Thursday, May 28, 2015

Memories of Green

These photos were taken back in March, out of the (slowly) driving car on the (jam packed) highway back from German school. Can you see how green it was?

That beautiful shade is long gone. The green has faded almost completely and is turning brown. Or golden, if you want to put it the friendly way. This is California after all.

At least these hills have a fence. Two, actually. And cows. Because this is Sonoma Cow-ny!

I'm linking up to Theresa's Good Fences as (almost) every Thursday.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Trapped in a Churchyard

A photo, a story - here we are for Wednesday Wit and Wisdom over at Senior Adventures with Linda Kay

It has been two hours since she had left the car in the small parking lot in Widford and followed the signs along the hiking trail through the lovely Windrush Valley. It was a beautiful day for a hike - not too hot, the sun was hidden in the overcast sky, the air was rather humid. She had started her hike midmorning, and a while ago the tiny church of St. Oswald had come into her view.

It was a picturesque old church in the middle of nowhere. It had a small walled-in churchyard with a few gravestones. The area around the church was mainly meadows with the hiking path going right through the middle of them. There was no one around - except for a herd of cows uphill from the church. It was the typical English countryside in the beautiful Cotswolds.

She entered the churchyard through a kissing gate - it made a squeaky noise when she opened it to the one side, slipped in and then closed it again to the other side. She just loved these gates that you couldn't find outside of Britain. Slowly she walked around the churchyard and then entered the church. The old church smell that she met in each and every one of the old parish churches welcomed her at the door. She sat in one of the pews and took in the interior of the church until she decided that it was time to continue her hike.

When she stepped out into the churchyard she realized that her way out to the meadow was cut off - by the cows. While she had lingered inside, the cows had come down the hill and gathered right in front of the kissing gate.

She went closer, talking soothingly to the cows, hoping that they would run away when they saw her. But alas! - they seemed to be interested in her, stretching their big heads over the wall and trying to reach her with their long tongues. Usually she wasn't afraid of cows - on the contrary, she loved cows. But these were a few too many and she just didn't dare to open the gate and march right among them.

Slightly panicked she looked around, searching for another way out. There wasn't any. She imagined how she would be trapped for hours here, with no one coming by. Slowly she walked to the other end of the churchyard and decided then and there that she had to climb the wall. She knew that this wouldn't happen without any bruises, but she didn't really have a choice. So she scrambled - rather ungracefully - over the rough wall and walked down to the lower meadow, turning around every now and then and checking over her shoulder whether the cows followed her or not.

They didn't. But she couldn't shake off the feeling that the cows were whispering to each other about this strange young woman who hiked alone through their valley without any fear, but felt the cows were a menace. Only when she thought she was safe did she slow down and started to laugh hysterically.


I'm afraid this is a true story...


Monday, May 25, 2015

We Remember

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day when we remember the men and women who gave their lives while serving in our country's armed forces. Two years ago I wrote a post how we celebrate the day in my town, and the ceremony is very similar every year - I guess it looks like that in many other places across the US today.

In today's post for Memorial Day I want to visually focus on the poppies. The poppy has become a symbol for the soldiers died in the battles in Flanders during World War I, representing the poppy fields growing among the graves of the soldiers.

I leave you with my photos of poppy fields in my native Germany. These were all taken in the Northeast of Germany in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern that used to belong to East Germany for 40 years.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Found Flowers by the Side of the Street

During one of our after-dinner walks around the neighborhood, the Geek and I found two black pots with geraniums by the side of the street in front of a house. I'm not a huge fan of geraniums, so we didn't really think much about it and walked on.

When I passed there the next day I saw that they were still sitting out there. The wind had blown them over and they were just lying there, their bare roots sticking out. I felt sorry for them, put them back in the pots and then saw the small white piece of paper that said "free". I continued walking, but on my way home I couldn't get the poor flowers out of my head. So I decided to drive over and if they were still there I would give them a home.

Of course they were still there. I brought them home and first gave them a good amount of water to revive them.

I knew I had three terracotta pots that needed to be cleaned out, so I quickly did that and then divided the flowers and gave them a new home in fresh good potting soil. They looked really wild when I was finished, so I cut down all the over grown stuff and the spent flowers.

At the moment they're sitting in the middle of the dead lawn where they get morning sun, but are shaded by the privet tree during the hottest hours of the day . I don't think they will stay there forever, but for the time being it's a good spot.

This is my Friday Find for this week.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Rusty Old Fence

It's actually not the fence that is old and rusty, but the chain that is fastened around the fence post across from what you see in the above photo. And "old" might not be quite right either...

The view from this side is not so very interesting. But let's walk around and take a closer look.

Already better.

Isn't this just a wonderful display of rust? You wonder why it is here, it doesn't look as if it was used recently. I'm not quite sure the lock is even working.

But it's the stuff for great photos!

That's why I'm linking this to Theresa's "Good Fences".


The end of the school year is near.
A good time to show your child's teacher some appreciation.
Why not give him or her a handmade thank you card?
Available in my Etsy store now.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Evening in the English Countryside

Today I am joining Linda's Wednesday Wit and Wisdom for the second time.

This is my photo, taken 15 years ago:

Whenever I look at this photo I travel back in my mind to those single trips to England I took in the late eighties and early nineties. I was hopelessly in love with this beautiful island, its landscape and its people. I often flew to London for long weekends with my friends, and in June, when the days were the longest, I usually spent about three weeks in England - mostly in the Cotswolds and in Norfolk. I traveled on my own and that was exactly the way I liked it.

This photo was taken in Northleach, one of the less touristy villages in the Cotswolds. I stayed in a lovely Bed and Breakfast where I returned to every summer. My favorite time was in the evening, after I had dinner. The days were long, and I loved to walk through the Northleach churchyard and further on into the meadows. The sheep were here every day, and their calm "bah bah" accompanied me on my silent walks. I sat somewhere in the meadow and just took it in - the sheep, the quietness, the wind rustling in the leaves of the old trees, the birds singing their evening songs (I particularly remember the blackbirds). At some time the church bells started to ring - the beautiful change ringing that you find only on the British Isles. It is such a special sound! If you have never heard it, here's a short video. For me this kind of change ringing belongs to an evening in the English countryside. It gives you peacefulness, calms you down and just lets you be in the moment.

I remember feeling completely whole and at peace with myself. Those evenings were magical, and when I feel a bit low nowadays I can go back there in my mind and recall the quietness. I often only returned - reluctantly - when it was starting to get dark. I never feared walking through the cemetery after the sun had set, and I never had any worries being out there in the countryside, just me and the sheep. Sometimes I met a farmer and we talked for a while, had a lovely exchange. Something to feed my soul. Sometimes I would stop at a pub for a pint when I got back to the village, talking to the locals and playing a round or two of Jenga. It was my vacation, I had left all my worries behind, I didn't think about my work, I lived in the moment. I was blissfully young.


I was also invited to link to Two Shoes Tuesday - thank you for the invitation!

Two Shoes Tuesdsay

Monday, May 18, 2015

Take Me on a Boat Ride!

These two Canada geese were hanging out on the boats-for-rent at the small lake. Were they waiting for someone to take them on a boat ride?

They sure explored the boats quite thoroughly.

And when no one came to give them a ride, they seemed to be ready to take matters in their own hands... ehm feet... beak...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Windmill and Fence

I live in a rather rural area. Sure, my town has a population of 160,000, but it truly is still a small town. Yes, we are at the heart of Wine Country, but we also have a lot of farmland, and I hope it will not be converted into more vineyards. I think we have enough vineyards and produce more wine than anyone can drink (though it's pretty good wine!).

This windmill is close to one of my favorite nurseries out in the countryside. I always enjoy my outings here, not just for buying new plants for my garden, but just to take in the landscape. Sometimes I leave the car in the parking lot of the nursery and walk along the country lane, taking pictures.

There's a single cow right next to the windmill. It's still enjoying a green pasture, but I'm sure it will turn brown not before too long.

I'm linking up again to Theresa's Good Fences.


Father's Day is coming up!
Why not sending a nice card to your Dad?
They are available in my Etsy store.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Waiting For the Season to Start

During the warm season you can rent a boat at the lake and spend some relaxing hours on the water. You can choose between paddles, kayaks and row boats.

During one of my last visits the boats were already at the lake - waiting for the season to start. I love their warm yellow contrasting with the deep blue of the lake, especially in the morning when the sunlight is filtered through the trees and still has this beautiful golden tone.

But the row boats look quite romantic as well. I have a soft spot for row boats...

Not much longer, and the boats will go out on the water. I will still see them in the morning tied together close to the beach, but not that close as this time.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday Gratitude

Last Sunday I was completely exhausted and spent a super lazy day, not even bothering to look at my computer. Therefore, my Sunday gratitude today extends over the past two weeks. Full weeks for sure.

Kaefer had her first prom yesterday. Not only did she and her friends look pretty, they had a blast as well. And - most important - they returned safely. We had a small pre-prom at one of her friend's home where they had dinner, cake and then took off to the school where the bus waited for them to transport them down to San Francisco. I don't know why her school always looks for places outside our county, perhaps because it is so that all the students are on a bus and none have to drive themselves (and perhaps store some alcohol in the trunk and get drunk etc.). It was a safe event, and why not add some pizazz to the boring school life... Anyway, I was the "official" photographer for their pre-prom and I'm happy that I got some decent photos of all the girls.

After having received a gold award for the German National exams with the ceremony taking place at Stanford University (such a beautiful campus!) and taking the German Language Diploma I in Mountain View (yes, there was a lot of driving over the past two weekends) the school year at the German School is over - it was Kaefer's last day yesterday. Saturdays will be ours again with leisurely spent mornings, strolls at the farmers market, lazy mornings in the garden. How wonderful does this sound. However, I'm quite proud of Kaefer that she stuck it out and did quite well in her exams. She has decided to take the German Language Diploma II next year, but that class will be mainly online with only a few visits at her teacher's home in Novato.

The week before I had jury duty, but I was never called in. On the one hand I'm quite glad that not another task was added to the hectic month May always turns out to be, but on the other I would have loved to make this experience. Being a US citizen doesn't come with rights only, but also with responsibilities. I am glad to add them to all the rights we have here and that we often take for granted.

Finally a photo of the female Hooded Oriole

I spent a lovely morning with my friend K again, and the same day I met one of my old neighbors in the Safeway parking lot. We stood and talked quite some time. He was updating me on the happenings in our old neighborhood and then we contemplated how in the world Kaefer is a junior now while just a short while ago she was a little girl helping him wash his truck. Yeah, I wonder how did that happen?... Wonderful memories!

It was a good week to plant veggies and they're all in the ground now. I usually only plant tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers. Later in the month when the soil has warmed up some more I will add some charentais melons, if I find them. I tried to grow them from seed last year, but that didn't work out at all. I love to eat my homegrown food, and while last year's crop didn't turn out very well I am hoping for this year.

My "Vancouver Starry Nights" clematis

And - as you have seen in my last post - I found the first peonies in the store! Such delight. I planted peonies in my garden, but it will still take a couple years (or even more) until they flower. Usually they take their sweet time, but then they're amazing.

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there in Blogland!

Friday, May 8, 2015

The First Peonies

When I went to Trader Joe's this week I found these amazing peonies.

I love peonies. They were my mother's favorite flowers and I certainly carry this love for these beauties as well. Isn't this color dazzling? Some are coral pink and some are a slightly darker pink. They're simply incredible.

I played around in Lightroom a bit - same photo, but with Kim's preset "kk_oldendays".

My Friday Find for this week!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Fences in the Historic District

The Historic District of my town is in walking distance from my home, and sometimes I walk over there. It has beautiful, large old homes and a lot of huge trees. It's such a beautiful neighborhood (and expensive as well!).

I don't walk there too often since I prefer my own neighborhood where I know the people and often stop to chat, but every now and then it makes for a beautiful change to walk the shady streets and look at the old homes. Most of them are very well kept, some have picket fences and some even have gates.

There is always something to discover, but in the end I prefer our neighborhood where much more people are out in the street and quite approachable. We are a mixed neighborhood with bigger and smaller homes in all kinds of style. It's an older neighborhood as well, but not a historic one. Big difference!

It's Thursday and time for Good Fences, so I am linking up to Theresa's Run A Round Ranch.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Where My Father Grew Up

This is the first time that I am joining Linda at Senior Adventures at her Wednesday Wit and Wisdom. The idea behind this is to share a story of a particular photo - or a poem, if we like. I had always thought this is not for me because of my inadequacy of the English language, but Linda encouraged me. She often shares a memoir with a certain photo, and I want to do something like this as well.

So let me take you to Marienburg in Poland, or Malbork as it is called today.

This is yours truly back in 1993. I'm standing at the river Nogat, right across from the Marienburg, or Malbork Castle. So what was I doing in Poland so shortly after the Iron Curtain came down, you may ask.

For centuries, Marienburg belonged to Germany. The castle was founded by the Teutonic Order in the 13th century and named Marienburg (Mary's castle), and so was the town's name, that grew around it. The part it is located in was called West Prussia (don't get confused by people who call this area East Prussia - it is NOT East Prussia, however, most people are unaware of this fact). The castle is the largest castle in the world by surface area.

This town is the place where my Dad was born and raised. His memories of his life here are stories of an innocent, blissful childhood, spent in the woods, on tiny islands in the river. It's hot in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter. Every winter this river would completely freeze over, and my Dad and his friends would ice skate every afternoon until it was time to go home. In the summer, he would row. He was in a rowing club and they did their training here. There was an island somewhere in this river where the boys (and perhaps some girls as well?) would go to, spending long summer afternoons fishing, swimming, and just hanging out. It was a small town, and since my Dad and his siblings were the children of the only veterinarian in town everybody knew them. His Dad - my Grandpa whom I adored when I was a little girl - was one of the first people here who owned a car. As the only veterinarian in the area he needed it to get out to the farms. It became my grandparents' and aunt's survival ticket in the last months of World War II when the town was already burning, the Soviet army was closing in and they had to make their way to Danzig (Gdansk) to board the last refugee ship out of the port of Danzig to Denmark.

My Dad had to join the German military when he was hardly 18 years old. He went to the navy, serving on the Scharnhorst and doing a tour on a submarine. At the end of the war he became a POW with the British and was released in 1946. He never saw his childhood home again. Marienburg became part of Poland. His childhood home was lost to him for ever.

When Eastern Europe broke apart in the early 90's and traveling into these countries became so much easier, I wanted to see where my Dad grew up. I wish he would have come with me, but he didn't want to see the modern Marienburg. He wanted to keep his memories of a childhood that died with the end of the war.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Painting a Tray (Kind of a Tutorial)

Processed with Kim's preset "kk_hazydazy"

Every morning during the school week Kaefer takes her breakfast up into her room. Two weeks ago was her birthday, and I gave her a wooden tray that I had painted and distressed a bit. Now she can take her tea and pretzel bagel up the stairs on this tray.

I had learned about the technique here, but since I didn't have the paint I opted for regular craft paints. Perhaps the result wasn't quite as good, but both Kaefer and I like it.

First, gather your tools and material.

Wooden tray from the craft store, craft paints in brown and any color you like, brushes, paper towels, water and sand paper.

Smooth the tray with sand paper if needed, then paint it with the watered down brown paint (50/50 ratio). Immediately wipe the paint with the paper towels which gives the tray a more stained look. Let it dry (this doesn't take long).

Paint the tray with your chosen color. Work quickly, don't have too much paint on your brush and move your brush in uneven strokes. You are going for a more distressed look.

A tray is probably not the easiest thing to start with. I had some difficulties with the corners and the handles, but in the end I was quite satisfied with my work.

This needs to dry thoroughly. After that I added the final touch - a stamp. Truth be told, this cracked my daughter up!

So I thought I take a few still life photos before this tray ends up in the depths of Kaefer's room and I never see it again. It was fun, both setting it up and later editing the images in Lightroom.

Processed with Kim's preset "kk_darklight"

I'm linking up to Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday. Please stop by and visit some of the other photographers as well. I think you will like it.

PS: The cookies are orange chocolate chip shortbread. I saw them on Pinterest, and you can find the recipe here. It's pretty easy.