Site and Map Updates

A brand new look for a brand new year!

My Five Fs has a new look!  I’ve made a few updates to my site and to my RV trips map and want to share those here today.  Let’s start with the site updates, then continue to the RV trips map updates for 2015.  Just for today, I hope you will actually click-through to my site to read today’s post and let me know what you think of the updates.

Logo

For some time, I’ve considered updating the look and feel of my site, and late last week, I finally decided to make some big changes.  Even though it was a little hard to finally hit the magic button and save those changes for good, I’m quite happy with the new look.    I selected the Twenty Sixteen theme, and I like most everything about it, including my new logo, my standard little “peeping dove” that has graced my site for years now.

The Twenty Sixteen theme showcases photos in a higher quality manner as compared to my previous theme, which is one of the features I desired the most for this site.

This theme uses significantly more screen “real estate,” which makes it possible to showcase photos in a beautiful manner on all devices.  The featured image will now appear at the beginning of each post, along with a new option to share an “excerpt” at the beginning of a post with a summary thought or important point about that particular post.

In the process of updating the site, I also removed an add-on font from Type Kit that I utilized for titles over the past few years, opting now to just go with the fonts that WordPress has available with this theme.  In earlier days, there were very few, if any, choices of fonts available, but happily, this is no longer the case.  I tested several fonts for readability, while hoping to find a more decorative font for titles that also worked well with the new site banner.

In a way, I’ve returned to the original look when I started My Five Fs several years ago with a simple, clean feel and less clutter on the page, and the new header helps to more accurately brand the site, too.

Fivefs Header Color

I have always intended to write on these five themes and will continue to do so, rather than focusing my writings on a specific area, and any additional content found on my site will support one or more of these themes in some way.

People are increasingly reading web content on their phones and tablets, and having a site design that is user friendly and quick-loading for mobile readers is a necessary feature.

2016-01-18-15.22.22Most of the time, my handy Samsung tablet is my go-to device when I’m at home, and my Samsung phone is the device I use when away from home.  While I also use my laptop at home at times, I usually opt for the tablet for reading.  Site content on My Five Fs looks much better now, based on what I’ve seen on my own mobile devices, with the exception of the big crack I now have on my tablet screen.  That is obviously my problem to solve in a whole different, and more expensive, manner soon. 😦

Subscribed readers will continue to have full access to posts in their WordPress reader, rather than directing them to my site.  While some people desire to have their readers go directly to their sites for different reasons, this practice seems to be an increasingly time-consuming effort for me personally, even on our Wi-Fi connection, especially if the article contains numerous pictures or graphics.  For regular subscribers, the WordPress reader pops up quickly and is easy to read.  New visitors will still visit the actual site, along with a few subscribers that will occasionally visit there, which works just fine for me.  I’m just so pleased when anyone takes the time to read, like and/or comment on my posts, no matter how they read them.

Now, let’s look at the RV trips map updates!

Map pic
We visited four new campgrounds in 2015!

 

“Our RV Trips Map” has been updated with the new places we visited in 2015.  On the updated site home page, the permanent page with the map link can now found at the top right column, rather than at the top of the site.

Pages

If you would like to check out the updated map directly, just click the link below, which is the same link found on the permanent page.

Our RV Trips Map

RV camping additions from 2015 to the map, all new camping destinations last year for us:

Eisenhower State Park (North Texas) – October

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Lake Arrowhead State Park (Northwest Texas) – October

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KOA Durant Choctaw Casino (Southern Oklahoma) – October

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Lake Colorado City State Park (Southern Panhandle Texas) – March and May

Wildflowers c

Other map updates, interesting sites to see:
Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site (North Texas) – October
Choctaw Casino Resort (Southern Oklahoma) – October
Albuquerque Old Town (North-Central New Mexico) – November

As I looked at this map once again, I realized how many places I’ve missed sharing here, except as a point on the map.  2015 was such a tumultuous year in so many ways, and I’m looking forward to a hopefully calmer year with less drama, which will permit me to finally find a new life routine going forward from all of the family deaths last year.  Hopefully, I will be able to backtrack a bit and share more about some of these lovely places, including our fabulous Hawaii trip.

If you are not following my special photography project site at Animal Wonder, I hope you will check it out today and subscribe to see future posts there, too.  That site is primarily focused on my animal/bird photography with fewer words, usually telling only a brief description or story about the photo.

Thank you to all my special friends here for continuing to make this writing and reading experience a true joy with your likes and comments over the past few years!  I look forward to continuing this journey with you all for a long time.

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Farewell Flip-Flops

I am wearing my shorts and flip-flops on this fine Monday, as the weather is quite beautiful today.  I actually put away my flip-flops a few weeks ago for the most part, but as I am staying home for most of the day, so I am celebrating this gorgeous day in my own little way.  I’m sure that everyone is already aware that a big cold front is headed across the country this week, and it should hit our area overnight in a very noticeable way.  We will no doubt receive our first freeze, which is actually overdue by about ten days this year.  So, I’m enjoying this lovely day with temperatures in the high seventies, as it will come to an abrupt end in just a few hours.

Flip Flops Farewell
It’s farewell to my favorite pair of Clark’s flip-flops for the year.

I actually enjoy the season changes, and while I’ve truly enjoyed our fine fall weather this year and our much-needed rain storms, I am ready for cold weather once again.  Please remember I said this in a couple of months when we are once again engulfed in a deep freeze, and I am begging for spring to come!  😉

Hubby and I also enjoyed a fun weekend away at our favorite state park nearby – Caprock Canyons State Park.  If we have a “home” park to visit, this is it.  Caprock Canyons is an easy drive that is just under two hours away, and it is such a great place to visit just about anytime of the year, depending on your personal weather preference.  This weekend was a very special one for us in the park, and I will share that neat experience here soon.  It was a “first” of sorts in our visits there, and it will no doubt be one of those special visits that I will always remember and treasure.  Here’s a little hint.

Bison Crossing at Caprock Canyons

Last week, I also upgraded my phone to a Samsung Galaxy S5.  The photos in this post were both taken with the camera on my new phone, and I may have an adjustment period in getting used to the new aspect ratio of .5625 to 1.  How exactly does one use the rule of thirds with such a panoramic ratio anyway?  Anyway, I’m going to continue to experiment with this new ratio to see how I like it, as I can always come back later and hopefully crop images in a more familiar ratio if I would rather do that.  The phone camera takes 16mb images, so I have plenty of photo to work with.  So far, I am quite impressed with the camera on the phone, too.  I thought ever so briefly about changing to an iPhone for the first time, as I could have saved $10 per month on my plan by doing so, but it would have felt like a downgrade to me in several respects.  I also detest iTunes because of the many issues I’ve had with it for my music library over the years.  So, I stayed with my trusty Galaxy phone option that I have truly enjoyed since my last upgrade two years ago to the Galaxy S3.  It is yet again larger in size than my previous phone, and I hope that Samsung is ready to call it good with this size.  I’m not sure that I can handle larger phones going forward time after time.

I am still having fun this month over at Animal Wonder, too!  While I know many people may not be big on birding, it is a fun hobby that I want to learn more about.  Blogging about birding each day this month is truly helping me to grow in my knowledge of birding and gain even more insights on blogging, too.  Daily blogging is proving to be a good challenge in writing for me, and I hope you will stop by there at times for a visit to see what’s happening there.  I’m now 1/3 of the way into the challenge and have met each day’s goal so far.  I’ve also had a nice reception by others and a good number of follows in the first week, and that is always an encouragement for a new project.  Most of all, I am just enjoying the opportunity to finally share some of my favorite bird photos and stories this month.  I am already working on the final birding post for November, too.  It is a gut-wrenching post for me, and I will try to do it justice to convey the feeling I had at the time.  It is more than just a photo of a bird, for sure.

Finally, I added one more link to my previous post, Texas Travel Links.  There is a fun app for your phone that shares information on Texas Historical Markers as you drive past them.  I have used the app for my Android phone on several occasions, but I believe there is a similar app available for iPhones, too.  If you don’t have time to stop and read all the historical markers on the highways, this is the next best thing and a great way to learn some interesting Texas history in the process.

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Wordless Wednesday – Epic Newspaper

Epic Newspaper

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Staycation Recap

My little staycation is coming to a close today.  Hubby finally returns home later tonight, after his first flight from Asia was cancelled due to mechanical issues, and he was forced to spend another night there on Wednesday night.  The airline put all 400 passengers on his flight in a hotel overnight that was about an hour away, but in the end, everything worked out just fine.  He is quite ready to be home again, even though he will now be tackling another new challenge at work that arose while he was gone when some people in the company gave their two-week notices last week.  Let’s just say that he is going to be very busy for a while, if not for the long-haul.  I am quite ready for him to be home, too.

I enjoyed my little staycation and even accomplished quite a few needed chores around the house and yard.  I have also spent some time with friends and family, reading, watching movies and even cooking, believe it or not.  The only meals that I have eaten out over the past two weeks were with friends and family, and it has been nice to just relax here at home at mealtime, cooking for myself.  I discovered a new crustless quiche recipe with a kick that was fabulous, and I will try to share that recipe here soon.

Probably one of the most enjoyable aspects of the past two weeks was watching some of my all-time favorite movies, mostly after dinner each evening.  I averaged two or three movies each day and loved every minute of it.  Sometimes during normal days at home, I may turn on a movie while working around the house, but seldom do I actually just sit down and watch it without interruptions.  Not so with my movie time the past two weeks.

It is always fun to relive great movie moments, especially since a number of them are based on true stories.  Here are some of the moments I enjoyed reliving over the past two weeks.

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Katniss and Rue in their heartbreaking final moments together in The Hunger Games,

Robin Williams humbly thanking his class at the end of Dead Poets Society,

Helen Hunt, after an entire movie of quirky events, finally falling in love with Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets,

Bruce Willis and Ben Afflek in their final hurried and tearful moments together in Armageddon,

Chris Pine hearing the unbelievable announcement that their wine had just won the elite contest in Paris, beating the French wines against all odds in Bottle Shock, (true story)

Jodie Foster finally making contact and (and suddenly finding she has faith) in Contact,

The tearful, gut-wrenching goodbyes in Marley and Me that bring similar moments back home in a sad but wonderful way, and remind me how blessed I am to have loved many animals in my lifetime, (true story)

The lunar spacecraft triumphantly splashing down safely in the Pacific Ocean, despite the long odds of a safe return after a horrible explosion, in Apollo 13, (true story)

Sandra Bullock stubbornly believing in Michael Oher when others did not in The Blind Side, (true story)

The many delightful interactions between Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman in Fried Green Tomatoes,

Mr. Spock unexpectedly dying in The Wrath of Khan, leaving every living Trekie in shock,

Darth Vader delivering his most powerful and devastating blow against Luke by saying,  “No, I am your father,” in Star Wars, Episode V,

The final, history-making race in Secretariat, which (for me) is still the absolute best moment in sports ever, especially when I finally understood the back-story, (true story)

When Johan Hill shows the film of the unlikely baseball hero to Brad Pitt, a profound scene in a movie that I absolutely, positively adored after I saw it the first time, Moneyball, (true story)

And, one of the most fabulous movie twists *ever* near the end of Ender’s Game.  I won’t give that one away because too many people still have not seen this great movie.  I have since come back time and time again thinking about this movie and its subject matter, too.

I also started reading Lysa TerKeurst’s new book, “The Best Yes,” and it is a fabulous read.  I highly recommend it for anyone, man or woman, who can identify with the topic, even though the target audience is women.  It is a wonderful look at how we can all make better decisions in our lives in a very honest and practical way, while throwing in a good amount of humor along the way concerning her own life issues.

I also enjoyed setting up my new Galaxy Tab 3 by tackling that task a little each day.  Ironically, I just saw where Barnes and Noble just announced their newest Nook device, which is a Galaxy Tab 4 device with Nook included.  Their price for this 8G storage device is $179.  I paid only $199 for my 16G storage tablet, and the two look identical.  The overall specs on mine also beat their new Nook device, too.  So, I’m glad that I bought my tablet at Costco at that price, for sure.  I have both my Nook and Kindle apps on it now to enable me to read all of my ebooks on one device, with lots of storage room to spare, although my favorite reading device is still my Nook simple touch with the glo-light.

As summer winds down and we all get back to our normal routines soon, I am quite thankful that I had a nice way to pass this two weeks at home alone… well, almost alone.  My dogs are always good company, and thankfully, Red is doing just fine after getting stitches for his cut last weekend.  All in all, it’s been a good, relaxing time. 🙂

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My Little Staycation

My hubby has been gone overseas for over a week, and he will return home on Wednesday evening, barring no issues with any of the four flights he will have in a 24-hour period that day.  While I am used to his frequent travels, he is typically not gone over one weekend, much less two weekends in a row.  So, I am ready for him to be home once again, for sure.  I think he is more than ready to be home as well, especially to eat what he describes as “real food” with “real eating utensils” again.

So far, though, it has mostly been a good time here at home for me.  My goals for this time were to get a few chores done around the house and in the yard, while enjoying some quality reading time, watching some of my favorite movies, spending more time with friends and family, and just giving myself a little “staycation” break of sorts.  It has been a productive time as far as the chores, and I am feeling quite good about what I have accomplished.  It has also been a fun time of dining and visiting with some good friends, my mom and my son.  I really am blessed in so many ways, and I have truly enjoyed their company over the past week, spending a day with company followed by a day to myself each day last week.

I also splurged just a bit and bought my first tablet.  It is actually a smaller, older model tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 with an 8″ screen, and it is just perfect to use while around the house, as it is very easy to hold in one hand while I’m sitting in my comfy chair.  Our Costco had a large display of them for only $199, and they are all new, not refurbished units.  That is a great price for a tablet, to be sure. Even though this tablet was preloaded with an earlier Android version, it quickly updated to Android 4.4.2 – Kit Kat, which was nice to see. FYI – I cannot find this unit on Costco’s website for sale, so it is likely only found in stores now.  I did find them for sale on Target’s website for $219.99.

Before I bought this tablet, I did just a bit of research online, including reading a comparison of the Galaxy Tab 3 to a comparable version of the iPad Mini.  While the review is from June 2013, I found it to be a good comparison of the two units.  Comparison of Galaxy Tab 3 to iPad Mini – Gizmag  Neither of these units are the most recent versions in their line, but I did not want to pay $400 or more for one either.  Finding the Galaxy Tab 3 brand new in the box was a great find, especially for only $199.  In fact, I’m tempted to buy another one for hubby for his birthday in October.  I especially like the fact that the Galaxy Tab 3 has a slot to expand memory with a Micro SD card, which I also bought at Costco for only $47.  The iPad Mini did not have a slot to expand its memory, which is a big negative in my book, for sure, and one of the main reasons we have not purchased any iPads to date.

Having this 8″ tablet at home is a perfect solution for most of my daily internet and computing needs, and I can now leave the laptop turned off most of the time, except for the times when I need to use it for typing or to work on photographs.  I am so frustrated with my laptop right now, and having this tablet will be a huge blessing for me.  It’s time to either upgrade my laptop, wipe it clean, or just resign to only use it when absolutely necessary.  For now, I am selecting option three.

Of course, something “challenging” always seems to happen when my hubby is gone for a long period of time, too, and last week was no exception.

On Friday, I took both of the dogs to the grooming shop that we have used for over twenty consecutive years.  Over the past few months, however, we have not been pleased with the job they have done on our dogs, especially when one particular girl works on them.  She is fairly new, though, and I have tried to give her the opportunity to improve, talking with her each time I take the dogs in to let her know exactly what our expectations are.  However, this time was much worse, as she cut our puppy on his stomach area pretty badly, and no one informed me of the cut when I picked him up.  It was well hidden on the inside of his leg, and I did not see it until the following afternoon when I was petting him while he rolled over on his back.  The cut was surprisingly large and looked quite bad.

I rushed Red to the emergency clinic for animals on Saturday, and he ended up getting five stitches.  I had to leave him there for a few hours, so after I left, I drove straight to the grooming shop to discuss this matter with the owner.  The owner immediately admitted fault and said that even she knew about the cut.  The owner had apparently told the other girl to inform me of it when I picked up the dogs, which she did not do, and the owner gave me a check to cover the full medical bill before I left.  I’m glad that she did not attempt to argue this matter with me, as I really like her so much.  After all, I have known her for over twenty years.

Despite my personal feelings for the shop owner, I suspect we will now change grooming shops in September.  I have the name of a lady that our vet recommends for this breed, so I guess we will give her a try.  It will break my heart in some ways, especially after doing business with the other shop for over twenty years, but I think it is a move that must be done now.  The owner could have simply picked up the phone and called me right away when she saw the cut for herself, and I could have taken Red to our regular vet on Friday afternoon before they closed for the weekend.  She did not call me, and that is the reason we will now switch groomers.  It was a poor and disappointing decision on her part.

Except for this incident, my little “staycation” has been a good one.  With three more days left until my hubby returns, I will hopefully get a few more little chores done and a few more good movies watched, all while keeping a watchful eye on Red and his injury.

Red will have to wear this awful contraption for the next ten days, when I can finally take him back to get the stitches out.  Poor little guy. 😦

Red wearing his "Cone of Shame"
Red wearing his “Cone of Shame”

 

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June Joy

As of June 16, we have been married for 35 years! ❤

Hubby had to work on our anniversary and also had to leave town on business early the next morning to travel to Tennessee, so we just enjoyed a nice dinner at a local steak restaurant that we both like a lot.  As usual, the food was wonderful, and I even managed to stay on my diet, too, opting for a steak, fresh grilled asparagus and a small tossed salad.  We enjoyed our nice relaxing evening together, especially immediately after a fun weekend trip to the canyon with our son for the Father’s Day weekend.  It does not seem possible that 35 years have passed, and I grew quite teary as I posted about it on my Facebook page that same day.  You see, our days have not always been easy ones, but the growth we have both experienced as a result of the really bad times is something I would not trade for now.  We are both able to help others in their own time of difficulty now as a result of that growth, and that will forever be a part of our mutual life ministries, for sure.  God has seen to that already, even when we least suspect it.

I deliberately postponed my big spring cleaning push of the year at home until the “dust finally settled,” literally.  We have had so many days of blowing dust this year that is was honestly pretty pointless to embark on deep cleaning until it settled down with the summer rains and planting of the cotton fields in the area.

Haboob at Sunset
Haboob at Sunset earlier this year

Happily, that time has now come, and I have made some good progress on cleaning over the past few weeks.  I also had the carpet and tile professionally cleaned once again, and that is always a real treat for us.  I am taking my cleaning efforts a bit more slowly this year, as there is really no rush to kill myself to get it done.  Deep cleaning is definitely not one of my favorite things to do in life, but it is so nice to make progress and just “git ‘er done, ya’ll!” 🙂

Since we received our first big rainstorm that dropped over five inches a few weeks ago, we have been continually blessed to continue receive even more beneficial rain almost weekly, spaced just far enough apart each week to keep our lawns and trees watered regularly.  Our area has now received 9 inches, which is such a huge blessing!

Backyard Flooding
Backyard flooding

To bring us out of the drought, though, we still need about 30 more inches, especially for our water sheds, so the prayers will keep going up.  Since we are now in stage two water restrictions, the rain has been especially wonderful, as we have been able to refrain from watering the lawn completely.  However, we also received some hail, and we had to have a new roof put on the rent house two weeks ago.  The major damage likely came from a big hail storm that hit while we were away over Easter weekend, and the damage was made worse after a smaller hail storm recently.  Anyway, the new roof is done, and we will have an adjuster out in a few weeks to also look at our roof, too.  We have also had a reprieve from 100 degree temperatures so far, and this, combined with the wonderful rain, has kept our climate pretty much perfect in June, if not a bit unseasonably cool.  Cooler temps may now be coming to an end, at least for a few days, as the temperature should near 100 degrees this weekend, but I’m still so very grateful that we’ve had such a great weather month so far.

Our entire area is so green and beautiful, and it almost feels like I’m on a little vacation right here at home after months and months of dry and windy weather and dirt that literally seemed to be everywhere.  It’s not hard for anyone in our area to enjoy being outdoors among all this dirt-free greenery, and it makes me wonder if people who live in more temperate areas grow complacent with their beautiful scenery over time.  I can bet that will seldom happen for me, and I’m just so happy to be here right now.

I make it a point to spend time outdoors each morning these days, sipping my cup of Hazelnut coffee, reading my bible, working through my bible study homework and playing with the dogs a bit.  The dogs are happy to be out with me to explore the yard, look at the birds, lay in the soft green grass and chase each other around the yard.  Having two large, young dogs is something new for us, and it is so fun to watch them play with such energy, especially when they chase each other round and round the new tree in the middle of the yard.  If I get involved in the mayhem, I really have to watch them or they could knock me down, but it is still so much fun!

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Girly Girl and Red (aka The Complainer!) He did not like sitting still to have his picture taken.

My cannas are blooming with their pretty red blooms, and my Red Rocket crape myrtles are also starting to bloom right on time and should be in full bloom by the 4th of July holiday.  My little vegetable garden of tomatoes and peppers is making good progress, and I picked the first ripe tomatoes last Monday, just in time to serve to my girlfriends on Monday evening when they joined me here for a salad dinner outside.

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Our Red Rocket crape myrtles are in bloom once again.

I’m also cherishing travel memories of trips I’ve made over the few weeks, too.  I have been especially blessed to have seen so many cherished family members and friends in a thirty-day period.  I even reconnected with one of my best friends from high school recently, finally meeting her for lunch at a nearby restaurant on Wednesday and visiting for three hours.  She recently retired from her job and contacted me out of the blue to meet for lunch, and I hope this will just be the start of many more wonderful visits with her.  She was, and still is, a beloved sister in Christ and holds a special, unique place in my heart to this day.

I’m glad to finally be done with my posts about our big trip back in May, and I still have posts to come about my epic road trip with my 93 year-young mother and my 83 year-young aunt to Oklahoma, as well as a quick Father’s Day weekend trip with our son to the canyon.  We also have a longer trip planned for the 4th of July weekend back to a nice private campground with full hookups in northern New Mexico with some friends in our RVs, and we are definitely looking forward to going back there with them once again, just as we did twice last year.  Having full hookups is always a special treat for us, since most of the parks we visit only have water and electric hookups on site.  That is fine for a weekend trip, but for anything more than two or three days, having the sewer line is a real blessing.  Ah, the simple things to be thankful for on vacation now, including unlimited showers in our very own RV.

The last news of the past month is our purchase of a DISH Tailgater satellite system for the RV.  Even though we took our wonderful trip to Kauai and Big Sur back in May to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, we also decided to finally purchase the satellite as our gift to each other, too.  We do not intend to sit around at camp watching television too much, but it will be nice to have it for the times we are inside the RV and would enjoy having some decent programming to watch, especially on hot summer afternoons and cold winter nights.  Also, most places where we camp on the weekends nearby have no cell phone or over-the-air television signal available, and one issue that results from that fact is not knowing if we are at risk of severe weather or tornadoes headed our way.  Up until now, we had no way of knowing if we were at risk, except for our NOAA weather radio, which travels with us wherever we go and stays alert for us overnight when we are at home as well.  Now, we can tune in to local television news and know exactly what is happening most of the time and if bad weather may be headed our way soon.  We also camp in the RV in the winter months, and we will enjoy having some viewing options at night for a change, as I think we have now watched every DVD movie we own several times.  We just subscribed to a pay-as-you-go plan for the satellite and will only pay for the months we want to use it.

Married for 35 years to my sweet hubby.

Having a clean house, almost free of dust.

Rain, rain, rain!

Green grass. Green trees. Flowers blooming. Vegetables growing.

Hazelnut coffee. Bible study.  My sweet dogs.  Cool mornings.

Getting to see special family and friends again.

Seeing the Oklahoma City area without fear of blowing away in a tornado for the first time.

Father’s Day weekend with my two favorite guys.

Satellite TV when camping.

Looking forward to a trip with good friends very soon to the mountains of New Mexico.

Sharing my joy here.

My heart is filled with such joy on days like this!  Isn’t God wonderful to bring us to these times where our “cups” can be filled up once again?  Such are my days right now.  Life is good, and I am blessed!  😀

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New Samsung Galaxy S3

Samsung Galaxy S3 in Blue
Samsung Galaxy S3 in Blue

February 1 was my upgrade day with my long-time cell provider, and I headed out last Friday morning to buy my new phone.  I have enjoyed my HTC Evo 4G better than any previous cell phone, for sure, but after two years, that upgrade was just calling my name and had been since Christmas when I started looking at new phones in earnest.  Even though I actually debated buying the iPhone 5 for a little while, I gave that idea up after reading several glowing reviews online about the Galaxy S3, especially on its battery life.  I still have my iPod Touch of many years, so getting yet another similar Apple device just didn’t seem like a smart thing to do for the money.  And honestly, I’m just not all that fond of the Apple stuff, I guess.  I started with Android phones when they came out, and I will likely stay with them for the near future unless some significant changes are made to the iPhone offerings.  I like to customize my phone in ways that currently cannot be done on an iPhone.

I won’t attempt to go into all the bells and whistles of the Galaxy S3, as there are some really nice reviews about the phone online to read (head-to-head iPhone 5 comparison here), but I will just say that after spending some time learning this new phone over the weekend, I am very happy with my decision, at least for now.  In fact, I am absolutely thrilled with my choice!  Right now, I cannot think of one thing that I am not pleased with on this phone, except the fact that I realized that I need to work on editing and updating my ever-growing Google contact list once again.  That certainly is not the phone’s fault.  Sigh.  My area still does not have 4G LTE either, but again, that is not the fault of the phone.  Hopefully we’ll get that sometime later this year.

Here are a few features that I want to mention that I really like about this phone and related Android offerings.

Screen Size – At 4.8 in. (1280 x 720 pixels), this is bigger than the screen on my HTC Evo 4G, and I’m just fine with that.  I can still easily hold it in one hand, although I will say that anything larger, at least for me, would probably require me to use both hands much of the time.  I also looked at the Samsung Note 2 but decided it was definitely going to be a “two-hands” device for me if I bought it.  It is an impressive phone/mini-tablet, but ultimately, it was just too big for me for a phone.  I just couldn’t see holding that big thing up to my ear for longer than a couple of minutes at a time.  The Galaxy S3 is a great size with ease of handling while also making it much easier to see what is on the screen.  My eyes are not getting any younger, and this is such a nice feature.  Watching movies and videos is just awesome on that bigger screen, and the HD video quality is great.  I took my first video on Sunday afternoon of our big spoiled poodle puppy intently watching the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet… what a hoot and in HD (1080p), too!

Speed – So, so, so fast!  The difference between the speed of this phone and my HTC Evo 4G is definitely noticeable – and very impressive.

Android 4.1.1 (Jelly Bean)Here is the summary – some neat features

Play Music – I am now sold on Google’s new music platform, even though I will still keep my songs in iTunes, too.  (I still have my iPod.)  Before I bought my new phone last week, I knew very little about Google Music.  But after reading about it a bit more, I am now happy to say that all of my music is uploaded to Google Music, just under 4000 songs.  Even though I could just stream my tunes from the Google “cloud,” I also put my favorite playlists on my phone for convenience and times that we are out of cell range when we travel.  Oh, I forgot to mention that I added 32G of memory to the phone, too!  😉  That should easily take care of my songs, photos and videos for quite some time, especially since the phone also has 16G of internal memory.  The 32G Sandisk card was about $20 at our local Radio Shack – not a bad price at all.  I also like the Play Music player a little more than the stock player, but I will probably go on the hunt for some other players to try out, too.

S-Voice – This is similar to Siri on the iPhone.  I’ve never “talked” to Siri, but I’ve been talking to S-Voice a bit and with good results.  It is a feature that seems to work very well for me at this point, and it has not missed a voice command yet.  S-Voice is a feature that I need to consciously start using more, since the accuracy seems to be really good and much faster than typing out a message or search myself.  I visited with a friend this morning who has a new iPhone 5, and we had a bit of fun talking to our respective phones and comparing results.  (I won’t even mention a few of the strange looks we got from some of the other customers at Starbucks either.)  Siri is a little more fun on occasion, but S-Voice gets the job done, too.  So, I’m good with that.  I really don’t think I need that many conversations with my phone anyway. 😉

Lighter Weight – This phone is lighter than my previous phone, and that is a good thing as far as I’m concerned.  Some reviewers thought the plastic rear cover gave it a cheaper feel, but I beg to differ.  Here’s why.  How many people carry their phone around these days without a protective cover?  I honestly cannot think of one person.  I purchased the metallic blue phone and found a nice metallic blue case to match, and with the case, it looks very elegant and has a perfect weight in my opinion.  It is also well-protected with the case on it, and I likely won’t even see the phone’s back again until I need to get to the battery or the storage card.  If I want extra weight to lug around, I’ll just fire up my old Evo.  Not.  Lighter is good.

Display – Stunning!  Just stunning.  😀  Yes, it is.  This makes me happy, happy, happy!

Battery Life – This feature is blowing my HTC Evo 4G out of the water.  Even though I recently replaced the battery on my Evo, the battery life was just terrible.  Battery life was always a pretty big issue with my Evo, but the Galaxy S3 battery life seems pretty amazing at this point.  Even playing with the phone a lot right now, the battery is holding up well.  And, if necessary, the battery can be removed and replaced with a fresh one.  Right now, I’m thinking that battery issues are hopefully not even going to be an issue going forward.  Hurray!

Hand Gestures – I’m still learning some of the commands through hand gestures, but right away, I figured out how to take a screenshot, something that I have not been able to do on my previous Android phones.  A simple swipe with the side of my hand across the screen captures the screenshot.  This is a fun, if not sometimes extremely helpful, thing to know.

Fonts – I can’t say for sure, but I don’t recall being able to change the phone’s font on any of my previous phones.  While this isn’t a must-have feature for me, I must say that I’m really enjoying the new font that I downloaded for free.  It’s called “Percirk,” and it has a slightly rounded appearance.  When I think about spending the next two years with this phone in my hand, the ability to change things up and refresh them keeps the experience fun and interesting.

Swift-Key Keyboard – I installed the free version of this keyboard to try for 30 days on the recommendation of one online reviewer, and I like this keyboard a lot!  At the end of my 30-day trial, I will definitely pay the $2.99 to buy this one.  You can visit their website for more information.

Price – As I mentioned, my upgrade date was February 1.  I was well prepared to pay up to $199 for this phone on that day, since most stores were offering it for that price at the end of January.  I opted to go to Radio Shack to do my upgrade this time because of their more affordable storage card and the fact that I had some other errands to run in that area on that day.  To my happy surprise, though, the price had dropped that very morning to just $99!  My final price with the 32G memory card was only $129, too.  That is a total of 48G – for $129.  What a deal!  I know the next Galaxy is due out in short order, but after having a not-so-great experience with a brand new phone on the market three upgrades ago, I’m just fine in going with one that already has the initial bugs worked out.

I could go on about some other little things here and there, but these are the highlights for me.  If I had to pick one primary reason for selecting this phone over others on the market right now, it would be the battery life.  It really is impressive and nice to have for a change.

I’m off to clean out kitchen cabinets now.  I would much rather be playing with my new phone.  😀

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