Enjoying the Painted Sky

I’m a visual person. I love color, shapes, patterns, angles, etc. And I really love seeing a pretty sky. And interesting clouds. Heck, I even like a completely empty sky when it’s that amazing, intense blue you usually get after a huge storm has passed. You know, since the storm has almost completely scrubbed the atmosphere of moisture.

Anyway… I captured quite a few sky shots the other day at the Blackwater Refuge. Some are even good enough for me to want to share here.

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As dusk was nearing.

As I’m looking at these pics, I see my CMOS sensor needs to be cleaned again. Sigh… Maybe no one else notices or even knows what that means? LOL.

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Sun Dog?

That picture doesn’t do the sky justice. The spot of intense color was neat to see. Those instances of color are very fleeting, so I had to work fast, and I didn’t capture it very well.

I had to darken the final image, using PhotoShop, to make the intense color appear in the photo. Now the picture just looks too blue to me. I decided I’d share it anyway.

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Setting Sun

 

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Shortly After Sunset

 

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Another of my favorites.

 

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Almost gone!

I love how the short contrail/flat-and-skinny cloud toward the top, center part of the frame is lit up.

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Dark but still pretty.

I get very excited when I see the sky lit up, and I usually start clicking away at the shutter button, trying hard to capture the color appropriately or at least in a way that’s pleasing to the eye. The problem is, I don’t always remember to make sure the horizon is flat.

Since I’ve mentioned that on here, I figured I’d give you an example.

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Way crooked horizon. See how it slopes to the left? Not good.

 

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Flatter, but still not perfect.

The second shot is passable, but it’s still not perfect. I can’t remember if I was trying to capture a flat horizon with that shot, or if I just got lucky.

Below is an edited version of the same, passable shot.

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Flatter with more-intense color.

See how much better?

Is it me, or do the clouds look like a goose in flight?

Here’s another look at that same cloud formation.

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Painted Sky

A pretty end to an interesting, but cold, day.

Few White Faces at Blackwater

I went to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge yesterday with hopes of seeing big flocks of Snow Geese. I’ve been thinking about visiting that place since October, when I failed to see Snow Geese during my visit to Chincoteague. It’s a three-hour drive from my house, though. Sometimes it’s hard for me to justify — to myself — investing an entire day just to go see a bunch of birds.

So, when I learned of a dog transport passing through this area, I figured I could multi-task again. I could help transport the dog AND drive to Blackwater.

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Ellie’s Transport – Rustburg, VA to Whiting, NJ (not the actual route)

Originally, I was supposed to take Ellie from Warrenton to the other side of DC. But I figured if I carried her to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the folks on the NJ end might appreciate traversing ruralish highways instead of Interstate 95.

I was right. 🙂

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Ellie with her foster Dad, Bob Fairbanks

So, after handing Ellie off to her foster parents in Queenstown, MD, I drove about another hour to Blackwater.

Pretty Day at Blackwater
Pretty Day at Blackwater

It was around 3:00 when I got there, and there wasn’t a whole lot of daylight remaining.

Unfortunately, there were few Snow Geese to be found. I did get lots of other cool pics, though, and quite a few crappy ones.

Before I share my captures, I will say this… I am no bird photographer. I take pictures of birds, but I don’t have the right equipment, i.e., a big-ass, expensive zoom lens and industrial-strength tripod, to capture technically good bird photos. I just take snapshots.

I also have to say that it was very windy and cold there yesterday. Temps hovered around 40 degrees F (about 4.5 C), but the wind made it feel much colder. The wind also wreaked havoc on my focus. Using a zoom lens requires a tripod and/or a very steady hand. Although I had taken the tripod along, I didn’t bother setting it up because of said wind.

The first set of pics was taken with my point-and-shoot camera.

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Looking out over the water.

Blackwater — a tidal wetland — is a pretty place.

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I really enjoy visiting tidal wetlands.

 

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Cool — and mysterious! — pattern in the ice.

I really like my captures of this pattern in the ice. I’d hoped the folks at the visitors’ center could explain how it was created, but they were equally intrigued.

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A bit of grass in the foreground, while blurry, makes this shot, I think.

 

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Nice colors, eh? The sun was setting.

 

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One of my favorite sunset captures.

My point-and-shoot — a Canon G16 — is a higher-end camera, and it has pretty good zoom capabilities, but digital zoom is only good if the light is bright and the camera is very still. Remember, it was windy. And daylight was fading fast during my visit.

The pics shared below were all taken with my DSLR camera, equipped with a zoom lens.

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Just a pretty picture.

 

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This image of a Great Blue Heron is blurry, but I think that adds to the shot.

 

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Same bird, slightly more in focus.

I like how you can also see the bird’s feet in the second picture.

I saw quite a few herons yesterday.

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I like the blurry marsh grass in the foreground.

 

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That’s an eagle atop of the snag.

This guy (or gal?) was kind enough to land right in front of my car.

Looking for attention?
Looking for attention?

 

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I’m a sucker for interesting reflections.

 

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There’s that interesting pattern in the ice again.

 

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Great Blue Heron

 

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Same bird, different orientation.

I stopped at the visitors’ center for a potty break, to warm up, and to ask about the Snow Geese. I was starting to think they’d all flown north already (Blackwater is one of several over-wintering spots for them on the East Coast).

That’s where I captured this eagle shot, which I posted to FB with the caption, “Got really close to an eagle! That’s a phone pic, no filter.”

Close-up of an Eagle!
Close-up of an Eagle!

Of course, the prankster in me left a few important details out of that caption. It was a real, but dead, stuffed, and mounted, eagle in an exhibit.

The volunteers at the visitors’ center told me the Snow Geese were spending their day in nearby fields, off-refuge, eating. While there was still sufficient light, I set out to see the elusive Snow Geese.

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Snow Geese

 

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Snow Geese (some were quite far from the road; see the white dots in the background?)

 

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Snow Geese

After observing them for a bit, I drove back to the refuge, hoping maybe they’d return before dark.

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Canada Geese

Note, I did NOT say Canadian Geese. They’re CANADA Geese, people, not Canadian Geese. That’s one of my pet peeves when people talk about birds.

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Along Wildlife Drive at the Blackwater Refuge.

 

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Great Blue Heron

If you look at a larger version of this image (just click on the picture) you’ll see that its neck feathers were blowing in the wind.

I captured quite a few nice sunset shots, which I’ll share in a separate post.

The Snow Geese did return to the refuge, but not until after sunset. I DID capture a few shots with the point-and-shoot, but they were blurry.

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One blurry, dark photo of Snow Geese in flight.

 

The pics I captured during my previous visit are better. The first image shown below is a good pic from my visit in 2011, when I still had a separate moto blog.

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Snow Geese in Flight

 

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One of my favorite bike pics.

It’s really pretty amazing to see — and hear! — hundreds of geese in flight. I guess if you like that sorta thing.

If you’re curious, here a link for more info on about Snow Geese. And here are some nice pics captured by someone else — found via Google — that clearly show Canada Geese beside a Snow Goose.

I must say, it was nice being out in the world for a change. I hope you enjoyed your virtual visit. 🙂

The Beach at Daybreak

Thanks to the alarm on my phone, I was able to get out of bed before sunrise on Saturday. I never use an electronic alarm at home, I have two canine alarms.

Neptune was just as lovely in the morning light as I thought he would be. I’d figured the sky would make a nice backdrop for him.

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Neptune at Daybreak

I took several shots, naturally. The one below would be my favorite if it weren’t for the playground equipment in the lower left-hand corner. If you want a closer look, just click on any of these images and a bigger version will open.

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Neptune from Another Angle

As for the sunrise, I captured a bunch of sunrise images, too. Not every frame I captured is worthy of sharing.

None of my followers come to mind when I say this… people who routinely share every single frame they capture make me crazy.

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Cloudy Morning

It was quite cloudy that morning (Saturday, November 7). Clouds can be good and bad. Too many, and the sunlight is obscured. I like some clouds because I think it makes the sky more interesting.

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Sunrise, Straight Out of Camera (SOC)

I don’t always edit (aka PhotoShop) my pics beyond re-sizing before posting. With sunrises/sunsets over water or some other flat horizon, I usually have to. Because no matter how hard I try, I can almost never get the horizon level enough.

I mention editing, because it’s easy to make a good picture look better with image editing software, as shown below, using the same image as shown above, adjusted for light.

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Sunrise, Adjusted for Light

Sometimes, I’ll adjust for composition, too. Below is the same image again, cropped so the sun is in the right third of the frame and the reflection of the sun on the water is in the lower right-hand quadrant.

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Same Image, Cropped

Why am I telling you this? So you’ll understand that when I say an image is straight out of camera or SOC, it means I think I and my camera have captured it perfectly. That’s not an easy feat.

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SOC with Slanted Horizon

The horizon isn’t horribly slanted, but it’s slanted enough that I notice.

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Same Image with Horizon Leveled

Leveling makes a difference, doesn’t it? (Sorry if I have just cursed you with the needing to have a level-horizon thing.)

There’s a lot to think about when trying to get a good picture — composition, light, focus, level horizon, etc. — and leveling the horizon is the one I forget and/or fail at most often.

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Captured with the Point and Shoot (SOC)

 

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My Favorite Capture of the Morning (SOC)

 

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My Third-favorite Capture (SOC with leveled horizon)

 

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Another Nice Shot (SOC)

When using an automatic camera, the point at which you focus will determine the amount of light captured in your shot.

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My Second-favorite (SOC)

The wider focus in the above shot made the camera let in just enough light to capture the foreground detail, but still leave some blue in the sky.

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Now, that is a sunrise! (SOC)

In the images immediately above and below this paragraph, zooming in/focusing on the brightness of the sun meant the camera let less light in, which is why everything else is darker.

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Loving all the colors. (SOC)

Achieving just the right balance takes practice and experimentation, too. The angle of the light is also important.

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SOC with Leveled Horizon

That shot would have been nicer with a slightly darker sky, but then you wouldn’t have been able to see my footprints in the sand. I can use PhotoShop to darken the sky a bit if I want.

All of the images shared thus far were captured on my point-and-shoot, i.e., automatic, camera. It has a variety of manual options, but I have yet to learn how to use them. I can be a lazy photographer at times.

The next few images were captured with my digital SLR camera (interchangeable lenses, easier-to-use manual settings, manual focus, etc.).

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This could be a tad darker, I think. But it’s still a decent image.

 

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Sasquatch Tracks

 

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SLR Capture (SOC)

Playing with the light settings and using manual focus let me capture those wispy little clouds in front of the dark, background clouds.

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My Favorite SLR Capture (SOC)

In the SOC version, you can’t really see the sun’s rays like you can (subtly) in the below version, which I adjusted slightly for light.

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My Favorite SLR Capture (after light adjustment)

Not surprisingly to me, I captured more shots worth sharing with the point-and-shoot than I did with the SLR. I’m out of practice. It takes thought to get the right light settings on that thing, and I am very rusty.

All of the pics would have been better had I thought about using the tripod. I did say I can be a lazy photographer…

I could’ve stayed longer to watch as the sky continued to change and capture more images, but I knew I’d gotten a few good ones. AND I had things to do.

It’s hard to pic a favorite, isn’t it?

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Those fish make me smile.

Next up, some fun images captured in and around Virginia Beach.

Butterflies

While enjoying my randomish ramble to Love, Virginia this past Saturday, I stopped at the Loft Mountain Wayside along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

As I was preparing to depart, I noticed a large patch of wildflowers on the hill beside the building. Looking a bit more closely, I also observed a bunch of butterflies and bees enjoying said flowers. So I grabbed the point-and-shoot (aka “real” camera) and walked over for a closer look.

I only watched for about 5 minutes. The flowers were in the sun, and it was around 2:30, close to the hottest part of the day. I managed to capture some nice images. The color was a bit washed-out on all of them since the sun was so bright (that’s why midday is not the best time for pics), so I had to adjust the input levels a bit with PhotoShop Elements. I re-sized the pics to post, too.

I hope you enjoy the shots as much as I do. If you click on an image, you’ll get a better view.

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Three’s a Crowd

 

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Worker Bees

 

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The Soloist

 

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Grab Hold

 

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Seeing Double

 

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Landing

 

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Rough Around the Edges

 

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Uplifted

 

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Newness

 

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Accent Colors

My Mom loved butterflies. I can’t help but think of her every time I see one.

Tomorrow marks three years since her passing. She was my biggest fan, and would have enjoyed this post.

Just Because

I have some pictures that I’ve been wanting to share for a while. I’m better about sharing pics captured with my phone, usually, since they’re easy to upload onto Instagram and/or Facebook. Not as good about getting the images I’ve captured with the camera posted.

So here’s a rather random collection of images I should have posted sooner, but didn’t. Some are goofy, some aren’t.

First is this cool miner dude we spotted on our recent visit to Shenandoah Caverns.

Shenandoah Caverns' Miner
Shenandoah Caverns’ Miner

Shenandoah Caverns has lots of fun stuff to see. In my opinion. You might agree if you appreciate kitschy stuff as much as me.

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Helpful Pixie, Elf, or Gnome? I have no clue.

I’m not always on the lookout for weird stuff, believe it or not, it just catches my eye.

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New-ish BBQ joint near Sperryville.

I was all excited about seeing this kitschy-ish BBQ place. Then I learned it’s a chain. A small chain, but a chain nonetheless. That sort of diminishes the fun for me. It’s no longer a spontaneous “Hey, let’s park the General Lee” kind of thing, but a “we gotta find another General Lee for the Sperryville location.”

Maybe it’s just me, but standalone or at least unique, Mom and Pop-type businesses with kitschy decor are just cooler. More creative somehow.

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Evening Sky Over Old Town Warrenton (OTW)

I always have my phone along while walking the dogs, you know, just in case I have a heart attack or something, and can’t help snapping pictures when a scene catches my eye, or I see a specific thing that makes me smile.

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Old Town Warrenton

And here’s me having a bit of fun with my Love.

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Galax, VA LOVEwork (it’s pronounced like GAY lax)

I really like this next shot, which I captured during an afternoon walk with the girls. On a whim, I used the front-facing camera on my phone and held it upside-down below the flowers to get the sky in the background.

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Reach for the Sky!

There’s just something fun about M&Ms…

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She’s Got Your Back

Speaking of having your back, here’s something you don’t see every day…

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Carol, Tracey, and Me

Look at us all purtied-up.

Tracey’s youngest got married on August 1. Since none of us like getting all fancy, we HAD to have a picture taken.

And since you usually see Hubby and me looking sorta rough like this…

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Me and Hubby

…I couldn’t resist sharing what I think is a super-cute pic.

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Hubby and Me

There you have it.

Perhaps the next post will be more interesting for you. 🙂

 

Ay, Caramba

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Pretty Iris at DuCard Winery

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. I haven’t been absent for lack of things to chat about. I’ve been busy. (My friend, Carol, hates that particular “B” word.)

Work has been a bit nuts. My job requires lots of writing, thinking, and involves a good bit of math, too. All under deadline. Which can sometimes be mentally draining. Especially when multiple projects with many moving parts, all very important, are due at one time.

Shortly after Aunt Bertha left, my mother in law came to visit for a few days. It was lovely having her here. So I couldn’t very well spend evenings on my computer after spending long hours each day holed-up in my office.

Then there’s yard work. I had stuff that HAD to be done before our fabulous friend came to do clean-out of the planting beds and spread lots of mulch for us.

Then on Monday. day one of another very hectic week, something weird happened. My world was spinning, literally. And I couldn’t think. I’d read e-mails three times, but it still felt like I was reading Japanese. All of this with one pretty major work deadline looming, and a second, only slightly less important work project. Off to the doctor I went.

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Icky Pollen

As it turns out, all the pollen I’ve been bitching about caused fluid to build up in both of my inner ears. And that caused vertigo, hence the spinning. After a couple of days on multiple prescription drugs and one OTC med, I’m feeling much better. And my world is once again on an even keel.

It freaked Hubby out a bit. He’s about to embark on a wee solo journey, which he’s been planning for MONTHS. I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow. I would’ve felt horrible if he’d been forced to postpone.

I’ve been working on a furniture project, too, which was halted due to a flawed, ad hoc design, which I hope to correct this weekend.

I have quite a to-do list, let me tell you. I’m not complaining, just sayin’.

Hmmm, what else?

There were the birds, too. A pair of Northern Cardinals unwisely built a nest in our yard. A yard occupied by two bird dogs, one of which spent a full week completely obsessed by said nest. Which used to be occupied by babies. Sadly, the babies are all dead, thanks to Special K, who I’ve newly renamed K-MOB (murderer of birds).

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K-MOB in action.

I feel horrible that my boss had to step in on Monday, amid a frenzied day of her own, to keep my BIG project on track. I really, REALLY hate not being able to pull my own weight.

Lucky for me, a VERY unusual thing happened. One of my deadlines was pushed back. I can breathe a bit easier now, and give it the attention it deserves.

The bulk of the yard work is done, save for some tomato plants and coleus that need planting. And a few pots that remain to be filled.

The fresh mulch really makes my newest frog stand out, doesn’t it?

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My newest frog is much more noticeable.

I’m glad this week is winding down. And there’s a three-day weekend coming up, which means my to-do list will become shorter, if all goes as planned.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s big announcement. For now, I leave you with this image, captured during a recent ride.

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I like turtles.

 

Ta ta for now!

– – – – – – – – – – UPDATE – – – – – – – – – –

I completely forgot to mention something else. Big.

We sold the WV Place! 🙂

The deal is closed, and the check is en route. So I figured it was safe to report about it now. Although there was a bit of a scare yesterday. The title company’s e-mail was hacked, and the proceeds of the sale were almost wire-transferred to someone posing as us (using our name and a different account). How’s that for some post-closing excitement?

And this occurred after they’d already mailed us a check. Left us both scratching our heads a bit… I mean, they were told to mail a check to us. They mailed a check. But then they get this out-of-the-blue e-mail requesting a wire transfer. So, they stop payment on the check and transfer the money. Good thing someone on the receiving end was skeptical.