Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I LOVE my camera!

Since today was the day that the prospective Scrap That Moment design team members are uploading their layouts to showcase their photography it is only natural that today's Blog Challenge was to focus on our cameras. What kind of camera we we love it, etc? I wonder if Jocelyn knew what she was doing asking me to start talking about my camera. Did I mention that I LOVE my camera? Oh yeah...that is the title of this blog entry! I will try to restrain myself for the benefit of anyone who happens to read this. (You will thank me later).

I didn't start out much of a photographer...actually it is Bill who is the photographer in the family. His job used to be a photojournalist and he has been to school for it and has access to all sorts of super awesome equipment through his work and it has always been 'his' thing. His photos are awesome! The stuff I took with my little point and shoot were just our 'snapshots'...the regular tourist kinda stuff and pictures of the kids being kids, nothing amazing. Then I got bit by the scrapbook bug. And the photos I was taking started to evolve. I started paying attention to what he was doing, and to what others were doing and my photography started to improve even more. Then the BIG day came when Lynette Daniel invited ME to be one of the official photographers on HER site! I still can't believe that she put me up there with Heidi Jones and Chriss Coleman! At that time I was using a Kodak EasyShare DX6340 and was perfectly happy with it. Bill had bought himself a Panasonic FZ20 camera and was really enjoying it. He was taking awesome photos and wow that camera had a GREAT zoom on it. When we were out and about I often would ask him to get the shots that my camera couldn't get but that I could envision. Then Panasonic came out with the upgrade to his camera, the FZ30. When he held that camera in his hands it was love at first sight. He put it on layaway for himself and planned to sell his old one. Meanwhile we went on a trip to Portugal during which his camera malfunctioned. He had to send it to the manufacturer for repair and he was even more eager to get the new camera. Fast forward to Christmas day. Guess what he gave ME for my big gift??? Yup...the FZ30 that HE wanted SO very much for himself. I got a little teary eyed, it was like the gift of the Magi! I still can't believe that he gave that camera to me. It is the most awesome camera. You should SEE what that zoom can do! It has image stabilization, the screen can flip out and rotate down so if I want to hold it over my head and see what I am aiming at I can do that, I can shoot on Auto, I can use some of the presets, I can shoot manual, and all sorts of stuff in between. It is a BIG jump for me up from the Kodak, and there is PLENTY for me to learn about it's capabilities. I know I would be overwhelmed by a this camera is perfect for me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

People are People

They say you should learn something new every day. That's my way of paraphrasing today's STM Blog Challenge. Sooo...what did I learn yesterday?

It was a pretty introspective kinda day. I have been reading a lot of blogs lately...and am really enjoying getting to know the REAL people behind the blog. I even read some blogs of what I consider to be famous or well known people (in the scrapbooking world anyway). I hadn't done that up until now because I have this image of them built up in my mind as these 'beautiful people' living beautiful lives in their beautiful houses and of course creating beautiful pages about all of this. How cool to read about the same daily struggles and worries and mishaps that they are going through. Gosh some of what I read sounds like stuff that goes on in MY house! Imagine that! I have always been a bit of a perfectionist...and I am the kind of perfectionist that tends to give up something before attempting it because I feel the 'failure' that would occur if I should do something less than perfect. The horror! Sooo...with a little help from outside myself....I am going to TRY very very hard to learn (OK...I know Yoda says..."there is no TRY, only DO"...) that there are no "normal people"...there are no "abnormal people"...there are just PEOPLE. We are all Fallible Human Beings. I am a Fallible Human Being. You are a Fallible Human Being. All the 'beautiful people' are also Fallible Human Beings. It doesn't make anyone any more or less of a person that we have struggles and make mistakes. What a concept! I hope this makes even a scrap of sense to anyone who may struggle through reading it.

5 years ago yesterday....

Along with most people, yesterday was a reflecting kinda day. Remembering what it was like and how things have changed as a result. Our family had just moved to Germany at the end of August, so we didn't have a TV set up yet, no internet, and hadn't met any friends. We were just getting into the routine of the new school year and Bill's new job. Bill called me from work at about dinnertime like he usually did since we only had one car then and he would call to let me know to come pick him up from work. This time though it was to let me know that he would be working late he had no idea, that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I didn't fully grasp what he was talking about. I imagined a small a Cessna or something. I wondered why it would matter to his work...I know that some world events do since Bill works in Public Affairs and when stuff happens it is his office that the media calls to find out what is up. We couldn't talk long, I could hear the phones ringing in the background. When he finally called me back and gave me the whole story it was quite late. I wasn't sure really what to do. My first instinct was to draw my family close...and those who weren't close I wanted to get in contact with...both the let them know we were OK and to know that they were OK. I know my family lives far from the danger, but it is what I wanted then. The next day we decided to keep the boys home from school. They go to school on an army base and we felt like it would be like putting them inside a huge painted target if anything else was to happen. We live in a small little village and are the only Americans on our block. When we close our gate to the street we are completely safe and anyone driving by on the street wouldn't know what nationality the people living inside were. Bill had to go to work though...he said he hated to..but that he had to. I drove him in to work and it was a surreal experience. The day before all the gates to the military housing areas near his work were open wide and the streets going in and out of the housing area were open to all traffic. On this day there were barriers set up, sandbags, soldiers at each intersection in combat gear with M-16s. We went through several checkpoints to get into where Bill's office was...and we were all silent looking through our windows at all the soldiers with their weapons.

Since then many different "force protection" practices have been implemented. I can't really go into them...but it isn't as easy to get onto the base as it used to be, and we have gotten 'used' to seeing soldiers in their gear carrying weapons. It is to keep us safe...and it slows us down coming and going but that is the way it has to be now.

Since then we have gone to war. There are support groups in my kids school for families who have moms or dads that are deployed. There are yellow ribbons with names on them signed by little hands in the PX hoping their daddy comes back home safe. Some don't. Or some come back injured. They come back on leave and have to go again. It is hard. I am so so glad that Bill isn't in the Army any more and we don't have to worry about him going there and not coming back home.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

It's good to be the king!

Well it must have been anyway. We had a list of chores to do this weekend but the sunshine was calling to us and we just couldn't bear the thought of staying inside all weekend so we grabbed our cameras and headed towards the Rhine river to see what we could find. We ended up touring a castle near Koblenz called Burg Stolzenfels. There has been a castle on this site since the 11th century but it has been in it's present configuration since around 1836 when the Prussian Crown Prince Frederick William took possession of it and made it into his summer residence. It was a big walk up to the castle, but well worth it. What a view of the Rhine river from the castle terrace! A lot of people say it is one of the most romantic castles on the Rhine and I can see why. It is this cool yellow color and when you are in the middle of it it feels like you are in Italy and the Mediterranean garden really adds to that feeling. There was a cool knights hall with weapons and the royal bedrooms were furnished nicely too and lots of nice paneling and paintings and stained glass. Absolutely wonderful!

When we were finished at the castle we headed down the Rhine to Boppard. There is a huge oxbow in the river there and you can take a chair lift to the top of the ridge and see the view. Bill doesn't like the heights thing so we drove to the top instead. There were a few restaurants up there and a group of paragliders making use of the great upwinds from the river. We got to watch several of them taking off (or attempting to). It reminded Colin of his efforts to get his stunt kite into the air. When they finally got everything right and the wind pulled them up into the sky they went up REALLY fast! It was like a theme park ride watching them being whisked into the air. Colin and I rode the chair lift down and Bill met us at the bottom. Cool stuff!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Who can resist a challenge?

I am part of the design team at the best scrapbook community site on the internet called Scrap That Moment . Most everyone who comes to visit us agrees that it just feels like home. Some of my best friends online and in real life hang out there. One of the fun things we have going on are Challenges. There are all kinds of them. I must admit that a lot of times I think I am too busy to do them, but I am working on changing that cuz they are so much fun!

The one I worked on last night was Cari's Card Challenge. She gives us a sketch each month to base our card design on. Here is the card I came up with:

Another challenge that is fun to do (and also to see what other people do with it) is the Blog Challenge. Jocelyn (aka JWDazzle) posts these every day in the That Other Talk forum. Today's Blog Challenge Question is: When was the last time you were at a Scrapbook Store? How much did you spend? And what did you buy?

Over here in Germany we don't have very many scrapbook stores, but we are lucky to have a nice Arts and Crafts store on our base and they have a nice selection of scrapbooking goodies. I needed to get some baby girl stuff to use on the card I made for Cari's challenge so that is where I went...yesterday! Before that it had been since July when I was in the States that I had been in a scrapbook store. I didn't spend much this time (12 dollars) because I was forcing myself to only shop for this project this time...and I actually (mostly) stuck to it! I got some pink paper, some baby rub-ons, and a booklet full of rub-on stitches. I know hate rub-ons! But I love 'em...and love the look of sewing on layouts so I couldn't resist picking up those rub-ons.

Last day of our Big Bus trip.

After another long night on the bus we arrived in Prague where we had breakfast in a hotel and cleaned up as best we could in the restrooms there. We had a short tour of part of the city and then were given several hours of free time to explore. It was really geared up to be a shopping stop because they dropped us off at a crystal shop and gave everyone coupons. Not being in the market for a chandelier, vase or fine jewelry we opted for a nice stroll instead. We poked around some street vendor stalls, enjoyed some cappucino and cake, watched the clock do its big 12oclock display and looked at the renaissance market they had set up in the square. Prague is a wonderful city so it is always nice to be there and enjoy it. We wished we had more time to go up on the hill and see the sights up there but was soon time to get back on our old friend (NOT!) the bus and head for home. We got back around 10PM and were VERY ready to take showers and stretch out and sleep in our own beds!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Our big day in Budapest

Once we arrived at our hotel in Budapest everyone made a mad dash for their rooms and the showers. What a relief! We just relaxed in our room for the few hours we had before going out to the special dinner they had for us. It was a traditional Hungarian menu with entertainment with a folk band and dancers. Very colorful and exciting. I know those dancers had to be exhausted by the time the night was over.

The next day we got a tour of the city of Budapest and saw many of the beautiful buildings and bridges and views before we were free to explore on our own. We were SO glad to have gorgeous weather, blue skies and sunshine after having so much rain on our last trip. We enjoyed walking around and getting lots of pictures of the interesting architectural details on many of the buildings and bridges. Colin got to hold a hawk on his arm while we were visiting the fisherman's bastion and I know his smile couldn't have gotten any wider without pulling a muscle or something! After it got dark we met up with the bus again and took a boat ride on the Danube and saw the buildings and bridges all lit up. Magical!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Our Big Bus Trip part 1

Bill has been wanting to go to Budapest for a long time so for his birthday I booked us on a bus trip that went to Vienna, Budapest and Prague over Labor Day weekend. It was a LOONG bus ride to Vienna, we left at 7PM and got to Vienna in time to have some breakfast and start our city tour. The first place we got to look around was the gardens of the Schonbrunn Palace, after we walked around there a bit we took a driving tour of the city. We stopped at the VERY interesting Hundertwasser House and then looked at the Belvedere Palace grounds before having a bit of time to wander on our own downtown. We used that time to see the cathedral and grab some lunch before getting on the bus and heading out to Budapest.