Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

A Merry Christmas to all of you, my dear readers and friends. I hope you can spend a quiet and peaceful day with lots of laughter and joy. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Frosty Morning With A Touch of Autumn

We have had some pretty frosty mornings recently - remember, we are totally spoiled Californians who complain when temperatures drop below 50 F. However, this was real frost; 27 F! Okay, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the East Coast, don't laugh (not to mention Alaska and Canada)!!! Since we also have sunny days, the morning show right after sunrise is quite spectacular.

There is a park right next to Kaefer's high school, and after I had dropped her off this morning, I stopped to take a few photos. There had been more frost on Monday, but this was still very nice and I enjoyed my little photo shoot - until my fingers became too cold.

Some kids were on their way to school - middle schoolers, since Kaefer's old middle school is to the other side of the park. There were joggers and dog walkers - this park also has a fenced-in dog park which is very popular.

I loved the light of the early morning sun - even though it was cold, the light gave the impression of warmth. It was almost magical; I love the contrast between the frost and the warm orange shades.

I couldn't resist taking pictures of the shadows - my kind of selfie! The leaves on the ground were pretty as well, with some of them featuring fine frost at their edge.

The magic finally disappeared with the steadily rising sun who poured the light onto the park. The glow of the frost was no longer clearly visible - but it was still very beautiful. I was glad that I had stopped and could witness this short morning magic.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Good Day

My dear friends, I've run out of apologies except for the "this is life" one that seems to happen always around this time of the year. Why is it that the season that should be calm and peaceful always tends to be anything but? It's hectic with busy and full days... you can't even do regular grocery shopping anymore without running into crowds and waiting in line at the checkout. When I think of Advent and the pre-Christmas season I always imagine beauty, candlelight, peacefulness, hot chocolate and cookies.

Nothing of that - except for the hot chocolate - did happen this year.

Instead we were all in an insane run for - what? Kaefer has been spending hours at the computer, filling out applications for the universities she thinks may be a good fit for her. Finals will be this week, so she's studying for long hours. Last day of school will be on Thursday and then on Friday night she will have a potluck and a night hike with the TeenNat program at the nature preserve she spent her summer internship at - that's a nice event and she looks forward to that. It's a good start for the winter break as well.

I had my last class a week ago, but still spend many hours preparing for the artisan holiday fair. One of the last things I made were these ornaments.

It was a lot of fun creating these - I just love to "invent" these little winter scenes and fill them with moose, howling wolves, trees, a full moon, cats and snowmen. Some even got the Big Dipper.

I did a practice set up of my table, took pictures of it - and promptly forgot to print the photos and take them with me! So I had to set up from memory which actually wasn't too difficult.

The fair turned out to be a really good day. Since I sold at this fair last year I knew that it was a good one, but it by far exceeded my expectations. I actually ran out of some of my items - note to myself, knit more hats in more colors. I even sold the hat I was wearing! The things I expected to sell like the hedgehog mittens didn't move at all!

I guess this part of Northern California is not a good location for hedgehog mittens! This is luck for my two little nieces in Germany who will each get a pair for Christmas! They do need mittens in Germany!

In the end I was very happy with my sales and the entire day. The vendors next to us were lovely and we had quite some fun together. The entertainment program was excellent and we even did some dancing! What more can you ask for?

Kaefer was my assistant again - perhaps for the last time since next year she probably will be off to college. It will be very different and only half the fun without her.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Busy Week

My dear friends, I'm sorry that I haven't been active here for two weeks, and I also haven't visited any of you! I feel awful about it! However, I promise to be back as soon as things have calmed down a bit.

The reason I am so busy right now is this:

I'm having a sale in my shop until Thursday, I'm editing high school senior pictures for clients and I'm also preparing for an artisan craft fair where I will sell my handmade items in less than two weeks. That means I'm a busy bee right now.

However, I do miss you, I miss the interaction and I miss writing on my blog. My next post is already in my head and I hope to find the time later this week to get it in this space.

Until then I invite you to take a look at my shop if you want to. Otherwise, cuddle up and try to stay warm in this December weather (in the Northern hemisphere) and hopefully get a feel for the season.

Oh, and by the way, Dax (the little dachshund in the lower right corner in the photo above) will find a new home in North Carolina with the grandson of the buyer of it. Dax is a silly boy, but quite sassy - I think he will make friends with the grandson.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Lake Birds

When I wrote my last post, I promised that I would show you the photos of all the birds I saw. There were so many birds at the lake that morning!

Of course the Canada Geese were there - they always are, hanging out at the lagoon, swimming leisurely across the lake or flying over it while making a lot of noise. I enjoy watching them land on the water - gracefully and with quite some splash!

Another of the regulars are the cormorants. They love to sit in the top of the trees right next to the water where they soak up the sun. They don't seem to care about anyone else in their area and never mingle with the other birds.

My greatest joy, however, are the herons. This morning I saw five of them - four black-crowned night heron and one green heron. I also heard another green heron; they can get quite noisy. Here is the green heron that I discovered along the narrow fisherman's trail - a true beauty, don't you think?

Right across from him, patiently waiting for breakfast, was this handsome guy - a black-crowned night heron.

I loved how the two of them were so close together hunting for food without getting mad at each other.

The black-crowned herons are my favorites. I can never pass one without stopping and looking at it. They are pretty awesome birds. Male and female look alike, but the young ones are brown and only turn to this beautiful white and bluish color in adulthood. This particular one loves to hang out in this small and kind of hidden part of the lake. It sits under low hanging brunches and is difficult to spot from the trail. I only saw it because I know that it loves to be here.

There were three other ones close by, sitting in the trees. Two of them flew off later and settled in a different tree, right at the edge of the trail. What an opportunity to get up close!

Yes, they do have red eyes. They are stunning and such a contrast to their more muted body color. Just see for yourself.

Quite an impressive beak as well!

The lake wouldn't be a lake without a few swans. They were busy with the morning cleaning, mingling with the geese and ducks.

Later they swam across the lake to the other side.

From there I saw them taking off. To be completely honest, I first heard them taking off. You can easily identify swans flying by the loud swooshing sound of their huge wings - it is truly amazing!

And last but not least a California Quail. The are not water birds, of course, but they made their home close to the lake. They are funny birds, very shy, and produce unique sounds (you can listen to them here). Usually they stay in flocks and run away quickly as soon as someone comes close. They love to rustle in the underbrush and probably look for food there.

It's also our state bird - a cute little beauty.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Autumn Morning Magic

Shortly before we set our clocks back to standard time I went to the lake in the early morning. The sun had just spread its first rays over the hills, and the sky wasn't even blue yet. There were only a very few people out and about. It was all quiet, the lake was perfectly still and the morning fog was hovering over the water.

It was stunningly beautiful.

The birds were busy getting ready for the new day.

Some of them, however, did their first outing, getting their bellies wet. They probably hadn't a clue how much I loved seeing them swimming toward the fog.

The reflections at the boat ramp nearly took my breath away. This is the light and the colors that I love so much about fall. No wonder autumn is my favorite season - it seems to have so much in abundance. Mornings like this make it hard for me to go home and start working. I'd rather spend my time outside, taking pictures and watching the birds. I saw many birds this morning, and I will show you the pictures of them in a later post.

And suddenly the fog was gone, within minutes everything was clear. It became warmer, but somehow the special magic of this early morning atmosphere was gone as well.

It must be so nice to float in a boat across the lake and see everything from a different perspective. I'm quite jealous of the people who are able to do this.

When I came home after this magical morning I felt happy and peaceful. The magic never completely left me that day. I love days like this!

I think I need to go back very soon at the same time and see how the light is different with the time change.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What's Happening in My World

I saw this meme on Rinda's blog and then on Cheri's and since I found the questions interesting I thought I bring them over to my blog. I don't do memes anymore on a regular basis, but every now and then I find some good ones - like this one - and then I play along.

What’s the title of the last book you read?

“Lakota Woman” by Mary Crow Dog. It was a very interesting and also emotional read. I often got very annoyed and mad about how Native Americans have been treated in this country. This book was written in 1990 and I have no idea how much has changed – I hope a lot!  I have visited some of the places Mary Crow Dog describes, like the Pine Ridge Reservation and Wounded Knee. Both places had a feel of desperation and sadness about them and this I could also feel while reading her autobiography.

What is the last thing you cooked at home?

Yesterday I cooked cut up Nürnberger Rostbratwurst (the famous bratwurst from Nuremberg) with left over spaghetti (cut up as well), green cabbage and egg – all sautéed in a large pan with a little bit of salt and ground caraway. The entire family loved it.

What is your favorite thing about Fall?

The colors and the light.

Share one thing that challenged you at some point over the last week.

I received an email that was a bit harsh and I had to think carefully how to respond to it. I have learned to sleep a night before responding to things that upset me, and I’m glad I did. My response the next day was calm and thought through, and the following reaction to this from the writer was nice and sweet.  

List three hobbies that you actively pursue or want to pursue.

Photography is always my favorite hobby – I recently took some lovely autumn pictures at the lake one morning. I love knitting and do a lot of it right now. Reading is another favorite hobby and I’m always looking for book recommendations. I love to go to the thrift stores, buy books dirt cheap and, when I’m done reading them, bring most of them back. Curling up on the sofa and getting lost in a book is the ultimate comfort for me.      

What is the most recent sporting event you watched?

Don’t laugh – it was the World Cup in the summer of 2014…    

Besides watching "live TV," what service do you use to watch TV or films (netflix, on demand, etc.)?

We use Amazon Streaming or rent DVDs from the library. We don’t watch much TV except for PBS and are fans of Masterpiece – wonderful British shows!

Have you started Christmas shopping yet? 

Nope. But I’ve finished knitting a hat that I want to give to a friend’s daughter for Christmas. Since she doesn’t read my blog I can post it here. Unfortunately the colors in the picture are a bit off – the yarn is a rich flecked green and delicious! The pattern was much easier than I thought - I knit this entire hat in three evenings. I like the lacy look in the leaves.

Do you have any upcoming trips?

Unfortunately not.

Do you remember your dreams?

Some of them I do, some I don’t.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays in the US. I like its quirkiness, the creativity and fun. Decorating the house has been something I always looked forward to it.

This year, however, has been different. The Halloween spirit never reached me - I was just too busy - with preparing and teaching my German class, with taking and editing high school senior pictures. I love doing both, but Halloween had to pay the price. My Halloween decoration this year came down to this:

I apologize to the birds for misusing their birdbath... good thing that there are more than just this one in my garden.

However, while walking around my neighborhood I noticed that there were more Halloween decorations than last year, and that made me really happy. The masked pumpkins were here last year, but they have multiplied this October.

They also got some spooky visitors.

The Geek and I love to take a walk after dinner, and we met quite some glowing creatures on our street.

Even though I haven't been in a real Halloween mood I enjoyed all these creatures very much. This one is my favorite - the bat dog!

Kaefer, however, got in the spirit and dressed up. I really really really love it. She made the dress herself - last year, for the Homecoming dance. A great re-use of a lovely dress! I "colored" her hair with a black hairspray so that her hair became darker. She even wore nylons - and it's hot here! Can you see who she is? (Who would wear nylons in 85° weather?)

(Hint: it's a lady from a very popular British TV series...)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Thoughts about my Blog

Over the past few weeks I had been thinking a lot about what to do with my blog. I have been blogging for more than five years and I’ve always enjoyed it. Only recently has the spark of it dulled a bit. I found myself not wanting to write anything. That was a surprise for me since I’ve always liked writing. Playing with words, drawing pictures with sentences. Telling stories.

But sometimes my heart wasn’t fully into it anymore. Something was missing. I felt pressure to write something in order to keep my blog up to date – without really wanting to do that. Pressure made entirely by me – no one else is to blame. So I stopped writing altogether and instead gave more thought to this blog journey.

 Over and over again I realized that the posts I poured my heart into were the ones I enjoyed the most as well as being the ones that received the most responses. It’s almost as if my readers felt that this was the real me in those posts and I’ve hit a nerve with many of you.

I wonder where my heart was when writing those other posts and why I bothered in the first place. What was keeping me from being genuine and real? Where was the “real me” in those moments? It’s not that I want to hide - yes, I’m not always “main stream” – far from it -, I have rough edges and often queer thoughts. That’s who I am. But is there any valid reason not to show that?

This is my blog, I am the author of it. I decide what to show and tell, and I want it to be heartfelt, true and real. No apologies either if I don’t turn up on a regular schedule. Id rather be here less often but when I show up, it’s the real me.

You, my wonderful readers, each one of you simply deserve this. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Being a Refugee

I'm joining Linda's Wednesday Wit and Wisdom once again. The challenge is to post a picture, then write a short story or a poem about the picture as a writing exercise. My inspiration today comes from this photo of the cathedral of Frombork in Poland.

Frombork has been called Frombork only since 1945. Before that its name was Frauenburg and it was known as the "pearl of the North". It belonged to East Prussia and thus to Germany for many centuries. The cathedral was built in the 14th century and its most famous canon was the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus who is buried in the cathedral.

However, today I don't want to talk about Frauenburg Cathedral. Please look beyond the cathedral, where you can see the blue of the water. This is what we call Frisches Haff , or the Vistula Lagoon. It is a brackish water lagoon on the Baltic Sea roughly 56 miles long, 6 to 15 miles wide and up to 17 feet deep. The Poland-Russia border runs across the lagoon.

Every winter the lagoon used to completely freeze over. So it did in the winter of 1944/1945.  When the Red Army marched into East Prussia in January and February of 1945, it was impossible for the tens of thousands of refugees to flee the Soviets across land. They had to take the route over the frozen lagoon. Thousands froze to death or were killed in air raids when the Russians bombed the ice as well as shot at the refugees with their machine guns. 

It must have been horrific. No words can describe their panic and suffering.

My mother was a refugee. No, she didn't have to take this route. She was much closer to the West, living at that time in a small town on the river Oder which today is the border between Germany and Poland. However, fleeing in the cold of winter - and that winter was one of the coldest on record - with her mom and her not quite two year old daughter - my sister - wasn't exactly fun. They left their home on January 31st, my grandma's birthday. No one was thinking of birthdays, however. Everybody had just one wish - get out of this hell into safety, whatever it takes. They took their horses and some wagons and off they went in a long trek of mainly women, children and old people. They spent the nights in old barns, sometimes getting something to eat from farmers along the way, sometimes not. Everything was wildly confusing and no one knew what was really happening. My mother didn't tell very much about those weeks in the trek until she reached Lower Saxony which was safe. But the few things she did tell me unveiled the horror of being displaced in terrible times.

She never forgot those times. They haunted her in her dreams and sleepless nights. For many many years she kept a packed bag in her closet, ready to go again if she had to. I remember that as a child I wanted to laugh about it, but somehow the laugh got stuck in my throat.

Our parents never made us forget that they were refugees and we were children of refugees.

That's why my heart breaks for the refugees trying to get into Europe right now.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Where Market Was Hold in the Olden Days

Chipping Campden is a very picturesque little medieval town in the heart of the Cotswold Hills in England. I first visited it back in 1974 when it was still more like a sleepy village out of a fairy tale. When I spent time here in the late 80's and early 90's it wasn't quite as sleepy anymore, but still rather quiet. Last year, however, it was a crowded tourist destination - but fortunately it still held its Old World charm.

The heart of Chipping Campden, right in the middle of High Street, is this old market hall. "Chipping" comes from the Old English for "market" or "market place" - so of course they have a market hall! Built in 1627 (so not quite that medieval!) in the typical honey colored limestone of the area, it stood in the town center mainly unused. This time, however, it was turned into some kind of market place again.

This, however, was the only change that I could notice, and I thought that it actually fit the location. I also imagined market people who yell and shout, offering their merchandise to the folks who would come into town on market day. I think it was quite lively back then. Not so much nowadays.

To my utter relief, the old floor was still the same rocky ground as centuries ago.

And so was the roof - don't you agree that it is lovely? Simple, but impressive.