Canopy Disaster

We had a minor tragedy at our place last weekend: the pop-up canopy we bought a while back for backyard parties and other activities was thoroughly wrecked by a wind storm. Fortunately, no one was hurt (our guests had not arrived yet), but now we’re in the market for a new one.

CanopyAs we’ve been poking around online to see what’s available, we’re starting to think that an upgrade to a screened tent canopy might be a good move. Bugs have sometimes been a problem at our get-togethers, and since we often used the old shelter to protect the food, the additional investment seems to make sense to us.

Our initial search led us to this site, listing 21 products of various shapes and sizes. Most of them don’t have any walls or screens at all, and others are so big that they might not even fit in our yard, but we did find a couple worth considering.

We also found an article on Wirecutter recommending a specific Coleman model that, quite frankly, looks like it would meet all of our needs. But it runs over $200, and while we’re not afraid of spending that much money for quality, a little more shopping around seems to be in order.

Finally, we came across a comparison of screened tents by Coleman and Clam that was very detailed, and helped us better understand which specifications we need to consider. Besides overall size, the number of doors is something for us to keep in mind, since as I mentioned above, we often use the canopy for the food buffet. There is also info provided on their construction (fabric, etc.), as well as how quickly each can be assembled.

At this point, we’re still a little overwhelmed by the choices, but we’re not in a big rush to make a decision. Colder weather is just around the corner in our part of the country, so we probably won’t be entertaining outside much more before spring. We have time.

A New Mixer? Maybe …

As you are probably beginning to figure out, Carol and I have a lot of different interests. Among other things, we enjoy spending time in the kitchen, trying out new recipes and experimenting with our own variations. Both of us are quite adventurous when it comes to new tastes, so we really have a lot of fun with this.

One thing we’ve yet to explore, though, is the world of baking. Recently, Carol came across this video about baking bread, and her interest was piqued:

First of all, we both agreed that garlic and herb bread sounds really yummy. Secondly, though, we noticed that the dough was prepared using a stand mixing machine, and we don’t have one (yet!).

So, it was off to the web for some research into the best models, tips on what to look for, and so forth. We found an extraordinarily detailed article by Lesley Stockton at a site called TheSweetHome that gave a lot of good advice on selecting a good mixer.

For example, we obviously knew the difference between a stand mixer and a handheld one, but Lesley also split stand mixers between those with a tilting head (more common) and those with a bowl that lifts up to the head (mainly high-end, professional models). We’ll almost certainly go with the tilt-head, but were nevertheless impressed by the depth of this article.

About.com also provided some useful insights for selecting a mixer. In particular, we appreciated their point concerning wattage. In essence, the notion of higher wattage equaling greater power, and therefore more “bang for the buck”, is overrated. They suggest that capacity is a more important consideration in choosing one of these machines.

Finally, both websites emphasized that a stand mixer is a significant investment, so some thought should be given to how often we’ll actually use the thing. Right now, the idea of baking bread really appeals to us, but considering our ever-changing set of interests and hobbies, are we likely to get several hundred dollars’ worth of baking enjoyment out of this thing?

All in all, then, we’ve got some thinking to do before springing for what, based on price, is a major kitchen appliance. Of course, we realize that we could knead the dough by hand, and that may make the most sense for our situation.

In the meantime, though, we learned a lot about a machine we’d never thought much about before, so even if we leave the credit card in the wallet this time, we’ve gained some knowledge. Hope you have, as well!

Overseas Travel and the Great Luggage Search

Now that we’ve started investing in camera equipment and been playing around with it, we’ve been contemplating some travel to test our photographic skills in the larger world. We’ve tended to be home bodies in recent years, so as we looked through the things we’d need to hit the road, it became apparent that several items need a serious upgrade.

Mount FujiOne of the investments we’ll be making is in a better set of luggage. Most of what we have now is a mish-mash of old hand-me-downs from our parents, cheap carry-ons, and the odd backpack or tote we received gratis for donating to non-profits.

Could we make do with what we have? I’m sure, but some of the destinations we’re considering are overseas, including Australia, New Zealand and Japan, so we’d like to get something more durable and reliable.

We started our research on Travel Channel personality Samantha Brown’s website. We’ve enjoyed her programs over the years, and figured she’d provide some good tips. A couple of her suggestions really jumped out at us.

For instance, she recommends fewer pockets in a carry-on rather than more. This makes sense when you consider that it reduces the number of places to check when you’re digging for your phone charger or boarding pass.

Another excellent idea is to pick more colorful luggage. Because most people tend to go with black or some other conservative color, a bright, cheery yellow suitcase will stand out at baggage claim and help prevent someone else from picking up yours by mistake.

Finally, Samantha urges you to inspect new luggage for things that might break, such as wheels, stitching and zippers. These are often weak points, especially on less-expensive bags, so it’s worth examining them for durability before you buy, if possible.

Overall, we’re really excited about planning our first international trip, and feel confident that we’ll find a good set of luggage to help eliminate at least some of the hassles that travel can generate.

Of course, there are many other things to consider, and we’ve just started making a list of all the stuff we need to get in order before stepping out the door. While we’re already thinking about things like suitcases, there are some fundamental requirements to be addressed yet, such as, uh, passports. 😉

All the same, we’re looking forward to our next great adventure, and will keep you up-to-date on our plans.

Our Latest Adventure: DSLR Video Making

We’ve just recently become interested in creating videos, and perhaps even dabbling in some indie filmmaking. Living in the American West, we are constantly attracted to the magnificence of nature that surrounds us, from the stark landscape of the high plains to the dramatic peaks of the Rocky Mountains.

Then there is the wildlife in its various guises: coyotes and bears, mule deer and bison. Not to mention the locals who frequent the small-town bar where we make our home: a different kind of “wildlife” altogether! 😉

So, the idea of capturing all of this on video is very attractive … but the potential cost of the equipment needed is not. We are not made out of money, so we’d like to at least get started with what we already have. This includes a fairly decent DSLR camera.

So, we were off to the web to do some research on how to shoot video with a DSLR. One of the first things we found was this excellent tutorial on YouTube:

This really covers all of the basics well, we thought, along with a lot of the details we needed to know to get good results straightaway, including specific camera settings and so forth.

Another good resource is http://dslrvideocamera.com, where we found further info on the pros and cons of using a DSLR for filming, as well as some recommendations for choosing a camera should we decide to upgrade at some point, as well as accessories worth investing in.

Since we are very interested in shooting video of animals (human or otherwise) in their natural habitat, we also did some research on the best techniques for doing this. This led us to an article at Outdoor Photographer that proved to be a great starting point for us.

Finally, as we’ve mentioned before, we like to try creative and innovative things, and aren’t afraid to push the outside of the artistic envelope. Sites like this one are providing us with a lot of inspiration through many examples of unique filmmaking.

Our next step will be to find some good video editing software, but at this stage, we’re focusing on developing our skills with the camera itself. Eventually, we’ll be researching the backend stuff, as well.

This is going to be a fun ride! We always get excited by a new project, and have a feeling this one will prove especially rewarding. We’ll keep you posted on our progress, and definitely share our early efforts as we get started with DSLR video.

Howdy!

Horse of Another Color is a brand-new blog where we’ll explore a wide range of interesting things.  Our focus will be on the new and/or unusual, from creative daily living to hobbies and sports and beyond.

Who are we?  We’re the Johnsons, Jose and Carol.  We’ve been happily married for over 15 years as this is written.  To some extent, we are a case of opposites attracting.

Jose comes from a Northern California family full of artists and scientists that is also very ethnically diverse.  He is exceptionally proud of the family’s mix of European, Hispanic and Native American ancestry.

Carol was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and, like many there, grew up in circumstances where opportunities to “succeed” (whatever that truly means) were hard to come by.

Today, we are blessed to make a modest living from jobs we enjoy, while spending much of our free time exploring new and exciting things together.  We look forward to sharing our adventures with you in future posts.

Thanks for stopping by!