Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Invisible Fence or Becoming a US Citizen

For this post for Theresa's Good Fences I have to ask you to really think outside the box. My fence this week is not a real physical fence but an invisible one. The one which prevented us to vote in the US, to apply for certain jobs, even to serve on a jury.

We couldn't do this. There was an invisible fence around our lives for the past 14 years.

Until yesterday, Wednesday, February 25th, 2015. The day we became US citizens.

We had gone through the process of applying for citizenship, got our biometrics taken as a second step, were invited to the interview in January - and finally received the letter with the invitation to the oath ceremony in Oakland's Paramount Theatre.

Oh the joy!!

We had to be there by 9:15. For us this means to get on the road early to avoid most of the morning rush hour through Sonoma and Marin Counties where US 101 becomes clogged almost every morning during the week. We left shortly after six and arrived in Oakland around 7:30 which gave us ample time for our last breakfast as pure Germans.

I had a very tasty breakfast crepe - and in the background you can see the Paramount Theatre.

Here it is in its full glory:

It was built in 1931 and is a beautiful Art Deco building. It started out as a movie theater and today is the home of  the Oakland East Bay Symphony.

When we were done with our breakfast we walked over even though it was still way too early. However, there were already lines and we decided to get in line and wait with the crowd.

Soon afterwards, the doors were opened and we entered the beautiful lobby. All the following pictures were taken in rather bad light and unfortunately are very blurry.

The ceiling in the auditorium and the lower floor where the soon-to-be citizens were seated while family members and friends had to stay at the gallery (these pictures were taken at the very beginning when most people were still outside).

We first saw a beautiful slide show with old pictures from Ellis Island; an address by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (on video) who herself emigrated from Czechoslovakia at the age of 11 (I didn't know that); some patriotic songs performed by the ensemble "Tosca" with one of the most moving parts of the ceremony, when we all sang Woody Guthrie's "This land is your land" - ooh, I still get goosebumps! We had representatives from Voter Registration, Passport Department and Social Security tell us about our new rights followed by a short keynote speech. Then the calling of the countries was announced - there were 1037 people from 97 countries! What I like was that we were encouraged to cheer for our country which of course I did when Germany was called. We were asked to stand up when our country was called, and when everybody stood we took the Oath of Allegiance. With that we were US citizens - at 10:15 am.

Before we all sang the Star Spangled Banner our President appeared on video with a short speech addressing us, the new citizens. I am very happy and grateful that I received my citizenship during his presidency.

We said the Pledge of Allegiance and then the ceremony was officially over and each of us got her or his Certificate of Naturalization. After that we were free to go.

One story I have to tell you because it was sweet and probably rather unusual (and very typical for me). At the entrance to the auditorium we had to give our Green Card to the immigration officer. When "my" immigration officer took my card, I touched two of my fingers with my lips and then touched the card that was already in his hands in a kind of goodbye kiss (after all, this card was with me for 10 years and I had protected it like mad). The officer laughed, showed me one of his cheeks and said "what about a kiss here?". Then he saw the Geek, realized that he is my husband and just laughed. Later, when he gave us the certificates, he laughed again and I asked him whether he still wanted his kiss. After a reassuring nod from the Geek I gave him a kiss on his cheek - and he sure was happy! A little bit later he came back to us, saying "I want to congratulate you again. I had so much fun with you guys." I guess he doesn't get too many kisses from the new citizens...

So now I am a "dear fellow American". It feels right. I am also still a German since we have dual citizenship. That, too, feels right.

And for those of you who still want to see a real fence, here is one that I shot on our way home, in the beautiful rolling hills of my county.

The perfect card for a new US citizen,
available in my Etsy store.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hell's Backbone

I've seldom seen a place with such a fitting name as Hell's Backbone.

This is a rather short stretch of spectacular Highway 12 in Utah that connects Capitol Reef National Park with Bryce Canyon National Park. It's only a few miles - but these are extraordinary.

When you approach this particular part it looks like this:

Quite okay, really. In this picture you just don't realize how steep the land falls down left of the highway. Oh, and by the way, it does the very same on the right - as you can see in this image.

Which means that the road runs along this narrow part with steep cliffs on both sides. Hence the name.

Hell's Backbone.

I don't think they could have called it more accurately. There's also a place nearby - a tiny town or village, a settlement - that is called Hell's Backbone. It's probably harmless compared to this stretch of highway.

The views from the backbone are spectacular. To the left...

... and to the right....

I love this particular stretch of Highway 12. Whenever we drive along here - and we have done so often - I get excited and look forward to these few miles. Usually I am the one who drives here.

Yes, I know I'm crazy.


This is Bryce Canyon as a photo art card,
available in my Etsy store.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Gratitude

Hello Sunday evening!

It has been a busy week with work, school stuff, doctors appointments and waiting in line at the post office. Now it's time for some gratitude.

A new regional park was opened last weekend and the Geek and I decided to go for a hike there on Monday (remember? that was a holiday). While it was still busy, we didn't experience the craziness of the two days before. It was easy to find a parking space, chat with the ranger and then take off. The park has a sunny part and a shady trail through the redwood trees, connecting to a bigger state park. We chose the sunny part, leaving the shady part for the hot days in summer.

It was beautiful. We hiked up the mountain where we were rewarded with wonderful views over the mountains, vineyards and the plain over to the Coastal Range where the coastal fog already rolled in. We heard birds and listened to the wind rustling in the leaves of the trees. It was so relaxing and refreshing. How lucky we are to have such a jewel so close by!

After our hike we went shopping at CostPlus World Market on our way back home - the Geek still had a coupon we wanted to use. Lucky for us they had a special on a German chocolate we love and bought quite a bit of that. It's always nice to have little reminders of our native country at home!

The first tulip of the season appeared in my garden! Tulips usually don't do too well here since winters are not cold enough. When I buy bulbs - these ones I got at Costco - I first give them a six week chill in my fridge before they go in the ground. Even then they are only good for one season and seldom come back the following year. I simply can't imagine a spring garden without tulips, so I repeat this every year. The nice thing about it is that I can always have different colors. These ones are yellowish-white with a pink edge around the petals.

Our coyotes are still here. At the beginning of the week they were very close and howled at 5:00 in the morning which actually got our neighbors talking. Many didn't know what this "eerie" sound (their words) was, and we advised everybody to take special care of their cats and small dogs.

I have worked at lot in the garden and am still not done. Last year's poppies have re-seeded like crazy and are crowding out the other plants. So I am out there almost every day pulling poppies and thinning them out. I'm also planning to change the path through the garden (this is at the front of the house) - I have lots of ideas anyway. I enjoy my garden every day and I love the work. It feels so good to spend many hours outside and work up a thorough sweat.

And our sunsets - they are still spectacular.

I feel so blessed.

What about you?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Blue Bird

You probably know that I love birds. Beside the real birds in my garden I also have little terracotta birds sitting in the birdbaths or on a stake among the flowers.

This little guy is not very new - I found it a few weeks ago in a crafts store. Immediately when I saw it I knew that I had to take it home. It has such a sweet face, I simply couldn't resist.

It usually sits on my dining table right next to the blue mason jar or a vase of flowers - it depends on my mood and what I have. Perhaps it will move outside in the summer, sit in one of the birdbaths waiting for the birds to stop by for a drink.

Just this week I realized again how much I like this little guy. And I took some photos of it just for the fun. The following photo I "grunged" up a little bit with Kim's preset "kk_grunged".

I'm sharing my little blue bird with Kim's Friday Finds. Would you love to see more Friday Finds, usually presented with some beautiful photography? Just hop over for a list!


The newest handmade bird card in my Etsy store


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Put a Bird on It!

Admittedly there is not much of a fence to see in this post - the fence is only a prop of which we see just little parts. It's my backyard fence that is just the background for the birds who love to come to my garden. Like the California Towhee in the top photo. He - or she? - likes to sit on the fence and its posts.

And so does the Junco...

... who also likes to pick at the feeder hanging at the fence.

The golden-crowned sparrow likes to frequent the feeder as well...

... and also likes the view from top of the fence.

Of course, there's also the squirrel who likes both the fence and the feeders....

I'm linking up to Theresa's Good Fences!


There are bird items in my Etsy store.
Check them out if you like!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Orange Tulips

I know, there have been a lot of tulip photos around recently... it's not really surprising since they are such lovely spring flowers. They are certainly my favorite spring flower, especially if they come in my favorite color, orange.

I bought these ones at Trader Joe's not only because they are orange but also because they are California grown. It's even better that they come from my state!

I first cropped the photo in Lightroom and did some very minor changes. Then I added a texture in PSE, "kk_january7grunge". I applied it in blending mode vivid light at 100% and then brushed away the texture from the flowers, vase, bird and wood, not being too precise, followed by a levels adjustment on the texture only. I do like how the color pops!

This image is for Texture Tuesday - if you want to see some more textured work, just hop over and visit some of these awesome photographers.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Gratitude

Since this is a long holiday, today feels more like Saturday than Sunday - until I realized what day it really is and I know that it is time for Sunday gratitude.

It's been a beautiful week. Most of the time felt like an early spring with temperatures often in the 70's. After the rain at the very beginning of the week, everything seems to come to life. The air feels different, too - there certainly is spring in the air!

I wonder whether it will keep like this - or is a cold spell still possible? Sometimes we have some frost in February and sometimes even in March. I think just to be on the safe side I wait another two week before I start some serious pruning in my garden. My fingers are itching to start right now!

It was also a short week since schools were closed last Monday as well. It was nice to sleep in a little especially since I felt rather tired due to a bad cold. I'm feeling so much better now, and the tiredness has gone! I'm so happy - I don't really like to have less energy and being tired.

On Friday I finally walked around the lake again. It was quiet there, almost no wildlife except for a few birds. My "friends", the Black-crowned Night Herons, were nowhere to be seen, and only from the distance did I spot a Green Heron. However, I enjoyed the different bird sounds like the funny noise the Red-winged Blackbirds use to call each other, or the loud screaming of the Steller's Jay.

There is always a variety of ducks out on the lake. I'm not quite sure which ones these are, but I think it's a Bufflehead. I need to learn more about ducks and the different kinds.

I was very surprised when one morning I saw a "new" bird in my garden. I first thought it's a robin, but when I looked closer I saw different markings and figured that this is a Varied Thrush. They usually stay here only in the winter, and I had never before seen one - what a lovely surprise! Sorry for the very bad picture, this was taken through the window, and this bird is very shy and flies away immediately.

Kaefer was invited to a birthday party at the beach - on a day when it was 70 F out there! Usually it's much cooler at the beach than here, but the weather is really weird these days. Anyway, she and her friends had a blast and a really good time. Afterwards two of her friends stayed here for a sleepover. We had a noisy dinner, and I thoroughly enjoyed the chatter and laughter of the girls. Teenager can be so much fun! I am lucky to have them in my life!

We also had some colorful sunsets again -

Oh, and there is work! I got a huge custom order in this week that I am still working on. I love custom orders as there is usually some communication with the customer beforehand and I know a little bit more what they need the item for. It somehow makes the work different. Today I ran out of the ribbon for her project, so I had to go and find the right one - a nice excuse to do some shopping and look around the craft store!

And - I enjoyed Valentine's Day! We don't give each other gifts, but I loved to decorate the breakfast table with dark chocolate hearts. Kaefer didn't have to go to German school, so we had the entire morning for us. Such bliss!

It was a beautiful week. I hope yours was wonderful as well and you have many reasons to be grateful.

Sunsets over the ocean are the subject 
in some of my photo art cards,
available in my Etsy store


Friday, February 13, 2015

Rock Cairns by the Side of the Road

When I got out of the car to take a photo of the Route 66 sign I noticed there were several rock cairns by the side of the road.

It was quite a surprise for me because up to then I've only known rock cairns as a help to find your way on hiking trails through rough and wild country. There wasn't a hiking trail here and I wondered why they were here. Obviously someone or several people had set them up, but for what reason? Were they some kind of alternative trail markers? Or are they used as some kind of communication?

When I googled "rock cairns" I found that there is even a poll whether one should knock over rock cairns or not. The short article also held some interesting information about legal and illegal rock cairns. There was a reference to the book "Cairns: Messengers in Stone" by David Williams. Here I learned that they can mark a grave, serve as an altar or shrine, reveal property boundaries or sacred hunting grounds, and even predict astronomical activity.

They seem to come from the Himalaya and can be found in different terrain (even in the moors of Scotland). The book sounds quite interesting to me and I've put it on my Amazon wish list. This seems to be too good to pass up.

The Inuit of the Arctic are said to have more than two dozen terms to describe cairns and their uses. That reminds me of the inukshuk in Canada - one even was the logo of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, BC. When we went up the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia two years ago, we found a small inukshuk on a driftwood log at the beach.


The inukshuk is available in my Etsy store
as a photo greeting card.
Check it out if you like!