Wordless Wednesday – A Fair Evening

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Enjoying Autumn

My favorite season of the year

Autumn is flying by for me, and it’s been a most enjoyable season at home and for traveling in the RV.  The leaves are just beginning to turn, nighttime temperatures are flirting with the freezing mark but not yet giving in, regular fall activities returned, and my favorite farmer’s market vendor has closed for the season after another good run this year.  This is by far my favorite season of the year, and we now consider it to be our “summer,” since it is our preferred season for travel and outdoor fun now.

Since returning from our week-long vacation to the Enchanted Circle area in early September, we’ve made three more shorter trips in the RV, all to state parks closer to home.  We’ve also enjoyed some nice times right here at home, including our annual visit to the fair and enjoying the great food there on opening night, none of which was on my diet, but hey, it’s a tradition… right?

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We always enjoy our yearly visit to the fair

At the fair, we once again dined at the same place I used to take my mom for lunch each year, a charitable organization’s restaurant that I’ve always enjoyed supporting and one that also serves reliably good food.  I guess I will always have my mom on my mind every time I go to the fair now, remembering how much she enjoying it, and that’s ok.  Those are good memories, but it still gets to me each time I go now.

In late September, Hubby and I returned to Lake Brownwood State Park with another couple who also joined us in their RV for four days and three nights, the same couple we met at Caprock Canyons State Park in August on a weekend that was cooler than normal.  It was our first time to visit Lake Brownwood in September, and we managed to get adjacent sites with awesome lake views in the Council Bluff campground.

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View of Lake Brownwood from Texas Oak hiking trail… one of favorite trails

We enjoyed acquainting our friends with the park, and we also had fun hiking and geocaching together, dining outside in the evenings, watching college football on Saturday evening outside on their RV television and driving into Brownwood to dine at one of our all time favorite places to eat, Underwood’s BBQ.

We also celebrated Hubby’s birthday with our traditional family birthday cake, a Texas chocolate sheet cake that I made, and we even made him blow out candles.  Once again, I ate that yummy cake, even though it wasn’t on my diet, a most familiar tale this fall.

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View from our campsite at Lake Brownwood State Park. We enjoyed a nice campfire here on Friday night with our friends.

In late October, we made a quick weekend trip to Lake Colorado City State Park to just get away and relax.  Hubby’s nephew surprised us and met us there in his big, new pop-up camper on Saturday afternoon.  The guys had fun checking everything out on it a little more, and we all enjoyed a great visit around the campfire together on Saturday night and even made Nutella s’mores.  (Yes, we used Nutella instead of chocolate bars!)  We had the campground mostly to ourselves, which was so nice for a peaceful weekend away.

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View from our front door at our pull-thru site at Lake Colorado City State Park
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The site we scoped out for Hubby’s nephew. He wanted a site that was level and had a little shade, if possible, and he was quite happy with this one.
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Another view of his site – lots of room and green grass
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Big Red was waiting patiently on us in the RV as we were getting ready to leave on Sunday

Last week, Lake Colorado City finally received some significant rains, and the lake is now up at least eight feet since we were there.  We have never seen this lake with that much water in it because we started traveling by RV during the big drought in 2011.  This lake was hit hard and has been very slow in recovering.  Hopefully, it’s made some nice progress now, and I’m anxious to return soon to see it.

Our most recent long-weekend trip took us to Palo Duro Canyon State Park in early November for three days and nights.  We’ve visited this well-known state park off and on for most of our lives, but this particular trip was by far our best one to date.

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We enjoyed the gorgeous scenery at Palo Duro Canyon State Park once again, as well as some great weather and fog

I plan to write a separate post soon to share more about that trip and some of the pictures I took.  Palo Duro Canyon State Park just keeps getting better and better, especially since it was named the top state park in the nation a couple of years ago, and I’ll try to share more soon about the most recent improvements and expansions in the park, which are newsworthy, especially to campers!

The state park system has definitely spent some money on this great park in recent years to improve the roads and add campsites, both of which were sorely needed.  Now, if they could just figure out a way to make that 10% grade road going down into the canyon not so steep and narrow!  😉

Since our last trip, we have been cleaning and sprucing up the RV as we begin to transition it for colder weather camping.  Hubby wanted to do some exterior caulking, and I opted to rent a Rug Doctor and clean the carpet while the weather was nice.

Even though we began winterizing in late October at our campsites before heading home, we also started switching out some supplies to prepare for winter camping… loading our heated water hose, electric blankets for us and a guest, extra blankets for us and the dogs’ beds and our good space heater with a thermostat.  Right now, though, the weather is still very nice and looks to stay that way, at least for the near future.  We’re hoping it stays that way next week for Thanksgiving, too.

Fair Week

One of my favorite weeks of the entire year is fair week.  Typically, the weather is cooling down, and we may even receive beneficial rains, which proved true in a big way this year!  I have a little rain update toward the end of this post, too.

While my parents were really not fair-goers, I began going with my friends on school days back in the 60s, and I have been attending the fair almost every year since then.  These days, I seldom even venture into the area where the rides are, though, as we mostly just enjoy the area where the local food vendors and the exhibits are located.  The fair does not charge to get through the gates until after lunchtime, which helps to support the efforts of all of the local food vendors and their respective charities.

I have been taking my elderly mother out to the fair for lunch every year now for a while, and even at 93, she is still able to walk that area on her own with the help of her walker.  I am so grateful for her good health and how she recovered so well from her fall back in January, and we had a nice time together at the fair on Monday once again.  We sat in “our booth” inside one of the larger restaurants and enjoyed some less-than-healthy food, as I am taking a week-long break of sorts from my diet for the fair and for our upcoming camping trip with friends on Wednesday.  Honestly, I enjoy a burger without the bun as much as a traditional burger these days, but we both enjoyed traditional burger and a very few curly fries for lunch.

I have posted several times about my fair experiences in recent years, including the year not long ago when I won two blue ribbons for my photography.  I have not entered any photographs since that year either, as it was quite a bit of work to prepare the photographs and get them framed properly.

As always, our main incentive to attend the fair is to partake of the amazing apricot fried pies.  They are legendary here, as they are made by members of a local church.  Church members make and freeze them over the course of the entire year to have enough to sell during the nine days that the fair is open, and they are cooked on site at the fair.  I purchased a few extra pies to take with us on our upcoming RV trip tomorrow, and I will just have to hike a little more this weekend to work off those extra calories, which should not be hard to do at all.  I planned this break back in January when I talked myself into starting my diet but only if I had lost at least 30 pounds.  I am now close to 40 pounds down, and my blood pressure has dropped 40 points, so I am enjoying a guilt-free week of enjoying a few foods that will once again be off-limits for a while next week.

My previous posts and pictures about the fair can be found here.

My celebration treat - a homemade apricot fried pie!
My celebration treat – a homemade apricot fried pie!

Our area has recently received some much-needed rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Odile, and two of our watersheds are up significantly.  Lake J. B. Thomas was 1% full and is now 43% full!  Lake Alan Henry, which is a significant water source for us, was 53% full and is now up 8.8 feet and is 76% full!  There are other reservoirs that desperately need water, but we are so thrilled about the rise in these two lakes, especially Lake Alan Henry.  The water gain at Lake Alan Henry over the past week equaled the entire evaporation loss in the worst year of the drought in 2011, which is just absolutely amazing to see.  In that year, the lake lost 5.5 billion gallons of water due to evaporation alone, but over the past week, the lake’s storage capacity increased 5.54 billion gallons.  The drought continues, but we are ever so thankful for the blessing of ten days of much-needed rain!  Many prayers have been answered, and we will continue to pray for more rain and an end to the drought.

It is wonderful to see everything so green again, and we will enjoy our upcoming weeks of fall temperatures and beautiful landscapes until winter finally sets in later on.  I absolutely love this time of the year, and we are very excited to be traveling in the RV again this week to one of our favorite camping destinations!

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Fair Fotos – Long Exposure Night Shots

For the first time, I had the opportunity to take my camera gear and tripod to the fair this year to try some long-exposure night shots.  My husband accompanied me and helped to get things set up and keep from getting trampled by people near the carnival rides that I wanted to shoot.  It would have been tragic for someone to run into the camera and tripod there at night, and I highly recommend having someone accompany you for that very reason if you ever attempt these type of photos.

Just for the record, I shot at 100 ISO, used my Tokina wide-angle lens that I absolutely love and used my remote.  Certainly these shots can be attempted with other lenses, but the wide-angle lens helped to capture more of the field of view without having to back up further and possibly have more people and objects in the viewfinder.  I also used the lens hood for it, too.  For this first time out, I kept my UV filter on the lens, knowing that it would probably impact the photos a bit (flares), but given that the midway was so crowded with younger kids and teenagers who were not necessarily watching out for someone like me with a camera, I was honestly a little afraid of taking it off and risking something happening to the lens, even with my “lookout” on the watch.

I was quite pleased with a few of the shots overall, but it was also a good learning opportunity.  I quickly learned that to get a pleasing image, I needed to do more than just randomly open and shut the bulb manually with the remote.  I needed to watch the pattern of the ride very closely to attempt to capture a full light pattern.  It was also difficult this time out to find a position with no obstructions of some kind in the field of view.  In a less crowded and obstructed midway, I might could have done a better job at finding more suitable locations to shoot from.

Ferris Wheel @ 5 seconds… (was mostly still at the time)…

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Ferris Wheel @ 11 seconds… (was running a bit faster)…

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Orbiter ride @ 10 seconds…

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Ferris Wheel again, different angle @ 13 seconds –
Really liked the patterns in the center of this one…

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Back to Orbiter ride, different angle @ 2 seconds –
Obviously needed a little more time,
but I liked the ride worker in the foreground…

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Another ride (I forgot the name) @ 8 seconds –
Pattern was very random but managed to catch one circle pattern…

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Same ride @ 5 seconds –
More symmetrical pattern near end of ride cycle…

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Orbiter again, much better angle with the sign @ 6 seconds –
This is my favorite shot of that ride, and the smaller Tornado ride
is also seen in motion toward the bottom left of the Orbiter…

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Below are good examples of the need to watch the ride pattern.  I took several shots of the Eclipse ride throughout its life cycle, and caught some bonus shots of the Ferris Wheel in the background at various stages, too.  I like this series of photos that start with the spinning Eclipse and stationary Ferris Wheel, then work their way to the stationary Eclipse and the spinning Ferris Wheel.

Eclipse @ 6 seconds – half ride pattern/revolution…

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Eclipse @ 12 seconds – full pattern/revolution…

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Eclipse again with spinning Ferris Wheel @ 8 seconds –
One full pattern/revolution on Eclipse near lower/slower end of ride cycle…

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Eclipse @ 11 seconds near end of ride cycle…

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Eclipse stationary with spinning Ferris Wheel @ 9 seconds…

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The Hammer @ 8 seconds – one full revolution…

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The Hammer @ 4 seconds – half revolution…

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We had a truly great time taking the photos as a small part of our evening at the fair, and I suspect that I will give it a try in future years as well, as long as the weather cooperates as well as it did this year.  We had several people stop by to chat and ask about how to take these photos, and we even showed some of the photos in the viewfinder to a few of them.  I love visiting with people, and it’s even more fun to talk photography… lots of fun, for sure!

I’m ready to set out again sometime soon for my next long-exposure night shoot… just need to decide on my next target!  It’s just such great fun, and people love to see the results!

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Fair Fotos – Animals

I had the better part of one full afternoon at our fair this year all alone with my camera, which was a treat for me.  And the day ended well, too, since my husband met me there after work for dinner and to attend a free concert.

Unfortunately, I picked an afternoon when the big barns were empty, as it was the day between competitions.  I was so looking forward to taking more cute goat pictures, but it was not meant to be.  The only animals on exhibit  for competition were the rabbits, so I spent some time in that area taking pictures.  Here are just a few of the photos I took.  They are such adorable little creatures one and all!

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This last bunny just cracked me up.  I won’t even speculate why he was trying to hide under his red water cup.

I then headed over to the Children’s Barnyard for a few quick photos… and to pet a few cute animals, of course!

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Look at the bird on the right… happy dance maybe?

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Finally, there were these cute little guys.  I’m not a big fan of dressing up animals, but these geese seemed happy as… clams?  Their owner took them walking around the fairgrounds at various times during the fair, so they got plenty of attention.  I was pretty amazed at how well they were trained, too, although one did peck at my knee when I got a little too close.  No harm… no fowl. 😉

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I also took some long-exposure shots after dark in the carnival area, and I’ll share those in my next post!

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My First Blue Ribbons!

It is a good day… really, really good.  I feel like a little kid again.  Two of my photos earned blue ribbons in our regional fair this year!  This is a first for me.

May I share them with you?

“Snow Dove”
Once again, my family and friends “pegged” this one for me early on at Flickr.  I actually took this one through our glass door to the backyard, too.  It was a beautiful scene that day, for sure, right after a nice snowfall.

“Snow Dove”
Snow Dove – Blue Ribbon in “Animals in Black and White”

“Big Poodle’s Day Out”
After a long and lovely day of visiting two of the most beautiful canyon areas in the state and taking hundreds of scenic pictures, I snapped a random picture of my big standard poodle hanging his head out the window of the car…
… and I won a blue ribbon for it!  (Still laughing at the irony on this one.)

“Big Poodle’s Day Out”
“Big Poodle’s Day Out” – Blue Ribbon in “Cute in Color”

And just how did I celebrate my new milestone???

Homemade Apricot Fried Pie Awesomeness!
Not a ribbon winner, but it makes my heart sing nonetheless.
I also did two laps around the midway to mitigate the damage a bit.

My “blue ribbon” celebration treat – a homemade apricot fried pie!

If I had not won, this would have been a post on how I drowned my sorrows with apricot fried pie instead.  That pie was a given regardless of the outcome of the judging. 😉

Happy Friday Fair Day!

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Let The Fair Begin!

Tomorrow is the big day… the day our regional fair begins this year!

What’s not to love about this great event anyway?  Food… rides… food… animals… food… photos… food… exhibits… food… shows… food… family… food…

Well, you get the “picture.”

But just in case you didn’t, here are a few of my favorite pictures from last year’s fair… emphasis on “cute.”

Pygmy Goat 2009; This little guy was literally begging to have his picture made.
Baby Duck 2009; I love this photo so much, the elderly hands, the baby duck.
Goat Competition 2009; These guys kept a very watchful eye on me before they hit the competition ring behind them.  Why do I love goats so much anyway?

I managed to take a few photos last year when I was not cramming various tasty food items in my mouth.  Life is short… priorities must rule at the fair.  Dieting immediately follows.  😉

I’ll try to do better this year.

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