Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Winners!

Thank you to everyone who voted for their favorite photos! At the beginning it was a wide spread field, but then it narrowed considerably and in the end there were three clear winners.

First place goes to the beautiful purple thistle with the Grand Tetons in the back.

The very close runner-up went to the sculpture that I saw at one of the burnt down homes in my old neighborhood, a sign of love and hope amidst total devastation.

And the bronze medal (so to speak, since we are in an Olympic year) goes to our state flower, the beautiful California poppy. This is such a happy flower.

After I had established the winning photos I also had to pick a winner from all of you who voted. The winner will get a greeting card set with the three winning photos, and they will go to...

Cheri at Scrap Dreams! Congratulations!!! 

I don't want to end this post without letting you know which photo is my favorite out of the 15. It is the image of Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park. I took this photo early in the morning while the day wasn't quite clear yet. There wasn't any fog anymore, but it was a bit hazy and I found it very atmospheric.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Knitting Up a Storm

When I looked at all the knitting projects I completed in 2017 I was surprised how much I actually knitted in that year. Yes, of course I know that I love to knit, but I wasn't aware that I do so much of it. Since I have started to take pictures of every finished project I know much better what I knit and how much I love it.

My birthday is at the beginning of the year, and in 2017 my husband gave me a yarn winder - one of the niftiest things ever. It makes winding yarn so easy while still maintaining the meditative aspect of it.

The first project I finished was the kitty sweater in the top picture. It went to the little girl of my friend Denice (you met her in this post) and is still a bit too big for her. This wasn't the last kitty project, either. Later in the year I knitted up a lot of cat bookmarks.

Doll clothes that fit 18" dolls like American Girl dolls knit up fast and are usually quite easy. This was the first time that I knitted sets of cardigans and skirts. The dress was fun to knit as well.

There were hats with the Baable hat - modeled by Kaefer - being my all-time favorite. I just love the sheep that turn up around the circumference of the head. The pumpkin hat was the project I knitted the most during the fires. For some weird reason I received the most orders in that dreadful week and I was knitting pumpkin hats like a mad woman, which proved to be a blessing since it distracted me a bit from all the insanity. Of course there were "pussy hats" at the beginning of the year that I knitted for Kaefer and myself, but also for friends who went to the Women's March in Washington, D.C.

Socks - everybody needs warm socks. It only takes two or three days for me to knit up a pair of cozy socks, but a bit longer if I'm working with fine sock yarn. Most of the socks I knit for other people, but the fiery orange/red pair definitely was a keeper.

There were several baby and toddler sweaters I made. I wish there were more babies, toddlers and little kids in my life. It is so much fun to knit all these cute clothes for them.

I have two nieces in Germany, and both of them got a foxy scarf.

Of course I had to knit for Kaefer. A couple years ago I knitted her the "ocean breeze sweater", and this year I used the same pattern and a different yarn to knit this sweater for her.

But the most favorite project of the year was this little bird that I often gave as a little gift. It can be used as an ornament or a gift tag or whatever you can think of. You can tell that I had fun with these little guys!


Please vote on my favorite photos of 2017 in this blogpost with the chance of winning a set of photo cards.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Reading Rat

A reading rat? A rat that reads?

It's a German expression - Leseratte - for someone who loves to read and reads a lot. It's similar to the bookworm which we have as an expression as well - B├╝cherwurm.

I'm certainly a reading rat, and a bookworm, a read addict, a readaholic - take your pick. Bookshops are a huge magnet, especially the small independent ones where I usually discover some new book adventures. In 2008 I started to write down which books I read and mark the ones that I thoroughly enjoyed with a little star. My yearly book consumption lies anywhere between 30 and 50 books.

2017 brought a big change for me since my husband gave me a Kindle paperwhite for Christmas 2016. I love to read in bed before I go to sleep, but the Geek hates it since he can't sleep very well with my nightstand light on. So he gave me a paperwhite which lights up the background and I don't need to turn on the light. He can sleep in peace and I can read to my heart's content.

I admit that in the beginning I wasn't too excited about the Kindle. Books are the real thing for me - I love the feel of it, the smell, the rustling of the pages. But - I soon changed my mind since I experienced all the advantages, especially the late night reading. When we packed our evacuation bag in the early hours of October 9th I knew I had a big supply of books without the bulk. And how fun to have so many books to choose from when I'm traveling. So yeah, real books are still my favorites, but I do love my paperwhite.

The problem with real books is that I'm running out of space for them. Years ago, in our old house, I had organized my books, but I haven't done that since we moved into this home and the book shelves are rather messy.

I try to at least keep the books of one author in one place, but even that doesn't always work out so well.

A Kindle though can be easily organized, one can categorize the books in collections, you can easily read the book description and the reviews, but the book titles are not as nice - at all.

The first Kindle book I read was "The Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Cline which was an excellent read. I found many books by writers I had never heard about, some of them were good, others readable, some downright crap and some excellent. Some of the very good ones that I would recommend are "The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland" by Rebekah Crane (I think her reading audience are teenagers and young adults, nothing wrong with that), "The Girl Who Came Home"  by Hazel Gaynor (a Titanic story), "Storm Rose" by Corina Bomann (a very interesting story dealing with some history of East Germany) and anything by Catherine Ryan Hyde. For lovers of mysteries "Stormy Cove" by Bernadette Calonego (not your usual mystery novel, but a very atmospheric story taking place in Newfoundland), "The Rage of Plum Blossoms" by Christine M. Whitehead and "Huntress Moon" by Alexandra Sokoloff which is the first book of the Huntress thriller series. Very good read!

I discovered two writers I fell in love with right away. One is Nadia Hashimi whose books take place in her parents' native country of Afghanistan.

I've read a few books about Afghanistan and find it rather fascinating. I came upon "The Pearl that Broke the Shell" by chance and got immersed into this story right away. Even though the story is often just terrible, the writing is excellent. Then I discovered "A House Without Windows" in a little independent bookstore in Mendocino - another interesting, emotional, but also uplifting read. Nadia Hashimi has written a few more books, at least one targeted towards younger readers, and they all take place in Afghanistan and they all deal with the women's situation there.

The second writer is Helen Bryan. I've read two of her books, and they are completely different from each other. I first read "The Sisterhood", 420 pages scanning several centuries and two continents (actually three) and mainly taking place in a women's convent in Spain. Of course there is an old mystery at the heart of it and it's beautiful how it slowly comes to light. Helen Bryan also wrote "War Brides" which I just finished, about events in a little village in Sussex during World War II when five young, very different women become friends. Wow, what a story!

Beside American, British and German writers I came upon wonderful books by foreign writers like "The Gardener of Baghdad" by Ahmad Ardalan (Iraq), "Across a Hundred Mountains" by Reyna Grande (Mexico), and "The Sound of Language" by Amulya Malladi (Afghanistan/Denmark). I hope to find more this year and have already some lined up.

Then there are the other books - the garden and photography books. The "drool books".

"Paris in Bloom" I bought after Jeanie wrote about it on her blog - such eye candy. I love lavender (you should see my Pinterest board...) and enjoy learning about all the different kinds of it.

It was a wonderful day when I discovered "The bee-friendly Garden" by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn, both from the Bay Area, and "Cut Flower Garden" by Erin Benzakein. Not only has the later one great information but also stunning photographs by Michele M. Waite.

I couldn't leave Yellowstone without buying this book by Stephen C. Hinch.

The photography is breath taking.

Last but not least, this:

I have always liked the photos by Pete Souza, the former chief official White House photographer. When I read on his website that it was possible to pre-order his new book AND get a free print of an image that is not included in the book I didn't think twice. I love this book.

Tell me - what were your favorite reads in 2017?


Please vote on my favorite photos of 2017 in this blogpost with the chance of winning a set of photo cards.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Favorite Photos of 2017

In 2017 I took way less photos than in the years before. Have I lost my passion for photography? No, certainly not. It was more the lack of time, being occupied with other things, not feeling well and also a certain degree of laziness during my days off work. Work at both schools often left me tired and exhausted and simply overrode all my wonderful plans for getting to places and shoot.

Still, there is a good amount of photos. At the beginning of each year I create a "favorites" folder where I put in all the photos of that particular year that I especially like, either because I think they're good or they touch me in a certain way. This year, 106 photos made it into that folder. From these 106 photos I chose my favorite 15 (the "super favorites") that I will show you here. These photos are not necessarily the best photos I took during the year - many of those already were featured in my blog posts - but those that speak to me in one way or other. Even a photo taken with my phone made it into the selection as well as a photo bomb.

I would love you to choose your three favorites out of this selection and let me know which ones they are in the comments. Since the photos are numbered just mention the number. At the end I will see which ones are YOUR favorites and post them here. In addition, there will be one set of photo cards with your chosen favorites that will get to one of you who have left a "voting" comment. This is open to international readers as well! You can "vote" on this post until Saturday, January 27th. The winners - both the photos and the lucky person - will be announced on January 28th.

So without further ado, here are the photos:

1. Grand Teton Thistle

2. Waiting for the Grapes

3. Reflecting Pool

4. Ocean Fence

5. Lone Tree

6. Morning in Hayden Valley

7. Taste of Summer

8. Photo Bomb

9. Surviving

10. Purple Dream

11. Pink Glow

12. Love and Hope

13. California Poppies

14. Winter Vineyard

15. The Road to Autumn

I can't wait to see which ones are your favorites!