Friday, December 25, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--Yes, It's Red

If you follow me on Twitter or we're friends on Facebook or you've come within 500 feet of me while I'm trying to take photos, then you might've heard me complaining about my camera. It's a Pentax and nobody else uses Pentax, which doesn't bother me that I'm not a "cool kid" with the same camera as everyone else, but does bother me because there's no one else I can turn to when I have Pentax-specific questions, or to offer-up Pentax-related tips and tricks like so many people with Canons and Nikons do. What does bother me is that it takes forever to focus if anything at all in the viewfinder is moving; I can't use it to take photos of my nieces since those beauties never ever stop moving. As if that's not bad enough, the camera makes these really annoying noises while it's refusing to focus, noises that make me want to throw it, as hard as I can, through a wall. Yes, not even through a window, but straight through the damn wall and onto the lawn outside, like I'm Superman. And there are some other wonky things that piss torque me off about it; the more I learn about photography, the more my camera pisses torques me off.

Jason has heard, more than 18 zillion times once, about how much this camera annoys me. How I have to wait for just the right light and put the camera on a tripod and jump up and down on one foot while crossing my fingers and singing the Latvian National Anthem, just to get decent shots of my jewelry. And then run downstairs, upload them to my computer, see which of the 1400 I took came out okay and which I need to re-take, and start all over again. And then edit EVERY SINGLE PHOTO for contrast and brightness, because I just CANNOT make the camera do what I want, no matter which settings I try and how many practice shots I take and which Eastern European countries' national anthems I learn.

The problem is that I have all these nice lenses that I've acquired that fit my Pentax [like this one and this one, both of which cost a lot less when we got them than they're listed for now, holy crap cow, I'm glad I looked these up to link them, I feel rich now! :)]. And when I looked up the later-model Pentaxes, specifically the K20D, the reviews of it list the exact same problems that I have with mine (the ist DL). But when it comes right down to it, my camera is holding me back in my business; I hate listing new things because it's such a dang process to take photos of all my pieces. So I was just about ready to give up and go ahead and buy something totally and completely new. I decided on this back in, say, September.

Except I'm a Maximizer. I can't make a decision about a purchase this big without researching it to the Nth degree, and I haven't had the time or the mental energy to devote to an Nth degree search, so I just haven't done it. I've dealt with the annoying, I-want-to-throw-it-through-a-wall camera, and tried to focus on how lucky I am to have a nice camera, and how I'm learning to use it better, and blah blah blah I hate my camera.

So imagine--I mean, seriously, just try to imagine--my surprise when I opened up my Christmas present from Jason on Christmas Eve, and found this:

Yes, it's fluorescent red. I realize it's hard to tell in this photo, so here's another shot:

Here it looks sort of fluorescent coral. It kind of changes depending on the light, but if you remember the 80's, then you remember this particular color. Fluorescent red; in some lights it looks almost hot pink, except there's a little too much orange in it. That drink glass next to the camera, in case you're wondering, was to help dull my senses.

Here's another photo from the Internets:

So, I must admit, quite frankly, that the red freaked me the heck out. I love red, but aren't cameras supposed to be, you know, not fluorescent black?

But sweet, sweet, Jason did the researching for me; this is a brand-new model from Pentax. So brand-new that he didn't even know if it would arrive in time for Christmas!! The initial reviews are much, much better than the reviews for mine or the K20D. I didn't have any small children handy, so my awesome mom ran back and forth across the living room, and holy crap, this baby took her photo! And it didn't make any noises that made me even think about throwing it through a wall! It just took her photo as she zigged and zagged across the living room! [And really, how many moms of 34-year-olds will zig and zag across the living room late at night on Christmas Eve? Awesome.]

Obviously I have a lot to learn about this new doll, and I have to get used to the fact that she's fluorescent red, but I'm super excited to work with her and see how she does. And Jason's already promised that if I don't like it I can sell her on eBay, LOL! :) Actually this model is available in America in black and white, and limited edition colors of (fluorescent) red and navy; in Japan it's available in customization of I think 20 different body colors and 16 different grip colors... now that would be something to get used to! I guess our boring old black cameras are going to be a thing of the past... does that make me a trend-setter? LOL! :)


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Home For Christmas--By The Hair of Our Chinny-Chin-Chin

As you may know, last Friday night a huge snow storm blew into the entire Mid-Atlantic Region. And as I mentioned in my last post, as our flight was scheduled for early Saturday morning, this left me a tad bit stressed. So we decided to pack up early and head into a hotel next to the airport, to give ourselves that much more of a chance to catch our flight.

But first, we had Wine and Cheese Club night. Luckily Elizabeth's place was just a couple miles from the hotel, and normally it's just for us girls, but since Jason was with me the other ladies said he could come in. They even gave him a little bit of cheese. :)

By the time we left there was already some snow on the ground and sticking to the roads, and we were very happy to arrive at the hotel without incident. Once there, we learned that three airlines--American, Delta, and I can't remember--had already canceled all their flights for the next day. Alaska still showed our flight as scheduled, although they'd moved up the departure time by an hour.

The hotel couldn't guarantee that the shuttle to the airport would be running in the morning, so we weren't sure if we'd even have a ride; the cab companies had all just stopped answering their phones. So we decided that the shuttle driver would probably at least *try* to run the shuttle... at the very least, he'd try the first run at 5 a.m. If it was too dangerous then they'd probably not do any more after the first one, but we figured that our best chance to get to the airport would be to take that very first shuttle.

So we tried to catch a couple hours' sleep before waking up in the 4:00 hour (which should be illegal, by the way). There was probably 10 inches of snow at that point and it was still coming down; we were excited that the driver was going to give it a shot. Luckily, he was fabulous and we made it to the airport just fine. Then, Alaska checked our bags--another victory! Every little step towards us getting home was celebrated.

At the gate they told us to remain in the area because once they opened up boarding, we all had to hurry up and board because the airport was going to CLOSE and we needed to take off as soon as possible if we wanted to get out. Yikes! Then they came back on and told us that we were waiting for the crew--oh, for Pete's sake! Finally the crew arrived and Jason and I practically cheered. Then we boarded and everyone seemed very blase about the whole thing... I wanted to shout at them, "Do you want to be stuck at the airport? What is wrong with you? Hurryup hurryup hurryup!"

Once we were all on board we had to wait for the de-icing trucks, which were working on a Continental flight and were taking forever. Meanwhile it's still snowing, and they keep telling us that the airport is going to close soon, and Jason and I are trying to think good thoughts and not tell each other all the "we're going to be stuck at the airport" thoughts we're having. Finally the de-icers came over to us, hooray! Midway through the pilot came on and said that once they finished de-icing we had to hurry up and get to the runway because we only had 6-7 minutes after the de-icing to be cleared for takeoff. Jeez, could you please give us more of a sense of urgency, I'm not quite stressed enough back here in seat 20A!

After they finished de-icing, we backed away from the gate and then. just. sat. there. I had my eyes closed, trying to relax, and just praying for everything to line up so we could take off. Seriously, I was praying for the pilot, the flight attendants, the air traffic controllers, Alaska Airlines, the airport janitors, I mean everyone.

Eventually we started moving again, although I had my eyes closed and was trying to relax, so I wasn't paying attention until Jason said, "We're on the runway!" National Airport (aka Reagan) is right in the city, so it has a really short runway. And it was snowing so much, and the wind was whipping everything around, that there was a lot of snow on the runway. A lot. So as we were speeding up, Jason and I are holding hands, just hoping and praying for liftoff; neither of us would have been at all surprised if the plane had slowed down again, slid to a stop, and the flight was canceled then and there.

So when it lifted off, Jason and I both cheered, and fell in love with Alaska Airlines. We flew all the way to Seattle and from there a quick hop to Portland. A lady on the flight to Seattle checked her phone when we landed and told us that her friend was supposed to be on the very next flight out of D.C., flying to Portland via L.A., and that flight had been canceled and she couldn't get another flight until the 24th! So it might have been raining in the Pacific Northwest, but Jason and I were both walking on sunshine, soooo thankful to be at home!

The next day, Sunday, we woke up early (still on East Coast time!) and went to my home church. It was the Childrens' Program, so sweet and cute.

I love the tradition of the Advent Wreath.

Then we went into Portland for the Saturday Market and we grabbed a quick bite at the Thirsty Lion.

On Monday I finished up some jewelry projects/gifts that I hadn't had a chance to finish before we left, and we went to see Avatar in 3-D. [My review: The way they made the movie was fascinating; I really liked some of the surprising and creative ways that the "aliens" were different from humans; the 3-D glasses gave me a headache; the story was nice but very predictable; I think that it will revolutionize the way movies are made.]

On Tuesday we headed to Jason's parents' for the big football game pizza party, which I will not talk about because it was pathetic (the game, not the pizza party).

His parents live up on a hill and it gets foggy here; it's pretty (as long as you're not trying to drive in it!).

One of Jason's uncles made this and it's somehow lasted many years, coming out every Christmas! I love the little icicles.

Yesterday I wrote my Christmas letter, made copies, and put Jason and his mom to work folding letters and stuffing and stamping envelopes. So glad to have this crossed off my list!

Today we're heading back to my parents' for our annual Christmas Eve party, with homemade clam chowder and smoked salmon... yummmmm.

Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--I Like Snow?

Remember when we almost didn't make it home for Christmas last year because there was a record-breaking snow and ice storm in the Pacific Northwest?

The good news is that there's no snow predicted for the Pac NW this year, hooray!

The bad news is that there's a shitload record-setting amount of snow about to dump on us here in the Mid-Atlantic region. Starting around midnight.

Since our plane is scheduled to depart at 8 tomorrow morning, this timing is not ideal.

So we're throwing everything together a little bit early and heading into a hotel near the airport, just to make it a bit easier on ourselves. Whew, will I be glad to get to Oregon!

I've been stressing about this all day, reading weather reports (even when I don't want to be, like on Twitter and Facebook updates and people sending me text messages) and worrying, so I decided to grab a couple photos of one time when we had a TON of FUN in the snow!

If we ever When we get to Oregon I'll hopefully have time to write about this fun trip in the Alto Adige region of Italy with our friends Keith and Katie. I wrote a bit about it here but there's more to tell.

But for now I have to go dry my hair and finish packing up some jewelry supplies for presents I haven't have time to finish yet! Wish me luck and safe and uneventful travels! :)

Updated to add: We made it safely to the hotel. Alaska has not cancelled our flight yet, although three other airlines have cancelled ALL flights tomorrow. So it's looking like we're going to spend the snowy weekend at the Sheraton, although we still have hope (even if it's just for the sake of having hope). I feel like crying but I know this is just a stupid travel problem, and it annoys me that I'm not able to be calmer about it and I'm so stressed. Taking lots of deep breaths, reminding myself of the much more serious and sad problems that so many of my friends are dealing with today, and staying close to Jason. Wish us luck!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Your Way Will Be Lighted

Art is so subjective; what one person loves, someone else will think is junk. I went to a higher-end Arts & Crafts show yesterday and I saw some of each. :)

I usually go to the shows to get inspired by ideas, and buy some smaller items... there's usually a row or two of gourmet food items and that always makes good gifts. This year I bought a small pottery dish that has these little spikes in the middle of the bowl... it's for rubbing garlic cloves on, then add a bit of olive oil and dip in some crunchy bread. Yumm--I looove garlic. I also bought a couple of small stained-glass ornaments to hang in my kitchen window; I bought two last year so now I have one for each "section" of the window, one to represent each season of the year... I have a "thing" for the four seasons, too.

I also have a serious love of words. So when I stumbled into Rebecca Grace Jones' booth I felt right at home. She makes Words and Weavings, and I just fell in love with so many of them. I especially love this one that's on her website, and a whole bunch that aren't. Most of her work that was in the booth was like this one or this one--a weaving with words, with or without a small watercolor, mounted onto a handmade paper or mat. But there were a few that were paintings with a weaving with words mounted on top.

Although this was not the first thing in the booth that caught my eye, when it finally did I stared at it for a long time, and my throat got tight. Rebecca saw me and came over and we stared talking. I told her how much I love the piece and how beautiful her artwork is. I told her how lovely it was that everything she makes is actually handmade and hand-written; I was disappointed with the number of artists who were selling digital prints of their original artwork at prices that you'd expect to pay for originals. She said that a lot of people just don't notice or don't care, and seemed happy that I appreciate the difference.

I looked around some more, and decided that it was a big enough purchase that I needed to think it over overnight at the least... and knowing me, I knew that that would probably mean I'd talk myself out of it and come up with a lot of reasons why I shouldn't buy it (some of them true and valid, some of them false and self-defeating).

So I left her booth and walked around the rest of the show; at one point I thought it was only 15 minutes until the show closed, so I ran up and down the last two aisles to see if there were any must-haves, just in case I decided not to come back the next day. When I realized that nobody was leaving I looked at my watch again and laughed out loud realizing that there was another hour left, so I looped back around at a more leisurely pace. :) Then I went back through the whole show floor to the booths I'd marked to check out again--I try not to buy on the first go-round in case I find something better further later on... yes, I'm a Maximizer, remember? :) After I finished that, I decided to go take another look at the painting one last time before I left.

And I felt the same thing I'd felt the first time I looked at it. Like I was seeing something so true and real and beautiful to me that my throat tightened and my eyes welled up. I told myself that I could always come back tomorrow, and if it was gone then it just wasn't meant to be. I talked to Rebecca again and told her that I'd probably be back the next day; I had to crunch some numbers to see if I could make it work. She told me that it meant a lot to her that I loved it so much; she'd had it for quite a while and was wondering who would fall in love with it. I told her that I understood, I've experienced the same thing making jewelry; I've made some things that didn't sell for a while and just when I'm starting to question it, all of a sudden someone will order it and tell me how absolutely perfect it is for them. Everything lines up.

As I walked away yet again, heading towards the exit, I knew that everything had lined up; it was meant to be mine. I don't feel that way often, at least not about purchasing things, so the fact that I felt this way was significant. So I sat down and called Jason. We have a rule about purchases over a certain amount, plus it's Christmas, so the budget for the month is overflowing filled. But as I tried to explain it to him, my throat kept tightening and my eyes kept welling up, and finally he said, "We'll make it work. It means a lot to you, so we'll figure it out."

So I went back and told Rebecca the good news; I had to have it. Because I could pay with check (rather than credit card), and I think also because she was happy it was going to someone who loved it so much, she even gave me a very generous discount! As I carried it out to the car I was so happy I cried a little, and I couldn't stop smiling in the car on the drive home, even in stop-and-go traffic. :)

I propped it up in the hallway at the top of the stairs, and in between hammering jewelry orders today I keep sneaking upstairs to sit in front of it and just take it in. I'm so, so happy with it. I love the words (which Rebecca wrote) and I love that it's Grace with a capital G. I love that it's in both warm and cool colors. I love that the trees and the colors and the slanting purple shadows remind both Jason and me of Italy. I love that the words are written on shimmery paper the same color as the frame, and that the threads in the weaving match the colors in the painting perfectly. I love the balance and the reaching branches and the blue sky. I love it.

I hope that this weekend you're finding whatever is true and real and beautiful to you, too. :) [Click on any of the photos to see them larger.]

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December 11th

In about mid-November I had a big surge of Etsy orders from the plan-aheaders who do their Christmas shopping early, and then it quieted down. It quieted down so much that I started worrying about all the supply orders I'd put on the credit card. I had a feeling that there would be another surge from the procrastinators, but I just wasn't sure.

This past week orders have been coming in and I've been so thankful. Then yesterday I went to deliver an order at my hair salon to one of the stylists. It turned out that she left early, but I decided to show my stuff anyway, and I sold two pairs of earrings. Then as I was leaving I remembered that I'd told the owner of the salon that I'd stop by sometime with my new designs. She works across the street at the salon's training center, so I decided to pop in.

If you sell your own creations, then you probably understand how awkward it can be to do something like this. I mean, it can be awkward enough if you're hawking something like Girl Scout Cookies... you don't want to seem pushy, people can be rude and ignore you or give you a dirty look, etc. But when it's your own artwork, your own creations, it can be extra scary! If they turn down Girl Scout Cookies, you can just tell yourself that maybe they're on a diet or they don't like Thin Mints. But if it's your own labors of love that they turn down, well, it can bruise the ego a bit!

I've actually gotten pretty good at it, because I don't take it personally if people don't buy anything. I have a diverse-enough range (in my current stock I have about three times what I have listed on Etsy) that usually people will like something at least. I'm not pushy at all, and I tell people the truth--I love to know what people like the most, because then I know which items are most popular and I can upload those to Etsy first. So just by looking at what I have to offer and telling me what they like, people are helping me and I'm appreciative. And if they don't buy anything, that's fine, and I thank them for helping me out... I appreciate their input, and when I have some new designs can I stop by again for them to look things over? They always say yes, and I think it's because I'm not pushy or guilt-inducing! :) I usually give out a business card or two as well. :)

ANYWAY, that was a tangent! The point is that it can be intimidating to walk in somewhere with a basket of your creations and say, "Hey, would you like to spend some of your hard-earned money on some stuff I've made?" But I'm always glad when I do it, even when I don't sell anything. And I'm really glad that I did it yesterday, because at the training center I sold NINE necklaces! WOO HOO! And five of them were brand-new designs that I haven't listed on Etsy yet, so I need to remake those now! :)

Then I came home and found more orders in my Etsy and on Facebook and in my e-mail inbox! Yesterday was by far my biggest days of sales EVER... and it wouldn't have been if I'd been too scared to put myself and my work out there. My point is... put yourself out there, you'll be glad you did!

Since I spent so much time doing orders and sales yesterday I decided to make it my page for my December Daily album. I wanted to do a photo grid with photos of some of the things I sold... usually this takes me forever because I'm OCD about making everything exactly the same size and spaced properly and etc. But in a couple online classes I've taken I've been using Photoshop templates... and I decided to try to make my own. I know, like, woah. If you know Photoshop you'll say woah because this is so easy; if you don't know Photoshop you'll say woah because you have no idea what I'm talking about. :)

So I dove in and did it and figured out clipping masks and just made myself pleased as punch with this new tool in my arsenal! I added in the "december" and graphics I made before and changed the color (and the number, obviously). Then I printed it out to put in my album, and it didn't look right because the background of the page is cream and the white looked too glaring. Plus when I printed it, my 4x6 photo printer trimmed off a little bit of the outside edge, so it wasn't even all the way around with the white lines in the middle (OCD, I told you).

So I started looking for a "digital paper" that would match my layout. I don't have that much because I don't scrap digitally, so whatever I have has been obtained through free downloads. But I quickly tired of looking through my folders, because I don't have my digital scrapbooking stuff organized well (because I never use it). So instead I took a page from my friend Cynthia's book, and I scanned in the (actual, physical) scrapbooking paper that I'd used in the layout! Then I copied it into the background of my photo grid, and I made the background larger so that when the printer cut down the edges it would still be even.

Voilà! It printed out perfectly so that it matches my page and looks great!

I love learning new things that will make my life easier!

Jason is finally up and around so I can go tackle the things on my To Do list that make a lot of noise. :) Bang-bang-bang, lots of jewelry to work on today! :)

Have a great weekend! :)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--Christmas Markets

On Wednesday I was stricken with the worst case of homesickness for Italy that I've had in a long, long time; maybe even the worst case ever. I have a post mostly written about that and I hope to finish it up and "publish" it this weekend. But of course it made me think about being in Europe during this time of year, and how much I miss it! I've also made a friend on Twitter (I know, what a crazy world we live in!) who's an American living in Germany... I keep telling her to go drink some Glühwein for me. :) So that's made me think about it, too.

I wrote a bit last year about Christmas Markets. I love European Christmas markets. Looooove them.

I mean, hello? How could you not?

Beautiful beautiful. Every time I get frustrated with my photography I should look back on my photos from five (or even three) years ago... oh, the things I could make my camera do to these babies now! But still, I love it.

And another one just for some color and variety. :)

Tonight I'm off to cuddle on the couch with Jason and watch a movie... he's been waiting for me so I'd better not keep him waiting any longer! Have a great weekend!

Oh! And I'll be taking Etsy orders through next Tuesday only... so if there's anything you've been meaning to order, now's the time!! :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Read the Labels

[Edited to add: This is a rant, and I apologize. Yesterday I had a serious case of homesickness for Italy so today crappy stuff in America is pissing me off. Tomorrow we will return to our regularly scheduled pre-Christmas, joy-focused programming. Thank you! :)]

When Jason and I went out to dinner last Friday night, I asked how a lot of things were prepared because I'm on this diet. The waitress was really nice and later on in the meal she told me that she'd lost 15 pounds by eating Special K Bars... she said she had one for breakfast and it filled her up so she didn't eat again until dinner.

I was skeptical but decided to check them out at the grocery store today when I happened to stroll past that aisle. The ingredients shocked me so much that I took a couple photos and I must share:

Okay, here's the item I'm talking about, the strawberry ones. I didn't look at any of the other flavors but I'm sure they're all similar. And what are the ingredients in this magical health food bar that will help me drop a pants size in just 2 weeks (advertised on the front of the box)?

They always try and confuse people with parenthesis, so let me break it down. Here are the ingredients, in order, with the parenthesis taken out.
  1. Cereal. Which seems fine, but the second ingredient in the parenthesis after rice? Sugar.
  2. Corn syrup. In case you don't know, corn syrup is what America started using in place of granulated sugar because it's cheaper and America has a crapload of corn. So corn syrup=sugar.
  3. Sugar.
  4. "Strawberry flavored fruit pieces," the first parenthetical ingredient of which is, you guessed it, sugar.
  5. Vegetable oil.
  6. Fructose. Fructose is a monosaccharide that's almost twice as sweet as table sugar; it's yet another form of sugar.
  7. Dextrose. Watch out for those ingredients ending in -ose; they're just sugar.
I'm not saying sugar is evil. I'm just saying that it's not a health food. The fact that this fake food crap exists and they market it as a diet food just makes me mad. Before I go off on a rant about how much money big food corporations spend on marketing and lobbying, trying to keep the American public fat dumb and happy, I'm just going to say, READ THE LABELS.

The Hippie Whole Foods Lived-in-Italy-and-Knows-How-Good-Real-Food-Is Crazy Lady

Friday, December 4, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--Date Day

Jason took the day off work today, and as chance would have it we both needed to run down to Fredericksburg, a city about an hour away, so we decided to make a day of it and drove down together. After our errands were done we had a little time, so we went to Old Town and re-found a little coffee shop Jason had been to before.

I'm not a Starbucks person. I know, I know. I'm just not. I brew my own espresso at home and make my own cappuccinos and I never, ever, ever have an urge to go to Starbucks. So when I got this beautiful drink, I just had to take a photo of it because it felt so special! I love that pattern the barista made!

Then we went to see The Blind Side, which I loved. What an extraordinary story, and Sandra Bullock was so good in it that you totally forgot that it was her and not the actual woman the story's about. And now I'm speaking with a little bit of a drawl. :)

Then we went out for a fabulous meal, and now we're back home. So I uploaded the photos I took today (which weren't many) to choose and print one to add to my December Daily album. I cropped the above photo and then realized there was a nice blank spot on the left where I could do the same thing Ali did here. So--get this--I decided that instead of buying Ali's templates, I'd try to do it with my own handwriting! And then--get this!--I actually figured out how to do it! I wrote out "december" a bunch of times, scanned it in, did some Photoshop stuff, added a line and two circles, and voilà! It's so not perfect but you know what? Before I started I didn't know how to do a lot of the steps required, and now I do! So that's awesome.

Now I'm off to go hang out with Jason some more, watching comedy. The very best part is not just that we had a really great day together, but that starting next year he'll be working a "9-80" schedule, so he'll have every other Friday off! Although we didn't intend it to be, today was a great example of how we can treat those Fridays like stolen time, having dates together and doing fun things. Hooray! :)

Have a great weekend, friends!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--Cranberries

Our sweet neighbors Steve and Roxanne always invite over all the "misfits" they know who don't have anywhere else to go for Thanksgiving; isn't that so lovely? My parents often did that when I was growing up and now I get to experience it from the other side. :) And how convenient for us that it was right across the street! :)

We had a great group of ten of us and Roxanne cooked up a feast. Yummmmmm! Her friend Becky made this gorgeous dessert and I couldn't help playing with my 50 mm lens. It's not a fabulous photo, but I'm learning about my lens and I loooove cranberries and the color red, so this is so luscious to me!

I hadn't slept well the night before, so add in a big meal and some Tryptophan and I was falling asleep at the table after dessert! So I went over to the couch and fell asleep; Roxanne covered me up with a nice blanket and the kitties came to cuddle me... what is better than that, I ask you? I'm still laughing that I even did it because it's so unlike me, but it just goes to show how comfortable I am with all our neighbors!

I don't like shopping during the best of times, let alone during busy times; I'm also, ahem, not a morning person. In short, there's no way in hell you would catch me getting up at 4 a.m. to fight the hordes on Black Friday! When I rolled over and saw the time was 9 a.m. I laughed and thought, "Some crazy people have been shopping for four hours already, I'm so glad I was sleeping instead." Ha ha. :) :) How about you, did you score any deals that will make me wish I got out of bed on Friday? Or just have fun watching people act insanely? I'd love to hear about it! :) Leave me a comment! :)

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and are having a great long weekend!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Black Friday

My friend Erin wrote to me early this week to let me know that she'd be featuring me in a Handmade for the Holidays post and wanted to know if I'd be offering any Black Friday deals that she should mention. Well, I hadn't even thought about it, but since she mentioned it I decided to!

So I wanted to let my loyal blog readers know about it! :) I'll be offering free shipping, plus a free pair of earrings with any purchase of $65 or more. I want to post a photo of the earrings I'll be giving away, but my schedule today just got changed for me so I have to run and don't have time right now, so I'll add the photo to this post later this evening. Plus, I'll be discounting several of my currently listed items, and those will be first-come, first-served... once they are gone, they'll be gone! So shop early on Friday! :)

Some notes about the deals:

Free Shipping, part 1: It's a lot of work/time to go into every item and remove the shipping charges, so I'm going to *refund* the shipping charges to you... in other words, go ahead and make your purchase, pay for it, and then I will refund you the amount you paid for shipping.

Free Shipping, part 2: If you *really* don't want to do that, then send me an e-mail or convo on etsy before you order and I'll set up a special listing for you without the shipping charges.

Free Earrings: If your purchase amount (w/o shipping, obviously) is over $65, I will automatically include the free pair of earrings, you don't need to do anything.

Discounted Items: Prices for the items I'm going to discount will already be discounted, go ahead and purchase as normal.

Let me know if you have any questions, and I'll be back later to answer them and post a photo of the free earrings. :) Thanks so much!

Updated: I was too busy during the daylight hours today to take photos of the earrings so I'll put the photo up tomorrow before we head over to the neighbors'! :) Thanks!

Updated again: My camera is apparently annoyed with me today and I'm not getting what I want, but I need to go get ready to head over to the neighbors so here's the best I could get for now! :)

You can choose what, if anything, you'd like dangling from the fused circle. Shown from left to right are natural pearl, pink pearl, dark peacock pearl, gray pearl, crystal, and no dangle.

Indicate in "Notes to Seller" during checkout which pair you'd like. If you don't let me know you'll receive the plain loops with no dangle. These are fun little earrings that can go with anything! If you don't place a $65+ order and would just like to buy the earrings, I'll have them available on the site after this weekend for $16 per pair.

Thanks so much for looking and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--In Search of Photobooths

It seems like years ago that I went to Orlando to visit Lori and go to CHA, but it was only the end of July! The past week or so I've been itching to work on my mini-book for Orlando and then Anke posted some of her photos from that weekend on Facebook, so I decided to go through my photos and start to pare them down to edit and send them to print. Looking at the photos I was reminded of a funny common theme so I thought I'd post some of them for this week's Favorite {Photo} Friday!

[Note: I could go on and on and on about how I met Lori, how we became friends, how my trip to visit her was serendipitious in eight ways and totally needed in eight zillion ways not even known when we booked the trip, how much she means to me, how much I love her and her friend Anke, how I want to move into a cul-de-sac with them both as my neighbors, and how I'm already plotting my next visit with them... but it's 10 p.m. on Friday and I need to get this posted so I can spend some time with my husband! So here is the quick & dirty version, okay? :) Keeping in mind of course that I'm neither very quick nor very dirty, but we're speaking comparatively, okay?]

[Also note: click on any of the photos to view them larger.]

So: When we were in Orlando Lori took me to Cafe Tu Tu Tango. They had a photo booth and we thought it would be super fun to get our photos taken after dinner, so we scrounged up enough coins and sat down to take our photos and had a blast.

And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

No photos. We asked inside and they told us that it happens sometimes; they gave us our money back, but we were still disappointed.

So I decided that we should take our own photos in the photo booth! So we sat in the photo booth and I held up my little pocket camera about where the camera was and snapped four quick photos.

Tonight as I was going through the photos I found these four photos and decided to try to make my own photo strip with them, so a Google search came to the rescue and I found this post with a free Photoshop template and brief tutorial (assuming you 1) have Photoshop Elements and 2) sort of already know how to use it) to make a photo booth strip! Hooray!

Isn't this CUTE for a faked photo booth strip? [So yeah, I know I did something wrong and the proportions are a little off, but it makes us look thinner, so pretend you didn't notice, mmmm'kay? Thanks!]

Then we went to CHA and the DCWV booth had a photo booth! So of course we snapped up the chance to have our do-over and get our photo strip. But it didn't come out as a strip, and it had advertising in the middle.

So we were still excited, and the photos are cute, aren't they? And I love how the bottom corners of each photo are rounded, but the top corners are square... sort of random and cool! But it wasn't quite the same. We were banking on Photoshop to help us out when we got home.

And then, randomly, we decided to go back to Cafe Tu Tu Tango because Claudine had an hour or so to go out to lunch with us, and it was close by and yummy.

As we walked in, I happened to look down and spot this:

It printed out! Who knows how long after we left, and I'm actually surprised it was still there and didn't get thrown out or stapled to the abandoned photo wall (yes, they have an abandoned photo wall!).

In any event, I'm so glad that we have three different versions of photo booth photos! :)


Lots and lots and lots and lots going on this weekend! My day tomorrow is full to overflowing and Sunday I need to catch up on a ton of Etsy orders--HOORAY! I have a TON to share (with photos, even!) and I'm hoping to fit it in at some point very soon. Fingers crossed.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gratitude Project 2009 Day 7

I am thankful for/that:
  1. I had a great lunch date with my neighbors.
  2. I learned about a restaurant in my town that we've never been to.
  3. I found out about a very cute shop in my town that I didn't know about before that has really cute gift items.
  4. I picked up a great gift for someone, which is a big relief because I had no idea what I was going to get for her!
  5. Jeans. Especially ones that fit.
  6. When John saw what I was making for dinner he asked Jason, "Hey, what did I just say that I was craving when we were at work?" And Jason said, "Cameron's curry chicken." I love that John actually craves what I cook! :)
  7. Both Jason and John are super easy to cook for and happily eat whatever I make, and are appreciative, to boot!
  8. New wire cutters that will save me a lot of time filing, hooray!
  9. My stock of silver & jewelry supplies so that whenever I get an idea I can (usually) work on it right away rather than having to wait for an order to come in.
  10. Checks arriving in the mail.
  11. Brand names aren't a big deal to me.
  12. My Moka stove-top espresso pot that allows me to make my own cappuccinos.
  13. My creative confidence that allows me to look at something and think, "I can make that."
  14. Actually making it! :)
  15. And it's better than the original version!
  16. My 50mm 1.4 lens. Yummmm.
  17. I get to see John's wife and kids tomorrow when we all meet at their office for lunch; I haven't seen them in forever!
  18. Plans for Saturday with fun, fun people.
  19. Jason has a job he loves.
  20. I have soooo much to be thankful for!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gratitude Project 2009 Day 6

I can't believe that today is already Day 6!! This has flown by... just one more example of 2009 being the fastest year ever for me. Zoooooooooom!

Thanks to everyone who sent me messages about my headache yesterday... I'm happy to say that I'm feeling much better! See my #1 on my list below. :)

I'm working on a ton of new jewelry designs, including a bunch of bracelets and some necklaces that are different than anything I've offered before. I'm hoping to have time on Thursday to take photos so look for new uploads to my Etsy this weekend!

I am thankful for/that:
  1. After two muscle relaxers and ten hours of sleep, I woke up without a headache!
  2. I have a doctor with whom I can communicate; when I first met him I brought in my entire medical history and he listened to me and asked questions and then prescribed me what I wanted (muscle relaxers, among other things). I do NOT abuse them but they are there when I really need them and I appreciate his trust in me. Being a military spouse, I've had a lot of different doctors, so I know when I've found a good one. :)
  3. My 4x6" Epson photo printer. The quality is as good as any lab, and it's right here in my studio, ready whenever I need prints!
  4. Jason might have just saved us $200 a month. My fingers are still crossed that it will actually happen!
  5. I can buy whatever I want at the grocery store. Obviously I don't go crazy buying filet mignon and lobster or anything, but I really, really appreciate that I can buy whatever I want when I'm grocery shopping.
  6. More and more people are joining the Gratitude Project! It's never too late... if you happen to see this post in a year and a half, feel free to join in!!! Any time is a good time to feel gratitude. :)
  7. My analytical mind. I really love analyzing things and I may spend too much time doing so at times, but it's just because I love the process! I love thinking up ways to solve things, ways to measure things... I think I should have been a statistician. :)
  8. We've been investing since before we were married when it was painful to invest. We're still investing now when our dollars are buying a lot more than they were a couple years ago. I'm so thankful that we've been able to do this and adjust our spending habits to continue to do it.
  9. E-mail messages about how much people love the gifts they've received that I've created.
  10. The tablecloth came clean! When we moved here from Italy our Italian packers (two brothers and their dad) packed some of our furniture in what they considered to be junk blankets. One of these "junk blankets" was actually a hand cross-stitched tablecloth with someone's initials on it! It was totally covered in grease and grime and had obviously been used to move many, many items previously; there are even some holes in it. But I just couldn't bear to part with it, since someone obviously spent a lot of time on it! So I spot-treated it, soaked it, and washed it in OxyClean, and you know what? It came clean! So I'm going to repair what I can and use it as a table cloth once again! I hope someone asks me about it, I can't wait to tell them. :)
  11. Everyone who donates to the arts and enables children to experience and learn about art. I hope more and more people realize how important this is!!! It should be mandatory in schools.
  12. Honesty over saving face.
  13. Faith.
  14. Scarves; big puffy scarves and thin silk scarves.
  15. Deep, deep, deep breaths.
  16. Friends who will go the distance.
  17. A possible Love Bomb weekend--oh please, oh please!!!
  18. The process of journaling.
  19. Knowing my worth.
  20. Not giving in just for the sake of giving in.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gratitude Project 2009 Day 5

I have a killer headache today (going on eight hours), so this list is a little lame, and still it took me all day to come up with 20 things. But I guess the good news is that I spent the time focusing on what I'm thankful for instead of all the things I could be focused on instead. :)

Before I get to the list, here are a couple photos from the FDR Memorial, where we took my Dad on Saturday before we went to the airport. I love the FDR Memorial! It's not what you think of when you think of a normal memorial... it's set up as a series of rooms you walk through, each room representing one of his terms. There are sculptures in each room and FDR quotes engraved into the walls; it's very powerful, and all of the quotes are still applicable today.

And a cute little squirrel eating berries. :)

I'm thankful for/that:

  1. Neither Bush is president anymore.
  2. Tylenol.
  3. I don't get headaches every day (or even very often).
  4. I'm not really scared of bugs or spiders.
  5. There are a lot of people I can call on when I need to cry, complain, or rant. (I call different people depending on which it is and what it's about, lol!)
  6. Conversations that make me feel 10 times better and 100 times lighter than I did before.
  7. Soft places to fall.
  8. Our insurance's mail-order prescription company which is not only cheaper and easier than the local pharmacy, but they call to ask if I want to get my next shipment!
  9. Crushed ice.
  10. Honeycrisp apples.
  11. Naps.
  12. Not one but TWO planned outings with girlfriends this week!
  13. Love Actually, which is quite possibly my favorite movie of all time. Just thinking about it makes me smile.
  14. Making a joke that makes me laugh out loud and crack myself up! Even if I'm the only one laughing, LOL! :)
  15. Watching Ellen give money away.
  16. I don't have to worry about Jason getting deployed anymore.
  17. Jason and John went to the store for me when they got home and found out I had a headache so I hadn't gone yet.
  18. Muscle relaxers.
  19. Digital cameras.
  20. Photoshop.
Jilliene put Day 5 up and Cynthia decided to play along, too!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gratitude Project 2009 Day 4

Wow, we have a logo now! Thanks to Paula! :)

I am thankful for/that:
  1. My friend Kellie had her baby! Carli was born yesterday and mama and baby are safe and sound!
  2. For once I'm caught up on my book clubs! One of my clubs doesn't meet in December and the other one will meet while I'm gone, so I don't have another club meeting until January, which means I get to read whatever I want for a while!!
  3. Jason is off riding motorcycles with friends today, which means I get most of the day to myself, the perfect day for an introvert who just had a house guest! :)
  4. Greek yogurt... it's sooooo good!
  5. Cherry Coke Zero; I know I shouldn't, and I try not to drink much soda, but it's such a guilty pleasure!
  6. Cycles can be broken, and knowing that it's a cycle is half the battle.
  7. Learning from others' mistakes.
  8. I don't have much bad food in the house, because if I did I'd eat it all today. I'm especially craving gummy bears and Doritos, neither of which I ever keep in the house. If I really really want to buy something but I don't, I think of it as "saving" money; the same applies to food I really really want to eat but don't--think of the calories I just "saved"! :)
  9. Hummus.
  10. Our house didn't flood during the recent storm (unlike some friends in Virginia Beach!). :(
  11. I got to hear my niece on the phone today and she made me laugh--gwocka wocka wocka means gorilla, apparently. :)
  12. Jason came home safely from his motorcycle ride and he had a great day.
  13. Jason cuddles me every night as I go to sleep; even if I come in to bed after he's already asleep, he'll usually wake up enough to cuddle me. :)
  14. I'm never bored. I have far too many interests to ever be bored, and my brain is too active. When I used to run I'd think up math problems to solve while I ran, just to keep myself occupied while I ran. See? Never bored.
  15. The new vacuum that Jason got me, which is soooo much better than my old one.
  16. Burt's Bees lip balms.
  17. L.L. Bean Wicked Good Slippers.
  18. Patience.
  19. Hot baths.
  20. Soft, fluffy towels.

In addition to the people I linked to yesterday, here are some new ones (either new people or new posts)! Click on the name for the main blog page, and each Day for a direct link to that post. Zanne (Day 1); Katherine (Day 1, Day 2); Sooz (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3); Jilliene put Day 3 up last night and Day 4 this morning; Katie posted Day 2 today.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gratitude Project 2009 Day 3

I am thankful (for/that):
  1. Our upstairs television in the spare room, where I can cuddle into the little bed (as we call it--it's a twin) and watch whatever I want when the big TV is occupied.
  2. Football season doesn't last all year, and that Jason doesn't really like other sports. :)
  3. Trader Joe's. I love having someplace I can buy convenience food that is still healthy and good and not filled with chemicals and high-fructose corn-syrup!!
  4. Leftovers.
  5. Emery boards; another kind of silly thing to list, but all my fingernails have been breaking off lately and I keep snagging them on things so I seem to use an emery board several times a day! I hate scratchy nails.
  6. Online shopping; there are no local silver suppliers so without online shopping I would have a much harder time getting my supplies!
  7. Two pairs of Dansko shoes that my sister gave me (because they were too small for her after she had my nieces). :) They're so comfortable and keep my feet warm when it's cold and rainy out.
  8. Jason never complains about anything that I wear, even though I know he doesn't like those shoes! :) He just says, "You're wearing the comfortable shoes today." LoL!!
  9. Criminal Minds. I adore this show and love to watch it, even if I've already seen the episode before.
  10. Remote controls.
  11. I can do a lot of math in my head; I rock at percentages and fractions.
  12. I taught my dad something! I told him about Maximizers and Satisficers last night and he said he now understands my mom better because apparently she's a Maximizer like me and he's a Satisficer like Jason!
  13. Wi-Fi.
  14. Our new(ish) mattress. Our neighbors gave us their (still relatively new) mattress because it was way too firm for them and they bought a brand-new super soft one. With a feather-bed on top the firm mattress is perfect for me; love it and my back hurts a lot less in it!
  15. Sorry if this is TMI, but tampons. I mean, honestly.
  16. Accents! I totally love accents (especially Southern, Irish, and Australian)! [And if Daniele is reading, then yes of course I love Italian accents, but I love hearing the Italian language more than Italians speaking English with an accent! :)] We had lunch at an Irish pub today and since they were playing the big match between Ireland and France later, there were a ton of cute Irish lads with their cute Irish accents there waiting for the game to come on. :) And they were so nice and polite while scoping out our table and waiting for us to leave so they could pounce on it! Politeness is so lovely!
  17. We have plane tickets home for Christmas and will be there for 10 days this time!
  18. Comfortable bras. Again, I mean, honestly. How distracting is it to have an uncomfortable one? I can barely think of anything else when I have lace itching me or an underwire jabbing me!
  19. Pinot Grigio.
  20. Beef Barley Soup.
Don't forget to check out Jilliene, Heather, and Lori's Gratitude posts, and Katie joined us today, too, with a list from her awesome son Oliver! Paula joined us today, too! And MaryElla posted on Thursday. :) Let me know if you're writing your own list, even if you don't have a blog to post it on! Or even if you just like reading my lists, then comment to let me know! I'd love to put "Lots of blog comments" on one of my lists, LoL!! :)

Happy Saturday night! See you again tomorrow! :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--Dad + Gratitude Project 2009 Day 2

My Dad has been here since Tuesday and he's leaving tomorrow, so in honor of Dad and because scanning and showing photos last week was so fun, here are some photos of me and Dad!

My favorite photo, at the Oregon coast:

The back of this photo says 7A, and it took me a minute to recognize that this must be the number from the film negatives--remember those? LoL!

And the back of this one says 12A. I love the Olympia Beer shirt my dad's wearing!

Starting out a Fun Run:

Further along and still having fun, apparently!

Fishing, my dad's all-time favorite hobby. He fishes for steelhead and salmon and smokes it... it's the best smoked salmon you've ever had in your life anywhere in the world, I guarantee you. He even made some for my wedding!

And now, on to the gratitude!

I am thankful (for):
  1. My love of reading and love of letters and words, and that I'm a good speller! :)
  2. That I asked Nunzia, our neighbor in Italy, if she'd teach me how to make pasta. She did, and gave me cooking lessons in her kitchen every single week for months! I made completely-from-scratch lasagna tonight and it was soooooo good!
  3. People who are kind just because it is the right thing to do.
  4. That I'm learning more about myself and my limits and accepting and adapting to them.
  5. That gasoline here in America is less than $3 per gallon (in Italy it was $6-7 per gallon).
  6. My Epson printer/scanner; it makes me annoyed sometimes but it's pretty cool that I can just scan something in really quickly!
  7. Our health insurance, which covers most of my Chiropractor visits.
  8. A strong marriage going on ten years. We've been through a lot and have seen couples shatter at less.
  9. That I'm finally starting to be able to ask for help when I want/need it, even if it's "dumb" like tonight when I needed Jason to open a jar for me but he was on the phone. I really needed it opened right away so I asked him to put down the phone and open it. Previous versions of me would have waited until he was off the phone and been mad that I had to wait... STUPID.
  10. That I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is just a teensy tiny pinprick at the moment.
  11. My washer and dryer and that I don't have to hand-wash all our clothes. I mean, I really hate hand-washing things! Hooray for machines!
  12. That I'm from Oregon so while everyone else is getting totally depressed about all the rain I just put on my raincoat and go about my business, LoL!! :)
  13. My fuzzy flannel pink sock-monkey pajamas. Lori sent them to me and I'd totally love them anyway but knowing they're from her makes them that much better!
  14. Cheese. I know it might sound stupid, but man, I really love cheese! We had a Roquefort and Apple pizza today, and cheese really does make everything better. YUM.
  15. That I'm starting to learn my way around this crazy area that I live in, and I'm also learning how better to use the GPS to make it take me where I want to go the way I want to get there! :)
  16. Hilarious people on television who make me laugh out loud instead of just on the inside.
  17. Etsy orders, hooray!
  18. My awesome mailman Mike who is super sweet.
  19. Jason and my dad cleaning up after dinner so I could put on my pajamas and relax and finish The Lost Symbol!
  20. Fridays!! :)
For even more gratitude, check out Jilliene, Heather, and Lori! Let us know if you're playing along in the Gratitude Project, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gratitude Project 2009 Day 1

A few days ago I was going through my blog archives looking for something and I stumbled across my Gratitude posts from last November (Day 1 is here). I was thinking that I should do it again this year and then I got an e-mail from Jilliene saying that she was starting again today! Great minds think alike, I guess! :) Then Heather joined in and posted today, too. I, too, am in need of refocusing on gratitude, so here we go! I'm going to try to post 20 things every day for seven days in a row, without duplicating anything (although I'm sure there will be some overlap!). Some are big and some are small and they are in no particular order, just whatever comes to me!

I am thankful (for):
  1. My sorority alumnae book group. I love these ladies! They've totally accepted me into their group even though I'm as young as or younger than most of their kids! :)
  2. Spinach and berry salad at Bittersweet.
  3. Random conversations with strangers made possible by the shared references of Seinfeld and Friends episodes!
  4. Every single person who has served or is serving in our Armed Forces.
  5. Every single one of their family members and friends who have had to sacrifice so much in support of them.
  6. That we have a good Cajun/Creole restaurant in our town.
  7. My car, which is safe and reliable and paid off.
  8. Hardwood floors.
  9. Clean water. (Click here if you don't think this is a big deal.)
  10. Society being thankful for our military, unlike during the Vietnam War.
  11. The DVR... dumb, I know, but it's so nice that Jason and I can communicate when we need to just by hitting pause on the TV instead of having to wait for commercials or annoy each other!
  12. My new phone; I now have a keypad and a decent-enough sized screen that I actually looked something up on Google today for the first time ever!
  13. All of my artist friends all over the continent that I met at Inspired and with whom I stay in contact via our blogs, Facebook, e-mail, and Yahoo Groups!
  14. Inspiration in everyday things.
  15. My husband and my dad getting along! :) And by that I mean that they do get along, not that they usually don't but are right now, LoL! :)
  16. That my parents are still married AND Jason's parents are still married... that's so unusual!
  17. My friends on Twitter who post such interesting links to articles that encourage self-growth and learning and self-improvement.
  18. Strong bonds formed in extremely trying times--relationships forged in fire are strong.
  19. Big comfy sweaters!
  20. That my biggest annoyance of the day was that Jason drank the last of my wine even though he had beer in the fridge; my day was pretty good if that was my biggest annoyance! LoL!
If you'd like to play along please leave a comment here letting us know so we can check out your gratitude list! You don't have to do 20 per day or 7 days in a row; you can do more or less or whatever suits you! There are no rules except having a spirit of gratitude! In fact, you don't even have to have a spirit of gratitude; you can be cranky and pissy and annoyed. You just need to want to have a spirit of gratitude and then look around your life for things that you should be thankful for; write up a list and you will be surprised at how quickly you start feeling more grateful! Fake it 'til you make it and I guarantee that you will make it! :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thoughts On A Train

Riding the commuter train into DC to meet my dad. Checking my e-mail on my new phone and feeling very fancy and like one of the crowd since everyone on here is doing the same thing. Loving that I can drink my coffee on here (unlike on the Metro) but thinking that I'll regret bringing it because now I'll have to carry my mug around all day. Trying out posting from my phone... we'll see if this works!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--Aunt Susan

Sixty years ago today, in a small hospital in Oregon, one of my grandmas had given birth the day before, while my other grandma would give birth the next day... yesterday was my Dad's 60th birthday, and tomorrow is my aunt's 60th birthday! The story goes that my grandmas talked back and forth across the hallway. :) Ahhh, coming from a small town! :) Great stuff. :)

But this post today is about my Aunt Susan, for two reasons: first, my dad doesn't read my blog and Susan does, and second, because something happened this week that would have caused me to do a Favorite {Photo} Friday about her even if it hadn't been her birthday this week!

I think I've mentioned my aunt on here before. When Jason and I moved here just over two years ago we came here for his job, but a big fat bonus was that my Aunt Susan and Uncle Bob lived nearby. I've always been close with my aunt and I was really excited to live so close to her.

Little did I know just how close to her I'd be living! Our plan was to stay with Susan and Bob for a week or so, until we could find a furnished apartment (which are fairly plentiful here in the DC area). We wanted to look for a house to buy (our first!) and I wanted time to do it and not feel rushed into anything. (All of our "stuff" was in military transit from Italy--talk about a slooow boat!--so there wasn't a big rush there.) Susan happily agreed to this plan when I told her while we were in Italy, but once we were at her house she invited informed me that it was stupid to waste money on an apartment and that we'd be staying with her and Bob for as long as we wanted/needed to.

We were lucky enough to buy a house when the market was... well, let's just say that it was a buyers' market; it hadn't hit bottom yet but as buyers we had our pick of a lot of homes. Add in that I'm a Maximizer and it was our first ever home purchase, and you can understand that we looked at a lot of homes! I wish I'd kept track of the number, actually! Then even after we found a home, there was--what, a month?--until closing.

In all, Jason and I lived with Susan and Bob for just over two months. I would be kicking someone's ass out after two months, no matter how much I liked them! But I can't remember a single argument between the four of us [well, okay, maybe between Jason and I, but hello, we'd moved across an ocean and were trying to buy a house! LOL!]. And even after we technically had our own house, we didn't get our "stuff" for three more months, so we had a good excuse to be regular visitors at their house. :) And since she spoiled us so much when we were there, of course we wanted to be there all the time! :)

Even as we were more settled in to our house I'd drive in to have lunch and spend time with her. We'd stay there overnight if we had an event in DC (because they live so much closer than we do and are near a Metro stop) or if it was a holiday. In the morning she'd make us waffles with berry sauce and scrambled eggs and ham. I mentioned she spoiled us, right?

But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. I knew that Susan, an Oregon girl after all, was itching to move back to Oregon when Bob retired; it's been the plan for as long as I can remember! So, this past May they bought a place in Oregon and Susan moved back; Bob will retire early next year and join her permanently.

Like I said, this happened in May, and my first bullet point in this post was about it and how I'd "almost pulled myself out of the depression it left me in. (Almost.)"

HARDY HAR HAR I say to that! Because this past Thursday Bob called me to ask if I could come by the house that weekend; they'd gotten an offer on the house (I didn't even know it was up for sale!) and he wanted me to verify which furniture we wanted. Okay, yeah, sure! So we headed over on Sunday.

Since I've been there last, Bob's loaded up a couple of pods and shipped them to Oregon. So the house is basically staged, with their own furniture and art, for showing. But even though it was their furniture and art, it just seemed... well... empty!

I was absolutely fine when we were talking to Bob about the logistics of the move, when closing would be (he'll be moving into an apartment until he leaves), etc. Then he kindly and thoughtfully went downstairs to watch football while Jason and I talked over which items we wanted to incorporate into our home.

As soon as he left I felt like, PUNCH ME IN THE GUT, why don't you? HOLY SHIT IT'S REAL. They're leaving. They're GONE. And, okay, in all honesty, Bob is a great guy, incredibly brilliant, very kind, a fabulous uncle. But really, it was more like, SHE'S GONE. She's really, really GONE.


And, I'm sorry, I know that's a gross and vulgur thing to say, but sometimes, well, sometimes it just suits.

Some notes about the above photos:

  • In the spirit of embracing vintage and my awesomely stylish friend Cindy I just scanned these in and didn't do anything except take out the red-eye.

  • The first and second photos (in reverse chronological order, since the second one was taken on our way up to the mountain and the first one once we were on the mountain is my favorite) are from a trip when Susan and Bob came to visit and took me--just me!!--up to Mt. Hood to play. It was the summertime, which is why I'm in a tank top. I distinctly remember being thrilled--thrilled!--that I got to go with them by myself without my younger sister; I also remember feeling very anxious that I would let them down and be too boring or not worth their time. As I hope you can see in the first photo, I had a blast playing in the snow with my aunt! It's one of my favorite memories and I'm soooo glad that they took the time to take me--a punky kid--up to the mountain when I'm sure there were a dozen other things (at least) they could have done instead!

  • At a much, much younger age than the previous two photos, here's me and Susan. Check out her awesome overalls! I love these photos.

  • Here's Susan teaching me wrestling. I have very clear memories of this and it happened on many occasions! In these two photos, however, she is kicking my butt! Those pajamas I'm wearing are homemade by my mom and they were so awesome that I'm surprised my aunt is beating me in our wrestling match! Like my pajamas should be super unbeatable suits or something. :)

  • In the last photo we're riding a water ride somewhere here on the East Coast. Hershey Park? We'd (meaning my mom, sister, and I) come to visit and Susan took us around someplace.
So Sus, Happy 60th Birthday! I can't begin to tell you what you've meant to me over the years and what you mean to me now. I miss the hell out of you and love you more than you can know. Happy Birthday!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--Halloween Flashback

After I just spent 40 minutes far too long editing a photo only to realize that I already put it up (unedited) as a Favorite {Photo} Friday last year for Halloween, I gave up and threw in the towel. No photo today.

Just kidding.

Instead I went over to Facebook for a few minutes and posted embarassing old Halloween photos on some friends' walls, and then I came back to find another photo. :) And I had to go back a ways!

You know how it's retro-chic now to take Polaroids, make "Fauxlaroids," and there are all sorts of Photoshop actions to make modern photos look like photos from the '60s and '70s? There are even specialty (rather expensive in my view, although they're very wee and cute) cameras that are designed to take "vintage-era" photos! Don't get me wrong, I love this effect, especially what my friend Cynthia does over at her blog Technicolor Postcards (she uses, I think). But in looking back at some of our old photos, it made me wonder if in the future it will ever be "retro-chic" to reproduce crappy early-digital camera photos from the late '90s and early '00s? 'Cause when it comes to graininess and well, general crappiness, those cameras rocked!

For example, the photos I'm about to show. :)

When Jason and I were rather newly married we lived in Ohio while he went to grad school. Of course I knew that grad school would be more rigorous and demanding than undergrad (which I didn't experience directly with Jason anyway, but considering that senior year he took an Ultimate Frisbee class and got drunk with all his friends watching Seinfeld every Thursday night lasting through Sunday, anything would be more rigorous in comparison). But what I didn't bank on was that the Civil Engineering motto is "Word hard, play hard(er)!"

What I'm saying is that (blah blah blah, boring, they all worked really, really, really hard and) we had some crazy parties in Ohio! And hello? What else is there to do in Ohio, anyway?

So, yeah, crazy parties. :)

One year they threw a big party for Halloween and you had to come in costume. As a couple. So two evenings before the party Jason and I are thinking of what we could be, as a couple. And if you don't know this, it's cold in Ohio at Halloween. So while my friends were dreaming up all sorts of sexy outfits, I was thinking, "What can we wear to be cute but also very comfy and warm?"

I don't remember how it came to me, but it did. So we drove to the grocery store, bought the necessary samples, and then I headed to Kinko's in the middle of the night to blow up the label by hundreds of percents. I did the math, even, to figure out exactly how big we needed them for the costumes! Add in some stitch-witchery, lots of felt, and plenty of OCD tendencies, and you get:

See what I mean about the crappy photos? And this is post-fix. [Siiiiigh.]

But HELLO? Funny couples costumes? YES.

Here's another beautifully crappy shot from another crappy early digital camera. We have a bunch of these types of crappy photos because everyone wanted to take photos of our hilarious (and warm and comfortable) costumes.

Just in case you don't understand why these costumes are so hilarious, first, put yourself back into a college mindset. Then, sing the song...

"Almond Joy's got nuts, Mounds don't... because, sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't!" And then of course there's the whole "mounds" thing....

Ahhhh, college. :)

Soooooo... what are you going to be for Halloween?