Learning Something New

I’ve JUST begun a wonderful, basic online photography course. I’ve learned some working definitions of Aperture, ISO, don’t know how to adjust the exposure, or what metering EVEN IS yet (talk about a long way to go), but I’m already learning so much.

So far, I’ve had very little opportunity to practice clicking away in the daylight, so grainy, indoor, night time shots will have to do for post one.

20106246_10155618208553987_8688929711193053761_n.jpgSilly and insignificant as this may seem, it was my first time adjusting the aperture to get that vase in focus and that background out of focus. I get an F for composition, and think it’s pretty overexposed with some distracting magenta, but I LEARNED during this photo. So I give it a 10 out of 10.

I am learning this skill for my job at Sumner Academy, but have been pleasantly surprised by how much I’d like to learn this purely for the sake of personal enjoyment.

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The handiest subjects are our two pups when I’m confined to the house at night. I love seeing them snuggled into the pillows (yes, we let our dogs on the sofa whether the sofas are donning white or light beige slipcovers; the whole point is that you can pop them off and wash them clean).

I just love the way Lucy looks so nestled in and cozy.

Harley 2.JPGSnoozing Harley was next…

Harley 2_1.JPG…Though the sound of the shutter woke her right up.

Mr. S was kind enough to get the camera for me so I wouldn’t disturb the sleeping dog. If I’d gotten up myself, she almost certainly would have followed me. She’s my little shadow most days, most content within a 5-foot radius of my feet.

Harley.JPGMy little subject just kept wiggling; you can just make out her little raised front paw, as she’s hoping for affection and confused by lens zooming in toward that nose.

Ricky.JPGThen, of course, there’s my favorite subject of all, Mr. S. Those baby blues, that kind smile, and those laugh lines all around his eyes. I could look at that face all day.

Christmas Preparations

Battling week 4 of a rather brutal cough/cold I simply cannot beat and almost healed from whiplash from an automobile collision.

I finally gave in and have taken two days off from work after much deliberation and have been feeling such a strong longing to be there, but know I will not get better if I do not rest. On pins and needles wondering how the day is going, but know that I have the best team teachers in the world.

Sadly, Mr. S has caught “the funk” from me, too. I suppose it’s the time of year in which that becomes an occupational hazard for all teachers. We are giving thanks for generally good health and for no serious injuries from the car accident. IMG_6300-1The day after Thanksgiving, we brought one of our nephews home for a slumber party. We watched Christmas movies, drank hot chocolate, and decorated for Christmas. We cherished the one-on-one time with him.

I sure was thankful to have two great helpers!
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We got the place ready for celebration. Mr. S specifically requested plenty of classic red, and I happily obliged.
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I got it in my head that we’d use a galvanized tub instead of a tree skirt for our tree, and it meant poor Mr. S was basically all on his own to find one and to situate the tree safely in the tub. Isn’t love grand?
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Little ironstone pitcher full of Christmas goodness. IMG_6312

Our simple little nativity scene brings me joy and makes me feel like a little kid again. I just play with the figures, scoot them around, and imagine what those present must have thought and felt! IMG_6303

We tied pine branches to our chairs to add a little something, too.

Merry Christmas to you, wherever you may be! Letting the true reason for the season fill my heart. No need to focus on events, parties, and fancy gifts.

Enjoying time with my dear Mr. S while he is home.

Now to get well!

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Sweet Friendship

The last week of Fall Break has flown by. I’ve been able to spend time with sweet girlfriends nearly every day and it’s been soooo refreshing!

Wednesday was these two, with a comfort-food lunch of tomato basil soup, Colby Jack grilled cheese, and some pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting.

IMG_4978.JPGWe washed it all down with spiced apple cider.

IMG_4979.JPGI confess, I bought the cider from the store, but I love to “doctor” it up by simmering it on the stove with orange zest, a dash of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and PLENTY of cloves. Adding a little cinnamon stick and a slice of orange has become my habit.

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My two best girls snuggles up reading the Word. Well, one is snoring. This girl was fresh off the plane from NYC and was headed to Florida next!
IMG_5105 This bride-to-be delighted me with the news that I’d be in her wedding. IMG_5058 Celebrating a sweet friend’s wedding. IMG_5054 These roomies are just the cutest. Birthday girl on the right.

IMG_5056Friends of a close friend. I really adore them and their fascinating careers and lives. ❤

Makeover in Minnesota

OK, guys. I have some pretty fabulous aunts. One in particular, though, totally speaks my “language.” 😉

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My momma, left, and aunt, right, shopping in SD

She’s my dad’s older sister and is an adorable Music teacher with perfect pitch and is always pulled together. It’s ridiculous. I tragically share neither of those qualities with her (I’ve only got relative pitch, chippy nails, and wrinkled pants instead). However, I am pretty sure I inherited my love of teaching, home decor, organization, and cleaning from her. Also, a few years ago, I discovered that we have identical hands. These things matter.

She raised two sons who are my “big”cousins. They’re just the friendliest and funniest guys you’ve ever met, and they both married precious ladies. How is the whole family so stinkin’ adorable? Well, in the words of Garrison Keillor in Prairie Home Companion, “Minnesota, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” I guess that’s why.

My aunt and her wonderful husband moved into a home they’ve spent the last year or so renovating. The fun thing about these photos is that they’re all “progress” pictures. To me, it already looks fantastic, but they’ve got big plans to do even more!

IMG_3458First up is the entry area. How pretty and light-filled is this space? All the trim was dark and dated, but they’ve freshened it right up with new paint. Aren’t the floors lovely? My aunt got these old slipper chairs for a song and hunted for just the right fabric. When she found this gray-and-white pattern, she had them reupholstered. 
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Doesn’t she have a great eye for detail?  IMG_3473

Now we’re downstairs in the basement. Can you believe that’s what this space is? There is no dark, cave-like feeling here! It’s bright and lovely. They wisely added a second window to create a sense of symmetry and to flood the space with light.

We sat here and listened as my dad and aunt shared hilarious stories from their childhood.

IMG_3472They installed this kitchenette which is wonderful for entertaining. Sorry for the poor-quality iPhone picture. 🙂 Though you can’t see every detail, it’s pretty clear that the basement was not just an after-thought. Every nook and cranny was well thought out. 🙂

IMG_3474I loved this chair from a local artisan. It’s nestled beside a desk and piano.

IMG_3475This is a BASEMENT guest room! Can you believe it? The color palette of gray, white, and navy makes it so fresh.

IMG_3476The basement guest bath. Proof that a windowless room can feel cheerful. IMG_3479Classic subway tile with a glass detail. My aunt shared that the tile is not blue, but clear. Its seemingly-blue appearance is a reflection of the paint. IMG_3478These floors. Need I say more? 🙂IMG_3448 IMG_3447

The totally heavenly upstairs bathroom. I got to use this one during our stay and felt like I was in a luxury hotel. I would have snagged a photo of the shower, too, but it was a little tricky.

IMG_3465The upstairs living space is lovely, too. The entry, living room, dining area, and kitchen are all open to each other.

IMG_3463I love the mixture of chair styles and the wall color (Rhino by Behr).
IMG_3464Sweet pieces on the table (and you can take a tiny peak into the pretty laundry). IMG_3461The sideboard in the dining area.

IMG_3462IMG_3451Another wonderful vignette.IMG_3452

I only wish I was a better photographer, because the texture, rather than the colors, is what makes this very serene space pop. The natural fiber rug, the smooth leather, rugged brick, tweed-like upholstery, shiny throws, and reflective tray make drinking in the space a treat!

I sat here and shared an early-morning cup of coffee with her, just the two of us. ❤
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The fireplace mantel; details galore!

Next time, I hope to share two more bedrooms, another bathroom, the laundry room, and the kitchen. I can’t wait to visit again, not just to see the progress on their beautiful home, but to spend time with my amazing family. So blessed to have them.

I’m so thankful my aunt let me share this space with you. 🙂 Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Papa’s Letter Home–WWII Victory

My father’s father, our Papa, passed away when I was very young, and I often wish I’d had the chance to truly know him. I enjoy hearing stories about him, and often think of how much Mr. S would enjoy him if they’d been able to meet.

He served in the US Army during WWII. I believe he spend most of his time in Germany as a tank squad leader.

This letter once hung in my grandparents’ home and now hangs proudly in my aunt’s. It was penned by him in (then) Czechoslovakia  on May 7, 1945, the evening before official V-E Day.

I am enthralled by the details of censorship, illness, lack of water, kissing girls on the street, longing for home, Nazi suicide, a drunken SGT, poor hygiene and the joy of victory in this treasured piece of family history. I’ve done my best to transcribe it below as it originally appeared, typos and all, as I can only imagine the way his thoughts, feelings, and exhaustion affected the letter. image photo (3)

Dear family,

This is about the happiest – the most happy of days and nights that I have ever had or seen in my life – and there will only be one happier – that when I can get home. We heard the news over the radio about 4:30 this afternoon – of course we were right up here where we almost knew about it before anyone else – just had to wait for it to be officially released — I will tell you the story of that when I get home as I doubt if censorship would permit it! But to start from the beginning!

Our trip from Germany to here was rough — it rained and I had been sick for two days and am just getting over it. A case of the [flu] combined with stiff joints from the damp weather. The last time I wrote was just before we arrived back into the field and from there we came here. There were 8 of us trying to sleep in the half-truck, we got lost and it took us 24 hours to finally get here. I was miserable – “O” ‘s to eat, nothing to drink and so crowded. But it was worth it. Mother, and all of you, I will never forget the wonderful morale I get when we saw the sheer happy faces of these liberated people. Believe me, they were almost crazy with happiness. They mobbed us – had all their flags, their native costumes on, the old women and men with tears running down their cheeks – they hardly knew how to act. As we passed down the highways, they ran out to meet us – with flowers, shrubbery and all sorts of gifts. We stood on the railings of our truck and shook hands with as many as we could. MP’s and Military Czech police couldn’t keep them back. Then as we entered Pilsen – it was even worse. Our vehicle was lead vehicle and the news had spread that we were coming – mile upon mile it was the same, masses of screaming out of their mind people. We had to drive slow – when we would stop, the girls would kiss us (we didn’t object) – they would climb right up on the vehicle and actually smother you! We would pick up the ones we liked and motion to them – there was a real cute blon[d]e – and a brown haired girl that looked like Bonni G – – they were okay. The people who couldn’t crowd the streets were hanging from windows throwing flowers – we were covered. Our faces were dirty, I hadn’t shaven for four days and looked terrible — but that didn’t matter then. My headache left and I felt fine except for my stomach which is still giving me trouble. Everyone was wild – even us GI’s. They followed us to the billet area – a large gymnasim [sic] and mobbed us with paper for our signature. They did everything – carried our bed roll, cots, etc inside, brot [sic] us hot water, coffee- cognac, wine, anything – one lady kissed me and said, “Son, this is your home” – especially the old people seemed so glad. All day long they stand out-side the fence wall waiting for a glimpse of us or someone to come by to talk to them. We had to have the town mayor order them from the premises as they were too much in the way – and there are nazis’s still here – so we have to still be careful! And to today when news of peace came – they thronged outside – I went over and told a small group [that] the “war finis” which is German or french for finish. Mother, they didn’t know how to act – the[y] wept- got down on their knees and prayed, and hugged andkissed [sic] each other – and the American Flag is flying from the top most building in the city. These people seem very well off, they far out-pass the German and French we saw – dress pretty nice and look pretty much okay. A few can speak English or at least a few words – naturally, they can all speak German by new!

And how did we take the peace ! We almost went nuts too – someone pounded on the piano, we got up on the desks, pounded the track horns, turned on all the radios, blew trumpets- and just acted like a bunch of girls at a basketball tournament or something of that sort! Our first thoughts were of those going home. Every one thinks that it won’t be too long – but I personally think that it will. We have only been here three months now – and altho [sic] I sorta hope that we won’t be in the occupation troops – but I think we will stay here. T S Mnd says that all troops going to the OBI will get 21 days furloughs before they leave the states again – but I would just as soon stay here for a year then [sic] to go over there for six months. For several reason[s] the trip, the training – – – and at least now we know that we won’t be “killed or something else in action” – and that is really good conselation [sic] ! I hope that there is an army of occupation here in this country – a bunch of Czech soldiers also returned today – the streets are packed with US and Czech soldiers – the vehicles have women, flowers, GI’s in them – the people have baked cakes and brought out their best wine – – it looks like I will have a terrific time on guard tonight. I am going to sleep in the morning until ten o’clock when I go on guard again!

As for the Germans – there isn’t much left of them – we thought that the people were mobbed – so were the Germans – – they gave up with out a fight, I haven’t even fired a buillet – and they lined the roads and all the by-ways waiting to be picked up. It seemed strange but with the men were German girls who had gone fanatic over Nazi ways and they were shown no special attentions. Some of them were very young – others were old, their clothing was torn and they really looked down and under. None of them smiled but you could tell that they were glad One place in Pilsen we had to hold up the convoy for some to pass as we went through they werepacked [sic] as far up the street as we could see – nothing but blue uniforms. All seemed to have a cane or or a leg, or an arm shot off and limping. The Czech patriots helped alot [sic], they soon had rouded up all that were left in town, the German general committed suicide I guess just before the town fell. It seems nice-no more black-out, no more nothing. I wonder how the people at home are celebrating- I can see Times Square and Boradway [sic] in NYC tonight – of course at home it’s only three o’clock in the afternoon, while here it after nine o’clock in the evening.

With this phase of the war over – it brings up the post war future. I still hope to go to school. The army is going to have this I and E program that will offer some subjects and use soldiers as teachers – – I would like to get something like that – it certainly would be a good basis to startfrom [sic] when I do get out. The end of the war makes you feel like you are so much closer to a discharge – and that is what we all really pray for almost every night. All of us from up in that neck of the woods got together tonight and discussed how wonderful it would be to getto [sic] Fort Snelling at once and getour [sic] discharges – and that trolley ride out of camp – andknow [sic] that it was goodbye for good, then Pat and Omer and I catch the next train or bus and in 8 hourse — be home for good! That will be the happiest day, no doubt about it!

This place is like a morge [sic] tonight – everyone who isn’t on duty has taken off to town. I perhaps won’t beable [sic] to halt a person at all. The Czech’s wanted to pull our guard for us – – they said they would form a solid ring around the place – but that couldn’t be done – -you know the army!

I trust that you got the hints I threw about being in Nurnberg [sic] (mentioned all the Nurnberger people and Delmer N – the teacher) that is where we had the nice room but for only 2 nights – and I didn’t even get a chance to take a bath!

I’ll bet any amount of money that the other guy who is to be guard with me is drunk someplace and will never show up – he is a character, Sgt Barber – the company barmer [sic] which remins [sic] me that I need a haircut.

Well gang – and Lois (I guess this hasn’t exactly been a letter to just you) this is all for tonight – I got my first package the otherday [sic] – every thing waspefect [sic] – the candy tasted so good on the move out here – and thanks alot. I am using the laces – they are much better and candles are tops! Am waiting for the next one new! Write often and pray that we will all be seeing each other soon. Over here we thank god for Victory [this word, the last, was written by hand]

Love – Arthur10570547_627738606102_5628720563303040116_n