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March Photo a Day

>> Friday, February 28, 2014

I switched things up a bit in February and tried a different daily photo challenge along with a few of my friends. It was nice to have some fresh photo prompts and get to know a new group of folks on Instagram as well. I’m going to stick with the Sunny Pic Challenge for March.



This challenge is hosted by Sunny Matilda. The March list looks fun and I’m looking forward to another month of daily photos.

I’ll be hitting two full years of daily photos on the 15th. I like having a reason to post a photo every day. I think the prompts encourage me to keep an eye out for the small moments or everyday things that can be made special because I’m looking at them differently. I know I’ve become better at taking and editing photos in the past couple of years. I’ve also become better at keeping my eye out for things that look interesting and unique.

I love sharing my photos on Iinstagram and seeing what other folks do with the same prompts. I get inspired by the photos I see that others with different ideas and much more talent take and post.

I also like picking 6 favorites at the end of the month to post here. Here are my favorites of the photos I took for the February challenge

pastel
February 8th - pastel
black & 

white
February 12th - black & white
love
February 14th - love
flower
February 15th - flower
landscape
February 17th - landscape
then 

& now
February 18th - then & now

I hope you'll consider joining me for the Sunny Pic Challenge for March.

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Wordless Wednesday #227

>> Wednesday, February 26, 2014

From Bridal Veil Falls Overlook Trail
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

From Bridal Veil Falls Overlook Trail
click on image for larger version

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here

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The Expats by Chris Pavone

>> Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Expats by Chris Pavone

The Expats by Chris Pavone

Genre: Suspense
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 326
Source: Copy provided by the publisher

The Short Version:
When Kate moves to Luxembourg because of her husband’s job the life of a Expat is a big change for her and soon she starts realizing that nothing is as it seems.

Why I Read It:
The first time I heard something about this book on Twitter, I was intrigued and knew I wanted to read it.I really didn’t know much about this book other than the fact that a lot of people I trust thought it was pretty darn good.

The Book:
From the inside cover flap:From the Publisher:

Can We Ever Escape Our Secrets?

Kate Moore is a working mother, struggling to make ends meet, to raise children, to keep a spark in her marriage . . . and to maintain an increasingly unbearable life-defining secret. So when her husband is offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, she jumps at the chance to leave behind her double-life, to start anew.

She begins to reinvent herself as an expat, finding her way in a language she doesn’t speak, doing the housewifely things she’s never before done—playdates and coffee mornings, daily cooking and never-ending laundry. Meanwhile, her husband works incessantly, at a job Kate has never understood, for a banking client she’s not allowed to know. He’s becoming distant and evasive; she’s getting lonely and bored.

Then another American couple arrives. Kate soon becomes suspicious that these people are not who they say they are, and she’s terrified that her own past is catching up to her. So Kate begins to dig, to peel back the layers of deception that surround her. She discovers fake offices and shell corporations and a hidden gun, a mysterious farmhouse and numbered accounts with bewildering sums of money, and finally unravels the mind-boggling long-play con that threatens her family, her marriage, and her life.

My Thoughts:
Oh this was a fun roller coaster of a ride. It was so twisty turny that I think it had a couple of loops and a U-turn or two.

I’m reasonably sure that following along as Kate told the story and being able to guess her big secret before it was revealed was just there to lull me into a sense of security about what I thought I knew. I’m not going to say much more about the story or what happens because it’s wonderfully complex and fun and exciting. It’s a slow building of suspicion and suspense with secrets upon secrets.

The setting and time frame alternates back and forth between present day and two years ago. This provided hints but also added to the questions as I guessed and changed my mind multiple times about what the truth might be. It’s international intrigue, financial cybercrime, espionage with a dose of marital suspicion and deception.

I’m putting this one on The Hubster’s shelf because I think he’ll enjoy it as much as I did. I’m looking forward to reading Pavone’s next book.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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Weekend Update - The I'm Not Here Edition

>> Sunday, February 23, 2014

Weekend Update

Bucket of beer on the beach


Pretty much what I'm up to today.




Hope you're having a great weekend!!

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Y: The Last Man Vol. 8: Kimono Dragons by Brian K. Vaughan

>> Friday, February 21, 2014

Y: The Last Man Vol 8: Kimono Dragons by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Pia Guerra

Y: The Last Man Vol 8: Kimono Dragons by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Pia Guerra

Genre: Science Fiction (Graphic Novel)
Series: #8 in the Y: The Last Man series
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 144
Source: Library


The Short Version:
Four years after a plague killed all the male mammals the lone surviving Man is still trying to find out what happened and why he’s still alive.

Why I Read It:
I’m enjoying this series and have to continue to find out what happens. Besides, I think I just like every thing Brian K Vaughan ever wrote.

The Book:
This volume 8 is a compilation of issues 43-48 of the comic series.

From the back of the book:

MAN ABOUT TOWN

Nearly four years after a global plague killed every male mammal on Earth, the two exceptions - Yorick Brown and his monkey Ampersand - now find themselves in Japan. Following Ampersand's abduction by a sword-wielding mercenary, Yorick and his companions (government operative 355 and biochemist Dr. Allison Mann) have tracked him to the Land of the Rising Sun, w the culture has adapted to the loss of its men in some uniquely Japanese ways. To retrieve his pet - whose body may hold the key to humanity's survival - Yorick and 355 must travel to Tokyo and navigate a tricky maze of Yakuza remnants, little-girl gangsters and pop star entitlement gone mad.

At the same time, Dr. Mann and her new girlfriend head to her mother's home for a chilly family reunion. Their reaception is even more hostile than expected, but it also results in a startling revelation - one which could point the way towards solving the final, overriding mystery of what - or who -caused the Gendercide.

My Thoughts:
With two volumes to go until the end this series is both winding down and getting more and more complex at the same time. This one has plenty of action and also fills in the background stories of a couple of characters.

With Yorick and his companions now in Japan it’s time for them to split up. Yorick and Agent 355 have quite an adventure hunting down Ampersand and the action really picks up along the way. Meanwhile Dr. Mann and her girlfriend find Dr. Mann’s mother and as secrets are revealed they bring up almost as many questions as answers.

With a couple of side trips to check in on things back in the States (with their own surprising developments) the stage is set for what I hope will be an interesting finish.

The final two sections of this one are devoted to the back stories of Dr. Mann and the Israeli commando who’s been after Yorick ever since the first volume of the series. It was good to get more background on both of them.


3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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Wordless Wednesday #226

>> Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Vista House at Crown Point
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Vista House at Crown Point
click on image for larger version

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here

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While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

>> Tuesday, February 18, 2014

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books (Penguin)
Publication Date: 2014 (Available February 20th)
Pages: 424
Source: Copy provided by the publisher

The Short Version:
Historical Fiction treatment of the story of Sleeping Beauty as if it had happened but without any magic.

Why I Read It:
The first time I heard something about this book on Twitter, I was intrigued and knew I wanted to read it.

The Book:
From the inside cover flap:From the Publisher:

I am not the sort of person about whom stories are told.

And so begins Elise Dalriss’s story. When she hears her great-granddaughter recount a minstrel’s tale about a beautiful princess asleep in a tower, it pushes open a door to the past, a door Elise has long kept locked. For Elise was the companion to the real princess who slumbered—and she is the only one left who knows what actually happened so many years ago. Her story unveils a labyrinth where secrets connect to an inconceivable evil. As only Elise understands all too well, the truth is no fairy tale.

My Thoughts:
The publisher’s page for this book opens with “Historical fiction at its best — The Brothers Grimm meets The Thirteenth Tale” and I’d call that an accurate description.

The story of Sleeping Beauty is retold from the perspective of a farm girl who becomes a maid in the castle and sees how the events that will later become a legend and fairy tale play out. Elise had me hooked by page 2.
"The spell was broken. Sleeping Beauty awakened and around her the castle came to life once again. The king and queen wept with joy to be reunited with their daughter, and happiness was restored to the realm. The prince married the princess and they lived happily ever after.”

Ha! It would be a fine trick indeed to fell a royal daughter with a needle, then see her revived with a single kiss. If such magic exists, I have yet to witness it. The horror of what really happened has been lost, and no wonder. The truth is hardly a story for children.
This is much more a straight up historical fiction book than fantasy. In fact magic really plays no part in the events that Elise observes and experiences. I liked Elise as the narrator in this one. Her humble beginnings and early tragedies made her someone I could root for. Her introduction to life at court and descriptions of both the beautiful and ugly parts of life there for both servants and the upper classes was interesting. She’s bright and her relationship to the queen is quite touching. Her loyalty and strength are admirable. Elise drops many hints of danger and tragedy to come but for the most part tells the story as she saw and experienced it.

Blackwell beautifully weaves a tale of intrigue, love, jealousy, danger and hope. She manages to tell a familiar story in a way that makes it entirely new and fascinating. I highly recommend this one.

It’s a magical story despite the lack of actual magic.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

>> Friday, February 14, 2014

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

Genre: Juvenile Fantasy Adventure
Series: #2 in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians Series
Publisher: Hyperion
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 279
Source: Purchased


The Short Version:
Percy Jackson has adapted to the fact that his father is Poseidon and that there are other half-bloods like him but when his otherwise quiet seventh-grade year at school goes spectacularly wrong he’s in for another adventure.

Why I Read It:
I thought the first book in this series was fun and bought the second ages ago. I’m really not sure why I waited so long to read it.

The Book:
From the back of the book:

Percy Jackson’s seventh-grade year has been surprisingly quiet. Not a single monster has set foot on his New York prep-school campus. But when an innocent game of dodgeball among Percy and his classmates turns into a death match against an ugly gang of cannibal giants, things get… well, ugly. And the unexpected arrival of Percy’s friend Annabeth brings more bad news: the magical borders that protect Camp Half-Blood have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and unless a cure is found, the only safe haven for demigods will be destroyed.
In this fresh, funny, and hugely anticipated follow up to The Lightning Thief, Percy and his friends must journey into the Sea of Monsters to save their beloved camp. But first, Percy will discover a stunning new secret about his family — one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon’s son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.

My Thoughts:
This has been on my shelf for at least two years. I bought it right after I read the first book and I’m really not sure why I waited so long to pick it up. I’m just glad I did and I will definitely not wait so long again to continue with this series.

I enjoy the fun and adventure of this series. Percy and his friends are smart and creative in handling the various crises they face. The second one is missing some of the surprises of the first since the idea of Half-Bloods, Greek Gods hanging around and various and sundry monsters are already established. Nevertheless I enjoyed the story. New monsters and other mythological gods and creatures were introduced.

Percy’s friend Tyson became my favorite character in this one and I kind of hope he’s back in later books.

Percy’s description of the harpies cracked me up:
“There!” a voice screeched behind us. “Bad children out of cabins! Snack time for lucky harpies!’

Five of them were fluttering ove the top of the dunes—plump little hags with pinched faces and talons and feathery wings too small for their bodies. They reminded me of miniature cafeteria ladies who’d been crossbred with dodo birds. They weren’t very fast, thank the gods, but they were vicious if they caught you.

I put the first one of this series on The Hubster’s bookshelf. I think he’ll like it.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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Wordless Wednesday #225

>> Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Multnomah Falls
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Multnomah Falls
click on image for larger version

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here

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Audiobook – The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith

>> Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith

Genre: Fiction
Series: #14 in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: 2013
Length: 9 hours, 45 minutes
Read by: Lisette Lecat
Source: Copy provided by the publisher through LibraryThing Early Reviewers

The Short Version:
Precious Ramotswe works a couple of cases and at the same time her assistant is facing major changes in her life and perhaps her career.

Why I Read It:
I have been and continue to be a fan of the audio versions of this series and I try to keep current.

The Book:
From the publisher:
Modern ideas get tangled up with traditional ones in the latest intriguing installment in the beloved, best-selling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

Precious Ramotswe has taken on two puzzling cases. First she is approached by the lawyer Mma Sheba, who is the executor of a deceased farmer's estate. Mma Sheba has a feeling that the young man who has stepped forward may be falsely impersonating the farmer's nephew in order to claim his inheritance. Mma Ramotswe agrees to visit the farm and find out what she can about the self-professed nephew. Then the proprietor of the Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon comes to Mma Ramotswe for advice. The opening of her new salon has been shadowed by misfortune. Not only has she received a bad omen in the mail, but rumors are swirling that the salon is using dangerous products that burn people's skin. Could someone be trying to put the salon out of business?

Meanwhile, at the office, Mma Ramotswe has noticed something different about Grace Makutsi lately. Though Mma Makutsi has mentioned nothing, it has become clear that she is pregnant . . . But in Botswana—a land where family has always been held above all else—this may be cause for controversy as well as celebration.

My Thoughts:
Since I'm still listening to this series at number 14 I obviously enjoy it.

This is one of those series that I doubt I'd enjoy nearly as much in print because for me it's the narration of Lisette Lecat that makes the series a delight for me to listen to. They're light on the mystery and heavier on observations of life and a love for the country of Botswana.

One of the reasons I like listening to these is that I would be at a loss as to how to pronounce many of the places and names. Beyond that though is the narrator's talent at giving the characters their own voices and personalities. Lisette Lecat is the reason I continue to listen to this series.

In this one the mysteries are only a part of the story. The bigger storyline is Grace Makutsi’s pregnancy and what this will mean for both the #1 Ladies Detective Agency and the relationship between Precious and Grace. I loved the way this one played out. I absolutely giggled at the reaction of Charlie from the garage to Grace’s baby.

The books themselves are OK but the narration of Lisette Lecat makes them a delight.

3 stars Rating 3/5 for the book

4 stars Rating 4/5 for the narration



SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.

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Weekend Update – The Snow and Iced in Edition

>> Sunday, February 9, 2014

Weekend Update

Snow blew in Thursday afternoon and after three rounds of snow turned to ice pellets and freezing rain yesterday afternoon. It went from ‘Beautiful” to “When will this mess melt?” in a matter of a couple of hours. It looks like we’re not going anywhere again today but tomorrow should be warm enough to get things back to normal.

Currently //

Time // 9:30 am

Place // My recliner in the family room

Eating // A Trader Joe's chocolate croissant.


Drinking // Coffee (Stumptown Italian Roast for those who care. This afternoon I'll be trying some more tea from the Republic of Tea sampler box my sister in law gave me. Yesterday both the Cinnamon Vanilla and the British Breakfast teas were winners.


Reading // I'm absolutely enthralled by While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell and I'm kind of glad that we won't be able to leave the house today so I can spend a lot of time reading it. It's Historical Fiction that retells the Sleeping Beauty story from the viewpoint of a maid in the castle. I am absolutely loving it.


Watching // We've been watching season one of The Americans so we can catch up in time for the second season when it starts. We rarely watch new shows and prefer to see if they're going to last before we get involved. I heard so many good things about this show last year. Fortunately FX has been replaying season one and I made sure our DVR was set. It's so good. Keri Russell is a total badass in this show.

Listening // My current audiobook is The Serpent on the Crown by Elizabeth Peters but I haven't listened to any of it since Thursday. I typically listen when I'm in the car and I've been stuck at home due to snow and ice since Thursday afternoon.

Looking // at the photos I took this week and I think this one is my favorite


Blogging // I've got three reviews to write but I think I'll have a hard time tearing myself away from While Beauty Slept to write them today.

Anticipating // Tomorrow's temperatures that will be high enough to melt this icy mess.

We went from beautiful and fun

To adding a layer of ice

to "that sidewalk was cleared on Friday afternoon but now we might need a chisel"

What are you reading? What are you listening to? What are you doing?

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The Making of The African Queen, Or, How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind by Katherine Hepburn

>> Friday, February 7, 2014

The Making of the African Queen by Katherine Hepburn

The Making of The African Queen, Or, How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind by Katherine Hepburn

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: 1987
Pages: 129
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Over 30 years after the movie was filmed Katherine Hepburn recalls her experiences during preparation for and filming of The African Queen

Why I Read It:
I first heard about this book a few years ago when Bookfool talked about it. The African Queen was my father’s favorite movie so it’s one that I remember from when I was a kid.

The Book:
From the inside cover flap:

This book will tell you what it was like for me to meet John Huston, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in London and in Africa for the first time. To work with them nonstop for about three months. And why – come hell or high water through thick and through thin for better and for worse but not quite until death did we part – It was great fun.
KH

My Thoughts:
The African Queen was my Dad’s favorite movie and whenever it was on TV we had to have it on. I’m not sure I ever saw the entire movie in one sitting until I was an adult but I remember seeing bits and pieces of it many many years ago.

When Bookfool talked about this book I put it on my wishlist at the library and there it stayed for years. A few weeks ago a friend of mine shared a link to a video clip of Katherine Hepburn (from The Philadelphia Story). It reminded me about this book so I finally checked it out from the library.

The book is short and full of photos from behind the scenes mostly when they were filming in Africa.

It's a very conversational and stream of consiousness style. It reads as if it was transcribed from recordings of her telling the stories of her experience. It reminded me of television interviews I'd seen with her. I could easily hear her voice in my head as she told the story, interrupted herself and often went off on tangents before returning to the point she had been making.

Now I have to get the movie from the library and watch it again.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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Wordless Wednesday #224

>> Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bridal Veil Falls
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Bridal Veil Falls
click on image for larger version

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here

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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

>> Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Genre: Suspense, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 369
Source: Copy provided by the publisher through LibraryThing Early Reviewers


The Short Version:
A collection of odd vintage images and long held secrets lead sixteen year old Jacob Portman on an adventure into his Grandfather’s past.

Why I Read It:
The video book trailer intrigued me which is surprising because I tend to avoid video book trailers but for some reason watched this one.

The Book:
From the Author’s Website:

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

My Thoughts:
I rarely pay any attention to video book trailers but for some reason I watched the one for this book and was immediately intrigued. Then it fell off my radar until it popped up in an Early Reviewers Batch at LibraryThing so I requested it. I really didn't know much about it going in other than it had something to do with the odd vintage photographs scattered throughout the story.

I have to say that I enjoyed it. It's a mix of fantasy, suspense and historical fiction.

Jacob as a narrator worked for me because he had the right balance of skepticism and 'OK, I'll go with the flow and figure it out later' attitude when things got strange. When he travels to Wales to find the orphanage where his grandfather lived after leaving Germany the story gets really interesting.

It's so different from anything I could have guessed it to be about and so different from anything I've read that I can't really compare it to anything else.

I'm fascinated by the creativity of the author in creating and building this story around this collection of odd vintage photographs. I enjoyed it quite a bit and while I'll probably read the sequel I'll probably wait a while. I need to let this one settle a bit before venturing into Jacob's world again.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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Weekend Update – Changing Up the Daily Photo Thing

>> Saturday, February 1, 2014

Weekend Update

It’s time for a change.

I’ve been doing a daily photo challenge on Instagram for nearly two full years now. I started with #FMSPhotoaDay back in the middle of March 2012. I never expected to stick with taking and posting a photo based on a one word or short phrase as a prompt. I was pleased to actually make it a full month and it seemed like the next thing I knew I was coming up on a full year of daily photos posted to Instagram and Shuttercal.

I like having a reason to post a photo every day. I think the prompts encourage me to keep an eye out for the small moments or everyday things that can be made special because I’m looking at them differently. I know I’ve become better at taking and editing photos in the past couple of years. I’ve also become better at keeping my eye out for things that look interesting and unique.

I love sharing my photos on Iinstagram and seeing what other folks do with the same prompts. I get inspired by the photos I see that others with different ideas and much more talent take and post.

I also like picking 6 favorites at the end of the month to post here. Here are my favorites of the photos I took for the January challenge

begins with G
January 2nd - begins with G
3 things
January 14th - 3 things
black + white
January 15th - black + white
to do list
January 20th - to do list
something I bought
January 27th - something I bought
window
January 29th - window

I have also learned that these daily photos have become a journal of sorts and looking back through them is fun. That’s part of the reason I post them to Shuttercal. I can go there and see all of them in a calendar format or go through them as a slideshow.

Because of that, I sought out a journaling app for my phone and tablet that lets me include photos in my journal. I use Day One for my journal now. I think being able to use photos is the main reason I’ve kept this journal going for more than a couple of weeks. That’s big for me because I’m a serial journaling failure. Taking daily photos has given me the ability to journal with pictures as well as words.

All this leads up to what I said in the title of this post. It’s time to change up the Daily Photo Thing. I appreciate all the effort that Chantelle at Fat Mum Slim puts into her Photo a Day community. I also realize that it’s hard to come up with new ideas for photo prompts. I don’t mind repeated prompts occasionally because I can often come up with a totally different idea or inspiration. After almost two years though, some of the prompts have begun to feel repetitive.

I’m going to do a different Daily Photo Challenge for February. I might stick with this one long term or I might find something completely new for March. I’m just going to play it by ear. When I started back in 2012 there weren’t very many monthly photo prompt lists around and now there are all kinds of them. I think it’ll be fun to find some new inspiration but keep up with daily photo prompts,

So for February I’m joining the Sunny Pic Challenge hosted by Sunny Matilda. I think the February list looks fun and I’m looking forward to seeing what other folks do with these prompts.

Sunny Pic Challenge


Hope you’re having a great weekend!

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