become a daily routine for me, even though I’ve had to do most of my walking indoors at various places this summer due to the heat.  I like the heart rate monitor in the Fitbit, and my heart rate during the day and at rest is consistently very good.  My initial goal was to focus on walking with the Fitbit through the summer months, which I have now done.  I’m planning to continue with this plan for the fall months, too.  I’ve already walked 1.2 million steps, so I’ll see how long it takes to hit 2 million!

A Quick Trip to Escape the Heat

The only time we’ve ventured out-of-town this summer was a quick, one-night trip to Ruidoso.  The heat here at home was going to be pretty brutal that weekend, so that Saturday morning, Hubby went online and found a nice hotel that was also pet-friendly.  An hour later, we loaded up the dogs and left for the cool mountains of New Mexico.

A pretty walking trail in the Lincoln National Forest at Ruidoso

We have spent so much time in this area over the past forty years, and it is always good to return to this little area that feels like “home away from home.”  Unfortunately, there are really no great places to take the RV in this particular area, since all of the forest area is national forest land with few, if any, forest campgrounds that are RV friendly.  The best RV options are privately owned RV parks that are pretty tight and located mostly in town.  Several are nice enough but are really just not what we want when going out in the RV.  If anyone ever needs a recommendation for one, though, I can help.  We have checked them all out now.

New Pickup

We have not owned a pickup for several years now, and we finally found a cute little red Chevy S10 LS that was in great shape.  We bought it on Monday, and we will be glad to have a pickup for a third vehicle to use when we need it.  I’m learning to drive a stick-shift all over again, too.  We will no longer need to call a friend or relative when we need to haul something, which will be so nice.

Windows 10

A few days ago, I installed my free upgrade to Windows 10 on my laptop, and I am so, so glad to be rid of Windows 8.  That annoying window that would always slide in from the right is finally gone!  Oh happy day!  So far, I like Windows 10 just fine, and I’m glad that the start menu is back again, too.

Student and Teacher

Lately, my personal projects have not been related to home improvement, but rather to studying and teaching photography.  Yes, teaching!  I think I mentioned here earlier that I felt a strong desire to get back into photography again, and this has taken on several fun new aspects, including one that I never could have anticipated a few months ago.  I also had the opportunity to take a good photography class over two days in July for the very first time.  While most of it was just review, I took away a few points that were new, as well as seeing a great way to present photography to someone for the first time, too.  The instructor was a professional photographer with over thirty years of experience, and he definitely knows his craft.  It was fascinating to be a part of his class, and fortunately, I can contact him anytime when I have questions going forward, too.

While I have been studying my new camera and much more related to photography in depth, an opportunity to help some other ladies learn photography for the first time came my way, via a personal friend that lives in another city.  In mid-July, she asked if I would help her learn photography and her new DSLR camera and even offered to pay me to travel to her city to do classes.  I shared that I did not have a curriculum to work from right now, and I honestly tried to find someone in her area that taught photography to non-college students.  There were no options available, as is often the case, unfortunately.  So, after talking with her a bit, I suggested that we try a “secret” group on Facebook to learn some of the basics, and we agreed to each invite some of our own friends to be a part of the group to make it more engaging.  Within the first five days, we had over 30 ladies sign up to be in the group, so I shut off membership at that point, as I wanted to keep the group manageable.

I have thought and prayed about this particular endeavor every day since then.  I have been humbled by a need that so many have to take better pictures of their loved ones and their lives in general, and I am actually writing a beginning photography curriculum that is geared to hobby photographers who are new to using a DSLR camera.  For so many people, there is no good way to learn to use a DSLR camera and photography in general, unless the person is motivated to read books, regularly search for good articles online, and be disciplined to try the exercises mentioned in those articles.  Even this approach can be problematic, though, as often a person new to photography doesn’t even know where to begin, much less what to specifically search for.  Interactive classes for people like us basically just do not exist.

Honestly, I think it is hard to find a book that presents beginning photography in plain language.  Too many people believe that operating a DSLR camera is just too complicated, and I would love to help a few of them see the error in that thinking.  Just because something is new doesn’t automatically make it hard to understand.  It has taken me *way too long* to learn photography and how to use my camera to the fullest extent, and I hope to save a few others from some of that grief as I can.  It is just one way I can give to others these days.

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I am enjoying the new Canon T5i and image stabilized lenses.

The format of the Facebook group is not ideal, unfortunately, and only a handful of ladies that initially joined the group are still checking in, but it is also hard to know that for sure, too.  This is a common thing with groups on Facebook, but for now, we will stick with this format for the ones that are still checking in and being active there.  I am considering following up with some in-person classes for some in the group, once we’ve gone through the basics there.  I think that will make our in-person time together much more productive, too.  Different ladies have different goals for their photography, and several just want to be able to take better photos of their kids and grandkids, which is fine.  Hopefully they will learn to do that and more as they participate in the group.

Once the curriculum is written, I will give more thought and prayer as to exactly what to do with it going forward, if anything.  That is not even on my radar at this point to be honest.

For me personally, I feel that my own photography has truly improved over the past few weeks and months as I have studied and applied what I’ve learned more and more.  Honestly, the new camera and image stabilized lenses have helped.  The T5i is just easier to operate than my previous camera.  I’m really honing in on my own problem areas, and I’m quite determined to make some good progress quickly.  I’m also spending some time really dialing into studying the photography of Ansel Adams and would love to explore this style myself a bit more at some point.  I recently saw a great exhibit of 100 of his original photos, and it really stirred something in me to explore this style further and learn even more about this man and his photography.

I’m also focusing on learning more about Photoshop, while maintaining my goal of shooting the best quality photos I can right in the camera.  I think I’ve made some great strides toward that goal, too.  I upgraded to Photoshop Elements 13, and as usual, I like each new upgrade better than the one I previously used.  I’ve also used Camera Raw for a while, but I want to learn even more about the features available in it, too.

So, in summary, I’ve just been focusing quite intently on my photography over the past few weeks, once we got done with our home improvement projects.  That pretty much sums up the past couple of months.  I still want to share more about our fabulous Hawaii trip at some point, too.  But for now, it’s time to study and teach for a while and finally return to RV travel after a long, hot summer!

Also, for those RV friends that are planning to head back to Texas and other areas in the south this winter, have you seen the predictions for “Godzilla El Nino?” This seems to be pretty consistent among the various weather forecasters, even if they differ on just how strong it will be.  Late fall and winter will likely be colder with more rain than usual.  We need it, and I’m ready for it.  For the rest of you, just come prepared, and please be happy for us if it comes. 😉

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