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Pictures & Words

Tree Trimming

Spring is finally springing around here, at the end of March. We were outside enjoying ourselves. Highs were in the low 50°s. It was time to take down Christmas lights, and do a little tree trimming. The only issue? Those limbs are huge! And they probably weigh several hundred pounds. 

Before. Thanks to Max and his friends, we had the extension ladder set up. I couldn’t get it yesterday with Noah’s help. That thing is a pig.

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And here’s the after. Note the big branches laying on the ground. I’d love to say no one got hurt, but both Noah and Jen suffered rope burns on the first branch, and Noah got pulled forward and through the gravel. I really hate doing this kind of work, and probably should hire it out.

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Afterward, Jen and I headed to the pasture to worm Prelude.

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Mmmmmm. Tasty!

Out in the Snow with the DP3 Merrill

I’m forcing myself to do a couple things this weekend. First—not do any AbbVie work (I really needed a break). Second—start to learn to use my camera in less than ideal conditions. So those conditions happen to be bright winter sun, temperature in the teens, and a 20 mph wind that makes you think it’s still damn cold. Which it is. 

What I found most fascinating about my little tour around the yard was how much snow we’ve accumulated over this winter. It’s not that we’ve had much in the way of major storms (I think probably a half foot at the most on any one day), but the fact that it started snowing in November and hasn’t really stopped. And we’ve had nothing approaching a thaw. That means that we’ve got some 3-4’ drifts still hanging out with snow that’s probably a few months old. Crusty, but not crusty enough to hold me. 

But before I got outside, I got to take a couple shots of my favorite model. CJ’s just hanging out on the couch, happy to be safe and warm. Well, I dragged his sorry spotted butt outside too! I’m not going to be the only one suffering...

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So, we start with some shadows and snow abstracts—we’ve got those aplenty!

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I call this one ‘Good Connection’.

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Now we come to Angel, who’s patiently waiting to be bred. She’s visiting us from the far off land of Pennsylvania! She’s a Carmen x Thriller puppy—the jewel of Jim and Ethel Buzzard.

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And I really like this one in B/W as well

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With the pointer (who will not be siring this litter!). This is just a demonstration to let everyone know that I’ve still got some work to do with regards to the camera operation—Angel was supposed to be in focus and CJ was going to be OOF with his dreamy spots fading into the snow. Great conceptual idea—it just lacked execution. :-)

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This gives you an idea of the snow that’s been blowing and drifting around here.

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And finally, this was the only green I could find.


Everyone is Getting Sick of Winter

It’s like a bad advertisement for ‘Game of Thrones’ this year. I’m working from home today because a moderate snowfall was forecasted to hit, especially during the afternoon. I was up in the kitchen making some tea when I noticed a ‘kitty’ walking towards the house from the driveway. Now I could only see the top line of the beast, and it looked a little like our Siamese—but as it got closer, it appeared to ratty to be one of our cats. And when it turned the corner to come up to the porch, it looked too ratty to be a cat, period!

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Let’s just say the poor thing wasn’t thrilled about being cornered by a guy toting his new compact camera! After I snapped a few shots, he scooted back out into the wild white yonder.

A New Camera Arrives: the Sigma DP3 Merrill

I’m ditching the sidebar so I can dish on the brand new camera and put some slightly larger photos up. I picked up a Sigma DP3 Merrill a few weeks ago. Got it through Amazon from a Japanese reseller for a very nice price ($595)—and I’ve been waiting patiently to get my hands on this camera. Of course, now that I’ve got it, it’s obsolete! Sigma’s just announced the next generation of their compact DP series with a new Foveon sensor (Quattro): http://www.sigma-global.com/en/cameras/dp-series/. The new technology looks very cool, so there’s no doubt that I’ll have another one on my wish list soon enough.

For the uninitiated, the DP3 Merrill is a compact camera with a f2.8 75 mm equivalent lens. The sensor is amazing—it has nearly 4x the number of pixels that my dSLR (the SD15) does. Coupled with a beautiful lens, this is a great near telephoto setup for portraiture and close up work. The weather has been pretty rotten around here as of late (well, actually as of October) so it’s not a lot of fun to go outside and shoot, but I did a little work last weekend and today. Go to the DP3 Merrill gallery to see the images (and download a few and view them full size); I certainly see a lot of potential in this camera.

Downsides: it’s a high resolution (as in medium-format—I’ve seen 30 x 48” prints from this sensor) compact camera, so you either have to shoot at a high shutter speed or put it on a tripod. And every time I bring it up to my eye, I remind myself that it has no optical viewfinder (I’m getting more used to that). Battery life is poor (80-100 shots). The not-so-great Foveon performance in low levels of incandescent and fluorescent light. If you fill up the 7 shot buffer, you’ll be waiting a while for it to clear.

Upsides: A tremendous lens on top of a great sensor. A really well designed compact camera with some nice ergonomics and sensible controls and menus (I’m surprised how quickly I’m getting used to it already). The shutter is in the lens (a leaf shutter), so it’ll sync with my flashes to 1/2000 s. You can print murals out of this (20x30” is no problem). I’ll write more as I get used to it, but I’m pretty excited.


It’s Getting Chili Around Here

I’ve never been a big chili fan. My folks never made it, and the chili’s I’ve tried have been one-dimensional and not particularly pleasing to my tastebuds. The heat doesn’t bother me, but the flavors did. On top of that, I’m not a fan of the beans either—and most of the chills I’ve been offered have been full of them.

So, this year we had a chili cook off at St. John the Baptist (it’s an annual event). We were short entrants, and I was thinking of how much I love my wife’s moles and her chocolate chicken, and I wondered if a chocolate chili actually existed. The internet is an amazing place, and after a few minutes googling I came up with a couple recipes to try. One included lamb meat—which I thought would be yum—but based on the face my wife made, I came to the conclusion that it might be a tad bit too adventurous for our family. The other recipe looked delicious, but time constraints got in the way and I never made the entry for the cook off (heck, I didn’t even have time to attend).

Yesterday was my last day of vacation for 2013 (well, close enough), and I thought it’d be a good day to do some shopping and make something different for dinner. My thoughts turned to the chili, so I went off and got the ingredients for Ed’s Chicago Cocoa Chili. There’s a lot of stuff going on with ingredients, and I was wondering if Ed was a kitchen sink kind of guy—but I faithfully grabbed everything on the list that I didn’t have (or in case of some of the spices, were older than 10 years…). As it turned out, the chili was actually pretty easy to make—more prep work than actual cooking time. I started with ground turkey, and I browned that it in a cast iron skillet with a strip of Neuske’s peppercorn bacon. My god, that bacon is the best in the world! From there, it was following the actual recipe, and within an hour it was actually finished. I worked all the browning of meats and sautéing of veggies in the cast iron pan, but transferred it to my stainless wok to finish the dish (there’s a lot of acid in there with the tomatoes and citrus juices).

I decided to serve it with homemade corn bread. Again, I found a tasty recipe online (thanks Alex), and cooked that in the cast iron (preheated) skillet similar to how I do my biscuits.

The dinner turned out phenomenally. The chili is to die for, and I’ve never had anything as wonderfully complex and delicious for a tex-mex dish. It’s not quite a mole, but it’s got a healthy dose of the chocolate. Surprisingly, the kids ate it up too—Noah, who ‘hates’ most of the ingredients (onion, green pepper, jalapeño peppers) had a big bowl and thought it was great. Definitely a success, and I’ve got an entry for next year’s cook off...

And a Happy 2014!

My New Year’s resolution for 2014 was to write a blog post every day for the entire year. It’s good that I missed the first two days, so I can go back to sitting under a blanket drinking hot buttered rums…

It’s been a really cold winter so far this season. We had snow drop on us in November before I had gotten all the leaves off the grass (see you in the spring, guys!)—and it really hasn’t let up. We’ve had winters in the past few years that were mild by Wisconsin standards. This year, not so much. We’ve had several nights in November and December where the temperature has dropped below 0°F, and this week has been both cold and snowy. We picked up about a foot of snow over the last few days—incredibly dry, light, fluffy snow—and the place looks like a winter wonderland (or Fargo, for the less romantic). This morning I confirmed a scientific observation; cold air sinks. Leaving the garage this morning, my car said -1°F. It was a beautifully clear night and a very still morning as I started to take Noah to school. By the time I was on top of the driveway, the car said -11°F. A quarter mile west at the lowest point of the commute (the little valley with the creek), the temperature was -17°F. As we drove to Central, the temperature actually went up (to -7°F)—I think this was due to the fact that there’s more activity and air mixing going on, as well as it being on a hill. The drive back home confirmed the -17°F at the creek, and it was a balmy -15°F at our house.

I’m so looking forward to next week, where an even colder air mass is supposed to move in. With wind! At least I won’t be staring at the temperature gauge; it’ll be -20 everywhere. For those of you reading this from warm climates, I’m jealous!

Merry Christmas to all…

We’re just about an hour from Christmas dinner. All the kids are here + Rachel (Max’s girlfriend). A roast beast is in the oven smelling delicious—perhaps our vegan friend doesn’t appreciate it quite as much. Yesterday’s family mass at St. John the Baptist was beautiful—made so especially by Grace showing up voluntarily a little late. It was the best present she could have given Jen and I, and we really enjoyed it. Fr. Russ was ‘out of the box’ with his homily concerning the four shepherds (John, Paul, Ringo, and George)—it was a delight with all the Beatles references and the adults enjoyed it as much as the kids did. Midnight mass was at St. Francis Xavier, and the choir did a great job with the program. In fact, I thought at least three of the pieces were better than we had ever done during practice, so I was impressed. The mass was beautiful as well—although I was pretty tired by the time I got settled in for my long winter nap.

Christmas was less material this year than past—which was a good thing in my book. There were times during Christmases past when we were unwrapping so many presents that I thought we had really overdone it all. Of course, when the kids are younger we do overdo things… and that’s not all bad. This year, I think we hit a good balance.

On now to finish the roast beast, whip up the brussel sprouts, and do a vegetarian stir fry for Rachel. Merry Christmas to you all!

Close to Christmas

Christmas is coming roaring down the tracks. Gifts are purchased but not wrapped yet, and I’ve still got a little bit of shopping to do for the feast day. I need to practice music tonight to nail down a couple pieces for midnight mass. And then, we’re enjoying all the snow that we received Saturday night/Sunday morning.

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Curlies do love to play in the snow. Grace and Cas had a great time—it’s fun to see Grace doing the same things that she used to do with the dogs 9 years ago.

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Copyright 2014, Jim Kofron. All rights reserved.