Friday, November 28, 2008

Favorite {Photo} Friday! #24

It's Friday, it's Friday, it's Friday! This is very exciting but in a different way than Fridays are normally exciting. Since Jason took off work on Wednesday, had a holiday yesterday, and took a comp day today, today feels like the last day of a long and wonderful three-day weekend. Today feels like Sunday, and right now feels like Sunday night. So Jason and I keep looking at each other and giggling, saying, "It's Friday!" We have two more days in our weekend, and it feels a little bit like we are being naughty and skipping school or playing hookie or something! Hooray, it's Friday! :) And you know what that means--oh, yes, Favorite {Photo} Friday!!

But first, some background! :) I've mentioned before that Jason was stationed in South Korea for a year without me. It's kind of how the military works; volunteer for a really crappy assignment or "remote" (meaning without your spouse/family), and then you get to choose a follow-on assignment (meaning where you'll all go next). There are all kinds of other "rules" that I won't begin to bore you with (I yawned just typing this!), but suffice it to say that it's a wise idea to "volunteer" for a remote early on in one's military career. So for a myriad of reasons Jason and I decided to have him head off to Korea for a year without me so that afterwards we could go to Italy together for three years. Seems like a good trade, yes?

Now. It's Thanksgiving. A time to be thankful. Which I am (so very, very much). So all I will say is that no matter how strong your relationship is, HUSBANDS AND WIVES SHOULD NOT BE ON DIFFERENT CONTINENTS (separated by an ocean and a 16 or 17 hour time difference) FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR.

By the time we got to Italy I felt like we'd earned every second and then some of la dolce vita. I wanted to see everything and do everything and soak it all up and put that unbelievably shitty crazy year well behind us. I hungered for amazing European experiences that would make our year apart worth it.

Six months after arriving in Europe Jason and I drove five hours to Vienna, Austria for Thanksgiving weekend 2004. And there I experienced my first Christmas Market and, more importantly, my first glimpse that, "Oh thank God it may all have been worth it after all!!"

"Seriously?... No, really... seriously? I'm here??? This is all real???" That's what kept going through my mind as we approached the Adventzauber & Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz. Vienna's City Hall transforms into "The Magic of Advent" with a Christmas Market in the square; each of the windows has a huge number in it, like an Advent calendar. Adventzauber = Advent Magic. Christkindlmarkt = (literally) Christ Child Market or (more generally) Christmas Market. [Or if you're a fan of Talladega Nights, the Baby Jesus Market. :)]

In front of this gorgeous City Hall are dozens of great booths selling Christmas ornaments, wooden toys, gingerbread cookies, jewelry, all sorts of traditional and handmade gifts and items... and, of course, sausages and pretzels and glühwein, oh my! Glühwein is hot spiced wine and oh my stinkin' heck. It will take the chill off, let me tell you especially if you get the kind with rum added. :) There are many different flavors and you pay a deposit on a mug so as you wander the booths you're drinking glühwein out of a real mug that keeps your hands warm instead of some cheapy plastic cup that scalds you and then loses all heat within 30 seconds. What a concept.

As we explored the city we ran into smaller Christmas markets all over Vienna. And I just plain fell flat in love with Christmas markets.

How can you not fall in love with European Christmas markets? Just look at the sun glinting off those ornaments! :) During our three winters in Europe we went to many different Christmas markets (my favorites were in the Czech Republic, Prague is awesome!). And honestly, I love them so much that if I were to win the lottery I would schedule European vacations solely around the Christmas markets. Seriously.


We had an AWESOME Thanksgiving with Susan & Bob, Will & Carol, and Patricia & David (and Cisco kitty). And then had a great visit with Andrea & Scott today. And I even got some work done today before heating up leftovers that were sent home with us (thanks, Sus!). All in all a great weekend-before-our-weekend. Are ya' kiddin'? We really get two more days? Sweeeeeeet!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Going Industrial

Hello Hello! Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone has a heart full of gratitude today... I know I do!

I haven't been posting a lot, and there is a very good reason for that. Orders have been coming in like crazy for customized necklaces because they just make the best darn gifts, don't they? Yes, they do! Go here to order your own! :) I was the very first client for my lovely hairstylist Cindy after she came back from maternity leave and I brought her a Circle of Love necklace with her new baby boy's name on it; within minutes I had orders for three more, and then more orders trickled in. When I went back last week they handed me a sheet of paper full of orders. Hooray!

Kellie made my first batch of fused circles for me, until I got in all my fusing supplies and could start making them myself. So I used up hers and needed to get fusing to fulfill my orders. I started fusing ten days ago. And while I conquered fusing small circles and/or thin-gauge wire, I had a little problem with making bigger, thicker rings... you know, the size I need for the Circle of Love necklaces.

So I took a break and asked Kellie a few questions and referred back to the book and tried again another day.

And more than once I wanted to throw my torch through the window.

So I took another break and pestered Kellie some more, and then I got scientific. I know the melting point of silver. I know how hot the butane torch gets (or is supposed to, anyway). I went on a trek to find higher-grade butane. I experimented with different levels of gas flow and oxygen mixture. I experimented with different heights and different speeds to ensure I was getting the ring as hot as I possibly could (which is fairly easy to tell since it glows orange!). I experimented using both my fusing torch AND my crème brûlée torch at the same time.

And the only fusing that occured was when I accidentally (in my frustrated state) set the base of my butane torch on my firebrick for a second, and the plastic melted instantly.

For real.

So I cried and bitched and whined and complained to Kellie, who was just as perplexed as I was. We went through everything I'd tried and she was baffled. Which made me feel better, but still didn't help much in figuring out the problem! The good thing is that we know each other so well that she didn't just write me off, she knows I'm a perfectionist so believed me when I told her everything I was doing. So she suggested I write to Liz, the author of the book. And I did, explaining everything, and she was baffled, too! She was incredibly nice and even offered to have a one-on-one with me to figure it out; of course the problem is that she's in Seattle with Kellie, and I'm clear over here in Northern Virginia. Boo!

Enter Jason, the grease-monkey, garage-junky, engineer. "Propane!" he says. "No!" I say, "Everyone else can do it with butane torches, I must be able to, too! Propane is much too hot! It's dangerous!"

Meanwhile, I'm getting more and more orders. Which is so awesome! But, ummm, there is a small supply problem here. I'm getting increasingly frustrated with my inability to fuse the exact size rings I need (although I had no problem with anything else), I'm more and more confused about what the problem is, and I'm more and more worried about getting my orders completed in a timely manner. I wasn't getting anything else done because the #1 thing on my To Do list had taken over my brain and I spent way too much friggin' time experimenting with different techniques, researching on the internet, signing up for online jewelry-making forums and asking questions, etc.

And still, no fusing is happening.

"Ummm, J? Maybe I should try propane?"

So off to the hardware store we went. We're lucky to have an old-fashioned True Value in our neighborhood, the kind where every inch of available space is filled with dusty bits and pieces and parts and tools and things you didn't even know existed, and the employees actually know where stuff is in the store and are happy to help you. A very cute young lady offered to help and led us to the torch section after I explained my needs. She showed us all of the options and said, "This wouldn't have the fine point that you're probably used to using for this type of work..." and I believe my exact words were, "I don't even care, at this point I just want to melt some shit."

After he finished laughing, Jason helped me set up a station in the garage, and with a nervous and hopeful heart, I set at the first ring.

There is a sheet of stainless steel underneath and then two firebricks on top, and a fire extinguisher nearby. I wasn't messing around. I adjusted the flame a bit and then started heating up the ring.

And then, it happened. That magical moment with the silver starts to melt and looks "flowy," that state I had never reached with the butane torch!

See at the bottom of the ring there's a bright yellow bit? That's where the joint was, until my propane-wielding self fused that shit together it and turned it into an unbroken circle.

Oh, happy happy day! Oh joy of joys! Hallelujah and praise Jesus! At that moment a huge weight started lifting off of me, and it just kept lifting as throughout the day yesterday I formed more rings, fused them, and then filed, flattened, hammered, tumbled, and polished them.

I must admit that it made me feel like quite the Bad-Ass Artist to fuse with propane in the garage and then hammer hammer hammer away and end up with a gorgeous pile of silver rings out of what had been a spool of silver wire.

So we are back in business around here. The best part is that once I got going, the anxiety-fog that had clouded my brain lifted and a deluge of design ideas flooded in. Oh, I am so, so stoked! Now I can finish up my orders, upload more to my etsy, and work on bringing my new design ideas to life. After I eat a ton of turkey with Aunt Susan, Uncle Bob, and gang, that is. ;)

Today is a very special day because it is Katie's birthday!!!

Happy, happy birthday, my dear friend! I am so happy that we both took the very last mini-workshop at Inspired, that there happened to be a seat open next to you when I came in late, that there was a crazy lady who made us giggle and snort and started our amazing friendship! You are one of my very best friends and I'm so thankful to have you in my life! [In case it's not clear how much I adore her, click here.] The photo is one she took during her quick visit to D.C. on the Fourth of July. It rained, obviously. That didn't dampen our enthusiasm, obviously. :) Happy Birthday, Katie!!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here in America! I have a lot to be thankful for, and I hope you do, too!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Favorite {Photo} Friday! #23

It's Friday! Wait, where did the week go?

I took this picture with the brand-new DSLR camera body that Jason gave me for our anniversary in March of 2006. I've always loved driving past orchards. They are so neat and straight and when you're driving past you can look in so many different directions and see straight lines leading away from you like so many paths you could follow. Jason and I were spending the weekend up the the far northeastern corner of Italy and over into Slovenia and I made him pull over so I could take a picture. Lately the trees in the back of our house have been so beautiful to me (especially when I am sitting in a hot bubble bath looking out the window!) so I just had to choose a tree photo today.

I've been working on photographing all of my latest jewelry creations, editing photos, writing descriptions, and getting them up on my etsy. And let me tell you, all that is not nearly as fun as making stuff. So I'm getting increasingly less picky about my photos and descriptions the more of them I do, 'cause I just want to get back to creating! :)

I got a lovely phone call from the lovely and practically phone-phobic Katie last night, and that just made my week. With me practically falling asleep and her coughing up a lung we were quite a pair but it didn't even matter because it was just great to talk to her. Thanks for calling, Katie!

A few more of my friends have signed up for Inspired which just rocks my world! There are only 3 spots left so come on already, Jen. :)

I am really panicking because I don't have a single good photo of Jason and I from this entire freaking year to use for a Christmas card. I mean, seriously. In the whole year. That is pathetic. So that's moving to the top of the To Do list, but you know how well that usually works out... the pressure-is-on-to-get-a-super-great-shot, forced-smile-I'm-sick-of-pictures-already photo shoot? Sweet. :P

Tomorrow I'm driving up to see Claudine demo her new line of products from one of my favorite companies, Ranger. Fun! Then I might try to drag Kerry to Barrel Oak Winery to try their just-bottled-today Chocolate Lab (they're big on dogs and this wine is actually fermented with cocoa nibs, hence the name). Wine with chocolate in it? Uh, that's a no-brainer. Yes, please!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Things are nuts around here, and I mean kookoo for cocoa puffs! I met Jason at an appointment tonight and on the way home I was following him down a twisty back road when suddenly--on a straight stretch, no less--the truck he was following veered off the road and slammed into a tree. Of course we slammed on the brakes, threw on the hazard lights, and were out on the road (cell phones in hand) almost immediately. I was so happy when the guy climbed out of his truck and was okay! But there was the small matter of half a friggin' tree in the road. I totally felt my Oregon roots because I immediately asked Jason, "You have a saw in the back of the truck?" As it turned out he didn't, but what we did have was a truckload of awesome Latino guys who baled out of their rigs and helped Jason and the driver, Joe, get the tree out of the way and then get the truck out of the ditch. Then Jason helped Joe torque his bumper back out of the way of his right front tire and we were on our way. Crazy, man. Today I am grateful for: people who stop to help strangers, for truckloads of workers in the right places at the right times, and that Jason and I haven't slammed into any trees. Oh my stinkin' heck.

After all that excitement I called out for pizza, 'cause really, I should have to cook after that? :P (Okay, I was planning to call for pizza anyway.) :) When I went to pick up the pizza and had to wait a few minutes, two of the people eating dinner started spontaneously telling me about their divorce stories. I am not even making this up. One lady said that she found out her husband was cheating on her when she fell asleep early one night and woke up to her husband doing it with her sister. In the bed she was sleeping in. What the bleep? Number one, that is just too ridiculous to believe, which means it's probably true. Number two, Lady, I don't even know you, I'm just here to get my pizza. For Pete's sake! I told you it's kookoo for cocoa puffs around here! Today I'm grateful for: a life that does not in any way resemble an episode of Jerry Springer.

I'm still working on my photos and wording for etsy... it's all that's on the books for tomorrow and Friday (besides making eight custom necklaces that the ladies at my salon ordered, woop-woop!), so I should get a fair amount listed. For now, here's a little cutie that I love:

I photo'd it in my hand to show the scale. Note to self: apply hand-lotion before you take any more shots like this, Dude. Seriously. Anyway, it's a cute little sterling silver heart that I stamped with the word "LOVE" and then hand-oxidized and polished to show the details. The wire-wrapped drop is Swarovski crystal and the necklace is 18" sterling silver. It's $22 and I have exactly one on hand until I get my next supply order in. So if you want it post a comment claiming it and we'll arrange payment, otherwise I'll list it on etsy tomorrow or Friday!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Finding My Voice

Ciao Tutti! (Hello, everyone!) I've had a few worried e-mails arrive in my inbox since I have been fairly absent here lately and that is just so stinkin' sweet I can't stand it. So please let me assure you that I am fine. Super, actually! Just super busy. :)

On Friday I did eventually get to Teri's and had a great time chatting with her. I met her through an online message group for Close To My Heart Consultants who are also in the military or are military spouses (or were, in my case). Pretty specific group, I know. :) Anyway, she posted a message that she was moving to this area and did anyone have any advice for her... and long story short she now lives five minutes from me! She's so fun and it's great to have her here in NoVa (Northern Virginia), let alone so close to me! :)

Saturday I finished up my Christmas Advent swap; I'm so excited about this one! There's an online group for those of us who either went to Inspired last year, are going next year, or (like me and so many of my friends, hooray!!!!) BOTH! Someone organized an Advent swap, which means that 25 of us signed up to make 25 of the same little thing and wrap each one up in a cute little package. Then we send it all to the dear sweet swap-hostess Marsi, who divvies everything out and sends it back to us so that we each get 25 different presents, each labeled with a number. Starting December 1st we'll be able to open one little present per day, through Christmas (just like an Advent Calendar, hence the name of the swap)! Isn't this a great idea? I made necklaces and that's all I'm going to say 'cause I want it to be a surprise and I know a couple of the other girls read my blog. :) I will say that I was super-mega-über stoked to be surfing etsy (after I finished my necklaces) and stumble upon a very similar design selling for $18 each! Sweeeeeeeet.

(This picture should go further down but all this text with no photos started bothering me!)

Saturday afternoon I headed up north to meet with some lovely ladies for my first-ever event with the NoVa Kappa Kappa Gamma Alumnae chapter. It's the 60th Anniversary of this alumnae chapter so they organized a High Tea (is your pinky extended? :P) and we also did some of our ritual, which I haven't done since college. It was awesome. I am totally a ritual person; I admit this freely. I'm a Lutheran and I love our liturgy; this could be a wholly separate blog post, so we'll just leave it at I love ritual. Depending on the ritual, it makes me feel centered, part of something, relaxed, etc; I even have a "nighttime ritual" to help get myself ready for sleep. Ritual reminds Jason of a cult but we'll leave him out of it for now. :) It was great to go through our ritual with a bunch of other women I had never met and yet am connected to in a way that is important to each of us. It was also awesome that there was a lady there who received her 50-year pin; she's been a Kappa for 50 years! That in itself is cool, but what is even cooler is that she was such a firecracker that all of us "youngsters" were yearning to be her friend! I'd say that I hope I have that much energy when I'm her age, but I barely have that much energy now. :P

On Sunday (yesterday) I started silver fusing! I followed along with this book that Kellie got me for my birthday and the ease of making my own ball-end head pins alone is worth the cost of the torch. Holy moly! How awesome is it to think, "Oh, I wish I had some (insert previously dearly-paid-for item here)... oh wait, I can make those now." Puh-lease! I also got a few rings fused but let's just say I need some practice--or something, anyway!--on some other aspects of fusing. Today I was at it again and in these two past days of metal-stamping and fusing I've made some pieces I'm really happy with. Which will be going on etsy this week (really this time)! I feel as if I'm finally "finding my voice" when it comes to jewelry making and design.

And out of that, I have a new favorite necklace! Can I just tell you that photographing shiny silver is hard?! So I'm cutting myself a big fat slice of slack and carrying on with it. :) Here it is:

I love it! In fact, I'm wearing it right now! :)

Tonight I'm running off to book club to discuss this book. It's my first meeting with this group and the author will be attending... good thing I don't think the book sucks, huh? :P

Have a great week!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Favorite {Photo} Friday! #22

Holy stinin' heck how is it Friday already? I honestly don't know where this week has gone. There's that whoooooosh again! I almost didn't post today but then I remembered, it's Favorite {Photo} Friday! And I'm shaking it up a bit by posting two photos today.

Our neighborhood has lovely trees in it, which Jason and I both love. Here's some pretty blossoms on our neighbors Steve and Roxanne's tree (just after a rain).

And here's a gorgeous leaf that fell from a tree and was in Steve and Roxanne's front yard (thanks for letting me trespass, Roxanne!).

Since I usually do a theme of some sort every week, can you guess what my theme is? Spring and Fall, you say? Do I hear yin and yang?

Actually, these two photos were taken on the same day. Today. The weather has been so crazy here that the leaves are changing and falling off the trees and some of the trees are blossoming! Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy and 65 degrees, and Sunday is supposed to be gorgeous and sunny but with a high of just 42. Crazy, I tell you. But I'll take it.

So that's the theme of the week; crazy things comin' at me, some of which I've expected and some of which I haven't, but I'm just rollin' with it all.

Today I got in a couple orders I've been waiting on and so tonight I'm a metal-stamping fool. I hand-stamped 25 little pendants with the word "JOY" and let me tell you that any word starts looking awfully strange after stamping it that many times. :) I'm hoping to get things finished up enough so that I can pack it up and take it over to my friend Teri's to work on finishing the necklaces; she's having a scrapbooking crop at her house and I'm going there to chat with everyone while they scrapbook and I make jewelry. :)

Tomorrow I'm headed to meet some other Kappas and have a fancy High Tea. Time to break out the dress-up clothes. :) After that I'm switching gears and trading my high heels for safety glasses; I got in the tumbler and razor flush cutters Kellie kindly bought at discount and shipped to me, as well as the fine silver wire I ordered and the butane I picked up at the cigar shop for my torch. That means tomorrow I will be fusing silver, baby! Can't wait--I already have ideas for jewelry I'll make so I dang well better be good at silver fusing, that's for sure. :)

Alright, I'm off and running to get to Teri's. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Inez! & Gratitude Day 7

I am super-duper happy to announce that Ingrid delivered Inez Josephina into the world yesterday!

Mother and baby are doing well (and father Brad, big sister Francis, and formerly-little-brother-now-middle-child Zephyr are doing well, too)! Isn't she just so, so... oh, I have to say it!... pretty in pink? :) I just want to touch that soft new baby skin! Congratulations, Ingrid and Brad and family! Inez is beautiful and I can't wait to hold her when we come home for Christmas!

I can hardly believe that it's already been a week of the Gratitude Project! Today will mark 140 things that I'm grateful for... things that I've noticed and thought about more in order to document them, thereby appreciating them more and focusing on the more positive aspects of life. All this sunshine is driving Jason nuts, ha ha! :) But it's been great for me, and I'm so, so glad that I've done it! And I am positive that I will keep this project in my back pocket to whip out again if I start focusing on doom and gloom everything that annoys the crap out of me politics the state of the world the wrong things. :)

I am thankful (for):
  1. The safe delivery of Inez!
  2. Learning to think outside of my way, way too small and constrictive box.
  3. Full-face motorcycle helmets.
  4. Enlightening and validating conversations.
  5. Acceptance and patience.
  6. Perspective.
  7. A great one-liner full of dignity and grace that also puts someone in his/her place (although I never think of them, Cynthia's dad sure can!!).
  8. Adverbs and the people who know how to use them perfectly. :)
  9. Where you've been not dictating where you can go.
  10. Greg's gorgeous repair of my China hutch cabinet!!
  11. Jason's support (especially about a specific subject lately).
  12. Online stores with free shipping. :)
  13. Jason and I both having vehicles that are safe and reliable (and paid off).
  14. Our house and my studio in the basement (which is still coming together but will rock!).
  15. People who share their passion and knowledge with others.
  16. All of our travels and everything we've gained and learned from them.
  17. Pumpkin spice bisque (oh my heavens!).
  18. CHANGE.
  19. All the Veterans who have served our country; remember to thank a Veteran on Tuesday!
  20. Every day I have to learn and grow and love and create and live and laugh and enjoy and try to become the person I truly want to be.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Happy Birthday Kel! & Gratitude Day 6

Today is Kellie's birthday! I'm thrilled to wish her a wonderful, glorious day. Kellie and I are friends from college and Kappa. When Jason was living in South Korea and I was in Oregon I stayed in Seattle with Kellie and Alex on a fairly regular basis. :) I think it's safe to say that I really don't know what I would have done without her that year!

She and Alex came to visit us while we were living in Italy (okay, so we all know that they came to see Italy, but let me keep my illusions, okay?) and we traveled all over, including the most stressful driving situation I have ever had to endure. Going to Florence? Yeah, take the train. :) But no matter where we are or what we're doing, when we're together we're having fun!

It doesn't hurt that our husbands were separated at birth are so similar it's scary (and funny)! And that we both love to make things and be artistic and creative and crafty, and that we're passionate about so many of the same things. But most importantly, Kellie is just a wonderful soul. She takes time to cultivate her friendships (and somehow forgives me that I'm such a flake sometimes). :) When we were in Italy she called me more than almost everyone else combined; she even writes letters and cards (and has the most beautiful handwriting)! She strives to constantly improve herself and wants only the best for her friends, and will go to great lengths (despite her busy schedule) to help them. She's smart and kind and compassionate and strong and hopeful and determined and humble and funny and beautiful inside and out; all those things that we all hope we can be, she is. She is one of my very favorite people on this planet, and I am so very blessed to call her my friend.

Kel, I hope you have a wonderful day today and that it's the start of the best year yet for you. I wish I were there to help you celebrate (oh wouldn't that be fun!!) but I hope you know that I love you dearly and hope you're having an amazing day! :)

I can't believe it's already day six of the Gratitude Project!

I am thankful (for):
  1. The "soul sister" I have in Kellie!
  2. My now-clean floors (oh how I hate vacuuming and mopping but I'm sooo glad to have it done!).
  3. Eating breakfast at the table this morning instead of on the couch and the surprising and insightful discussion with Jason that resulted from it.
  4. Jason discovering this morning that his OSU game won't be on television (even though we're paying extra for the sports package), so we had time to plan for him to go into a sports bar in DC to watch it! [Alternate phrasing: I am thankful for a narrowly-averted major crisis that almost happened at 5:50 p.m. when Jason would have tried to tune in to the game! LOL]
  5. The deal I just got on the Silhouette and the fact that I hadn't spent all of my birthday money yet so I could take advantage of it!!
  6. That I decided to not care that the people coming over this morning would see me in my pajamas because I wanted to clean the house after they left (instead of taking a shower before they got here and messing up the rest of my plans). [Alternate phrasing: I'm thankful that I decided to go about my day instead of caring too much what other people think of me when they probably didn't give a rip that I was in my pajamas with bed-head anyway!]
  7. Jason's funny observation that it must be weird to be a girl because, unlike boys who are born with all of their "parts," girls have the chance to realize that they're going to get boobs at some point, and to wonder what it will be like to have them and what they will look like when they grow in. HA!
  8. Oprah's all-about-sex show with the sex therapist on Monday, did you see it? Oh my goodness. But very interesting!
  9. A hilarious e-mail from Sooz.
  10. Taking time to tell a few people how awesome I think they are ('cause I do) and having them tell me they think I'm awesome too! Oh, oh, oh, I love it when that happens!
  11. Our super-cool washer and dryer.
  13. My aunt Susan being so easy-going that I can just call her and say, "Can we come over in a couple hours and hang out all afternoon/evening and maybe stay the night?" and she says, "Okay, see you then!"
  14. A digital photo storage system that works for me.
  15. Facebook now that so many other people have decided to hop on!
  16. High school being not even close to the best four years of my life. :)
  17. Jason being such an easy eater; he will eat anything I make even if it is just whatever is left over in the fridge + popcorn. :)
  18. Finding the book I need for book club next Wednesday (whether or not I finish it, at least I'll have started it!), and realizing that it's better to go and socialize even if I haven't finished the book by then. I never would have done that five years ago!
  19. A clean car with an oil change (thanks Baby!)!
  20. Jason selling his truck this morning, wooo hooo!! I will miss that turquoise beast; Jason bought it brand-new about the same time we got together ten+ years ago, so we have a lot of history with that truck! But it was past time for it to go. Bye-bye, truck; we had so much fun and now it's time for you to live with someone else! :P

Friday, November 7, 2008

Favorite {Photo} Friday! #22 & Gratitude Day 5

Happy Birthday to my aunt Susan! Jason and I lived with her (and my uncle Bob) for two+ months when we moved back to the States and I just can't tell you how much I treasure her (for that and two hundred thirteen other things she's done for me over the years). I hope you have a wonderful day, my favorite aunt! :)

I'm still so in love with the shirts I got from courierfontwear. And if I'd known what a deal I was getting on them (vs. their regular price) I would have bought every design the store had... so it's probably good that I didn't and have "just" four of them! :) When I was getting dressed on Tuesday to head to the polls I almost just threw something on but then caught myself and thought, "Waaaaaait, a second... I have just the thing..."

I topped it off with the necklace Kellie made me. I love the necklace and it seemed perfect because 1) she's a huge Obama supporter (click here to check out photos of her and Carrie making Obama cookies to "trade" for campaign donations at the Obama rally in Seattle!); 2) the necklace is kind of two "O"s; 3) I am a big fan of symbolism and to me these rings symbolise inclusiveness and being centered (which is just the miracle we need, if you ask me).

I'm so happy that I remembered to have Jason take a photo before I changed into pajamas. :) I'm sure some people will wonder why I didn't bother to include, you know, my face, :) but that wasn't the point... I wanted to remember the feeling and any expression on my face might not capture what I wanted to remember. It was an easy choice for this week's Favorite {Photo} Friday! [And it's sooooo getting scrapbooked!]

I am thankful (for):
  1. The ladies I delivered necklaces to yesterday loving them (one even got a little choked up, oh, love that!)!
  2. Potential new customers who saw the necklaces and want to order them as Christmas gifts!
  3. Catching myself when I very nearly fell down the stairs because my stupid high heel caught on the carpet (and oh it would have been a disastrous fall I know!).
  4. Having a renewed appreciation of what my legs do for me every day since I didn't break anything falling down the stairs because I caught myself!.
  5. John being so compassionate and helpful (and appreciative of my cooking!) and making it so easy to have him in the house.
  6. A new "-er" philosophy that I'm developing and will be probably sharing more about here next week.
  7. Heather's fabulous sense of humor that makes me literally laugh out loud on a regular basis. :)
  8. Third Watch on A&E. I watch it every morning with my cappuccino and I wonder why I never watched it when it was on "normally." It has such great storytelling and character development, and I especially love that I only have to wait one day for the next episode instead of an entire week, ha ha!
  9. Being part of the inspiration for Heather C to start blogging and join our Gratitude Project, and what may come from that.
  10. Jason possibly finding a buyer for his truck (fingers crossed!).
  11. My Grandma Lois sending me a receiving blanket from when my dad was born. How cool!
  12. The inspiration I've received from Donna, whose motto is "You're perfect just the way you create." She has taught me to just friggin' do it and forget about perfectionism. I'm almost there. :) Join her Campaign for Creativity!
  13. Ross, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx.
  14. Sara Groves' song Roll to the Middle and talking with John and Jason about it last night.
  15. Not having any reason to have to roll to the middle lately. :)
  16. Grommets, oh my stinkin' heck how FUN.
  17. Knowing how to make homemade pasta.
  18. Comfortable, supportive, properly-fitting bras. Sorry if that's TMI but really, can't a bad bra just ruin your day?
  19. Tampons. Again, sorry for TMI but I was organizing the bathroom yesterday and when I saw the box I just thought, thank goodness tampons exist. I mean, really. See what this gratitude project is doing to me? :P
  20. Ingrid may be giving birth soon, hooray! I love her blog post about "PregoLog '08" and I hope to hear about Inez's arrival soon!
Happy Friday and I'll see you tomorrow for my next 20 things! :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wine Tasting & Gratitude Day 4

This past Sunday we went on a wine tasting tour organized by the very lovely Kerry. After pulling ourselves out of bed the morning after the costume party, remembering halfway there that we were supposed to bring lunch and stopping by the grocery store, and being fortified by a Pumpkin Spice latte (me) and double shot (Jason), we made it to Kerry and Mike's. From there we headed to the first winery!

Left to right: Jason, Dabney and Kris (thanks for the photo!), Emma, Kerry, Mike, me, Stephen, and Julia.

Then we settled around the chimenea outside to enjoy one of our favorites from the tasting....

...and enjoy the gorgeous scenery...

...and even a cool car that drove by!

We stopped at two other wineries, one of which was situated on rolling hills reminiscent of Tuscany. [I saw these two sitting at this table and thought how cool it would be to have a photo of oneself here, so I gave the couple my card and they e-mailed me so I'll be sending this to them next. Fun!]

It was a gorgeous day and the fall colors were beautiful! These trees provided the perfect backdrop to our picnic lunch location.

It was a really great day spent in a beautiful location with great people, and big thanks to Kerry for organizing it all!

I am thankful (for):
  1. Nine straight hours of sleep!
  2. Feeling a lot better today.
  3. Our DVR that allows me to fit TV into my schedule rather than the other way around. :)
  4. Sweet Jason taking care of me when I'm not feeling well.
  5. The mac and cheese I keep in my pantry "just in case" which came in handy when I didn't feel like eating anything else last night.
  6. Swaps and projects with my artist friends coming up and forcing me to think creatively in new ways.
  7. 30% off coupons arriving in my inbox for things I have to buy anyway!
  8. A friend asking me to do her a favor that she could have asked of anyone (but I'm so glad she asked me). :)
  9. Samurai Sudoku, oh my goodness I love completing these!
  10. The joy I receive from doing nice things that people don't expect.
  11. Piles of unread books just waiting for me!
  12. Photo editing software. :)
  13. Finally finding a color I want to paint our living room. :)
  14. My camera tripod.
  15. Natural light.
  16. Jason knowing me completely and not only loving me "anyway" but loving me more for it. Ah. Maze. Ing. HUGE. The greatest gift ever.
  17. Having a small grasp of html coding. :)
  18. Friends who organize trips and invite me. :)
  19. Comfortable shoes.
  20. Remembering to have Jason take a photo after I voted on Tuesday, which you'll see tomorrow!
Have a super Thursday and I'll see you tomorrow for Favorite {Photo} Friday and my next 20 things!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad! & Gratitude Day 3

Today is my Dad's birthday! Happy Birthday, Dad!

Here is my Dad back in May with my oldest niece, Emma. On a carousel, obviously. :) I've heard you have a big day planned, Dad, so I hope you have a great one!

I'm not feeling at all well today, which is kind of a surprise because I thought I'd feel a lot better after the results of the election yesterday! So I'll just get into my list. :)

I am thankful (for):
  1. Being able to stay in pajamas on the couch when I'm not feeling well.
  2. Story People.
  3. Good Earth teas.
  4. That the election results were announced last night and we didn't have to wait weeks and weeks.
  5. Inspiring speeches!
  6. All the people who are encouraging the American people to come together again and put the divisiveness behind us.
  7. Colorful, comfy fleece pajama pants.
  8. Boxes of old photos organized so that I can mostly locate what I want when I want to (like yesterday's Jason and John photos), and my scanner.
  9. Learning to let go of certain things a lot more easily than I could in the past.
  10. That my microwave has returned to its normal function and has stopped turning on as soon as you open the door!
  11. My car being parked in the garage again.
  12. Jason tucking me in and kissing me every day before he leaves for work.
  13. Love Actually, it lifts me up and makes me laugh, I adore this movie!
  14. Fuzzy socks.
  15. Leftovers in the fridge so I don't have to cook. :)
  16. Having great ideas for my upcoming Christmas Advent and Chanukah swaps (yes, I'm doing both!) and most of the supplies to make them all.
  17. Heating pads.
  18. Caller ID. :)
  19. Being married to my best friend.
  20. People who leave nice comments on my blog. :)
I got my camera back from Kerry's house yesterday so hopefully tomorrow I'll post some photos from our wine tasting along with my next 20 things! :)

John, Helicopters, & Gratitude Day 2

Yesterday in my Gratitude List I mentioned John. I'll probably be talking about him a lot so I thought I would introduce him a little bit!

Jason's first assignment was at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas (he still jokes that we might not be together today if his first assignment had been to North Dakota, ha ha!). John was also stationed at Nellis and as soon as they met they were two peas in a pod. They spent so much time together riding dirt bikes and driving Jason's truck and/or John's Cruiser... or working on one or other of their vehicles or motorcycles that they'd managed to damage somehow during all their play. I could never tell which they actually had more fun doing--driving in the desert or fixing things! :) They spent countless hours dreaming up all kinds of things they'd love to engineer and build... I guess that's what happens when you take two nature-loving, motorcycle-driving, grease-monkey engineers and put them together. :)

When we moved from Las Vegas to Ohio we had the crazy idea to pack up our house ourselves rather than having the military contract a moving company to do it (which stemmed directly from the fact I'd dated a mover in college and heard dozens of stories of what they did with people's belongings!). We never would have been able to do it without John and his wife Kristy; Kristy single-handedly packed up our kitchen. Did I mention she was very seven months pregnant at the time? The woman is a saint, I swear. They came over every day several days in a row and helped us get everything packed up and loaded into the truck; it was amazing of them! That "We could never, ever do enough to pay you back" kind of amazing.

We've stayed in touch with them over the years and visited a couple times. John got out of the Air Force [AF] several years ago and he and Kristy (and their expanding family!) settled in Virginia. When John heard Jason was getting out of the AF last fall he immediately started petitioning for us to join him in Virginia. He got Jason an interview and this job is a perfect fit for both John and Jason; they get to do a lot of the things they dreamed about back in Vegas! The only twist was that two weeks after we arrived and Jason started work, John left for training for the Marine Corps! (He transferred from AF Reserve to MC Reserve and he had to go through all of their training.) He's been gone for the entire year we've been here. He finally finished up and started work again yesterday! Hooray!

John and Kristy live about two hours away, next door to Kristy's parents and now John's sister and brother-in-law, too. So before we moved here John usually stayed on base two or three nights per week to save a little ton of commuting, and now he'll be staying with us in the guestroom here at Casa di Yates! I'm planning and plotting all kinds of projects for him to do around the house to earn his keep, and he's already proven very useful in the kitchen, ha ha! :) So now when I'm referring to John a lot you'll know of whom I speak. :)


I mentioned yesterday that the election was getting to me, so for the past several days I haven't been watching any news. None. So when I was pulling out of my driveway yesterday to make a quick trip to the grocery store, imagine my surprise when my neighbor warned me about traffic because.... get this... Barack Obama was giving his final rally, that all-important last-minute rally on the final night before the polls open in the morning?... oh yes... in my freakin' town. People were parking on the next street and walking to the rally, that's how close it was to my house. But I am not really a rally sort of person. Which is to say, I really, really, really, really don't like crowds of excited, screaming people. And it was John's first night here and I didn't think it would be polite to up and leave. And I already knew for whom I was voting so I didn't really need to be rallied. And I was ready for bed at 8 p.m. and the rally didn't start until around 10. And did I mention that I reeeeeeally don't like crowds?

I know that not going makes me the lamest person in America; I'm fine with that. :P But even though I wasn't going, I still thought it was really cool that there was a super-important rally in my town. Until about 9:45 when I was sleeping and a news chopper settled in directly over my friggin' bedroom for the 11:00 news, and then I had a slightly harder time digging it. Which brings me to my Gratitude Journey Day 2 List! :)


I am thankful (for):

  1. My right to vote!!!
  2. Earplugs and my foresight in buying a huge bag of them and storing them in an easily-findable-even-out-of-a-dead-sleep location. :)
  3. This blog post from my friend Jen.
  4. Sara Groves' album All Right Here.
  5. That I just this very moment (when I did the links above) found out that Sara has a new Christmas album!!! Can't wait to buy it!!!
  6. That I can very easily scrape together $12.99 to buy this album.
  7. That I know that having $12.99 to buy an album is a blessing that I shouldn't take for granted (especially in this economy when so many people are suffering) because guess what? It's not "granted."
  8. The red-orange-yellow-green "tunnels" I drove through today on my way to Kerry's to pick up my camera. (My Grandma Lois calls it a "green tunnel" when you drive through an area where the trees on both sides of the road meet at the top, making a tunnel. :))
  9. All my memories from childhood of my Grandma Lois and Grandpa Fred; the bedbug sheets, the "ice hole!"s, the snow in July, the beauty shop, the secret family words, and so many more.
  10. That Grandma Lois and Grandpa Fred are still around for me to make more memories with.
  11. Crash Hot Potatoes.
  12. That Jilliene told me about this exercise from her lovely mentor and that I seized the moment to decide to make a public commitment to it.
  13. That an ever-growing list of people is jumping on board (Jilliene, Stella, Heather, Jen, Sooz, Aimee, and maybe YOU! :)). [You don't have to have a blog, you just have to make some sort of effort to be thankful in some sort of way more than normal. We're pretty loosey-goosey on the rules, really!]
  14. Blogger Dashboard which allows me to "follow" the blogs I like and then it automatically updates me when they post new blogs. Schweeeeeeet!
  15. CHEESE. Any kind, as long as it's dairy. "Cheese makes everything better." :)
  16. The four orders for necklaces I'm delivering on Thursday, yay!
  17. That soon there will be no more political ads on television, radio, newspapers, magazines, lawns....
  18. Cuddling with Jason last night and having our legs jumbled together while we both read books in bed.
  19. That this list has been so stinkin' easy to come up with that it's hard to stop at 20!
  20. That no matter what, we will have someone other than Bush in the White House. SOON. HOOOOOOOOOOOORAY!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Winner, More Halloween, and Gratitude Day 1

I was soooooo tired last night that I decided to leave the drawing until this morning. Some of my friends have done cute photos of their name-drawing process but I realized that I left my camera at Kerry's house dangit!, so you'll just have to trust me that I wrote out all the names and then drew one randomly from a hat (okay, it was just a bowl). Aaaaaaaaaaand the winner is: Wendy! Send me your address and at some point this week I'll get the necklace out to you! :)

Saturday night we went to a super-fun costume party across the street at Steve and Roxanne's! Jason and I didn't know what we were dressing up as until about 40 minutes before the party... nothing like procrastinating for a costume party for Pete's sake! A quick trip to CVS on my way back from the gym netted me some 50% off wigs and face paint, and Jason was off to the races as an Undead 80's Rocker, complete with my leather motorcycle pants tight leather pants. I decided to be a Punk Butterfly since I had this awesome wig and the wings & antennae in my big box o' costumes. Too bad you can't see my sweet tights and motorcycle boots and all the safety pins in my skirt! :)

Of course normally I do the ol' red-eye treatment on every picture ever taken of Jason, but I think it works in this photo, don't you? Isn't he scary? Jeez Louise!

Jason's costume was greatly improved when our neighbors MaryAlice and Mark loaned him a guitar. :)

Gotta love that Sharpie'd shirt! "Rock & Roll Forever!"

Neighbor Mark is such a "Chick Magnet"! Pirate MaryAlice and I are really "drawn to" him. :)

Nina won the best costume contest... can you tell what she is?

Ohhhhhhh yes, that would be a "One Night Stand." Don't you just love the lampshade?

Last but definitely not least, the beautiful and lovely Roxanne was a charming witch (and hostess). I'm so glad this lady is my neighbor! :)

Steve and Roxanne's friends (and our neighbors!) are so much fun, it was a great party! And boy oh boy were we glad for that extra hour of sleep!!! We woke up early to head over to Kerry and Mike's house for a fun day of wine-tasting on Sunday. But since I left my camera at their house I'll have to post photos and write about that later this week! :)


When my friend Jilliene recently told me about an exercise her mentor gave her to help feel gratitude, I thought it would be a perfect exercise for me to do. I haven't blogged about it but I've been struggling lately; moving back from Italy into the political hotbed of the D.C. area for one of the most controversial elections in history is taking a friggin' toll on me. Both candidates are spending a ridiculous amount of money here in Northern Virginia and I've felt completely bombarded by ads on TV, radio, phone calls to our home, etc. It brings up so many issues--as it should, of course--but some things are too depressing to think about very much. Like this stupid war and my friends who are deployed, two of whom died. Like the wives and families left to try to carry on while their husbands and fathers (and brothers and sons) are being shot at, or, God forbid, to try to pick up the pieces after they're gone. Like all the money spent on this bailout that could have been spent on so many other things that are important. Like my friends who have been laid off because of this economic crisis and are struggling. Like two dozen other things that are fighting for space in my brain lately.

So a shift in thinking is a swell plan, and what better way to do that than to focus on all that is wonderful in our lives? And there is truly so much for which to be thankful. So the "rules" are this: each day for a week I will list 20 things for which I'm thankful, never repeating anything. By next Sunday I'll have a list of 140 things I'm thankful about and I'm quite sure that one of them will be that by then the election will be over! :) Jilliene started on Friday and Stella is also starting today. Jen is also grateful but is listing things for 27 days! If you decide to join us in our gratitude journey, post a link in the comments section so we can see.

I am thankful for:
  1. Good friends and neighbors who are becoming like family to Jason and I. :)
  2. My aunt and uncle living so close and being able to enjoy that fully (while it lasts). :)
  3. The internet and the way it connects me to my "tribe" of artist friends.
  4. L.L. Bean's Wicked Good slippers.
  5. Having plane tickets home for Christmas.
  6. A friend who goes way out of her way to help me save money starting my new hobby. :)
  7. My Bialetti espresso pot.
  8. A full weekend with three activities with friends and family which somehow didn't push me over my introvert edge. I didn't even come close to the edge. That's big, and awesome!
  9. Jason's friend (and mine) John finally being done with Marine Corps training and coming back to work with Jason (after a full year of being gone)!
  10. A freezer full of food.
  11. My gym (which is close by and only costs $12/month).
  12. The communication Jason and I have had with each other lately, especially about tough stuff.
  13. My camera and my ability to learn more about how to make it capture things the way I like.
  14. Hot showers.
  15. That I was able to attend Inspired this year.
  16.'s used books.
  17. Fall and the changing, gorgeous colors.
  18. Our dishwasher. (You can't fully appreciate a dishwasher until you've lived without one for three and a half years!)
  19. Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking.
  20. Laughter, and my husband who causes so much of it to happen in our home.

See you tomorrow for 20 more things. Remember to vote!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Night

Happy November! Can you stinkin' believe it's November already???

I've enjoyed all the Halloween blog posts and e-mails from my friends and family so I thought I'd post a few photos of my own before I head to the gym (and then get ready for a costume party tonight at neighbors Roxanne and Steve's house, fun!). Last year we were living with my wonderful Aunt Susan and Uncle Bob during Halloween, and we had so much fun that we decided to go back and stay with them again this year. I brought wigs!

Susan laughs a lot; one of the many reasons I love spending time with her! And how can you not laugh in wigs like these? :) Don't you love photos of people laughing? I do, it always makes me feel like laughing; even in a photo it's contagious!
Her pumpkin this year was awesome and I love this weird photoshop version, it's spooky!

All the houses on her street have lots of stairs up to the front doors so most of the neighbors just come down onto their driveways with their candy in order to drink wine and socialize save the poor kiddies some steps. Here are Jason and I out front.

One of my favorite costumes of this year's trick-or-treaters:

Don't worry, I got permission from her mama. :) Isn't she cute? And speaking of super-cute costumes, go check out my favorite boy! Both of these costumes remind me of the year my mom somehow decided to fit handmaking two giant stuffed animal costumes into her already overflowing schedule (sound familiar, Katie? :P) and my sister and I went as Shirt Tales (I was Pammy Panda and she was Rick Racoon). I have to find a photo of those costumes, they were awesome!

This morning Susan spoiled us (as usual) with waffles with berry sauce and ham, yum! Then on the drive home today we weren't sure if this was a trick or a treat:

It was a little of both since all twelve pumps were running at once (very, very, very slowly!) and people were backed up waiting to get in on this action... but some things are worth waiting for!

Okay, it's off to the gym for me--trying to make this a habit! Remember to comment on my last post if you want to get in on my RAK giveaway!