Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Berg Eltz

We made the journey to the Berg Eltz castle this weekend, for no other reason than this was the last chance for us. We'd failed to see it so far, despite various other attempts. The Berg Eltz was truly impressive and worth the trip. We had intended to hang around for a fall hike and dine on the banks of the Mosel, but we changed the plan up a bit. We found ourselves in a pizza joint in the Netherlands instead. Why not?

We went along with another family who happen to be new to the area. This was their first castle visit and perhaps our last.  With 7 kids in tow, we opted for the English tour and wandered past artifacts, swords, armor, amid dishes that were thousands of years old. No photos were allowed inside (despite that warning there was some irritating American dude who followed behind in the tour with his humungo ipad and snapped shots once the tour left each room. Why is it that people have to go and make such bad examples of themselves? Seriously dude, put your ipad away and just follow the tour next time!)
 The Eltz family built upon the site about 1,000  years ago and still owns it. Amazingly, despite attempts to siege the castle, and various wars in the region over time, the castle has remained protected. The castle was said not to be protected by landscape or barriers, but instead, secured by the wide reaching political and social influence of the family and their social networks.
Key to happiness and longevity- friends and family eh? 
However, on the day of our visit, it was certainly under attack by children coming from every direction. They were peeking in doors....
Sword fighting on the terrace....
Sulking by cannon balls.....
And waiting to find out what we were going to do next....
So,...what do we do next? Where to this week? Stay tuned.... 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

TTE Designs

Tammie Everly must be one of the most crafty, creative people I know. She created TTE Designs and let me tell you how lucky I am that she focused a slice of her artistic creativity into jewelry!
I met Tammie eons ago in Norfolk, VA. Same squadron, Navy spouses, etc. She has always boasted a fun attitude, positive outlook, and endless creative juice.
A former nurse, Tammie has since supported me in a full assortment of ways- from writing a recommendation letter for me to sitting bedside in a hospital in Guam (ugh-  poor Tammie).
Her most recent, incredible, gift of friendship and salvage, happened to be found within, of all places, my jewelry box.
I had collected, over the years, lots of costume, commercial jewelry that truly didn't amount to much financial worth, but was special for one reason or another. Over time, an earring lost here, a broken clasp there, the sets of jewelry began to break down into almost nothing that I could wear together. I came to the point at which I needed to decide if I should just toss it all, or look for someone who might be able to salvage it. Or at the very least, if it couldn't be salvaged, I thought perhaps someone artistic might reuse it somehow. Can I help it if I'm a recycler at heart?

A fan of salvage, flea markets, and re gifting life to used or old things when possible I began to seek a solution for this sad box of what amounted to junk. So, picking up the camera, I laid out about 20 sets of jewelry and took detailed photos on grey cards to help give accurate colors to the photos. I contacted a full list of people from business cards I'd been given by family and friends who attended jewelry shows or festivals, emailing the photos and explanation to small shop owners, Etsy shops, and others. Almost everyone said they could fix things, but admittedly, I didn't like how they prepared to do it, or I'd have had to spend the kids college savings. There were suggestions for repair to include "I'd be happy to replace that clasp on your black necklace, but all I have in stock are orange ones, is that OK?" or "I can fix it for you, but I won't ship APO, so you'll have to wait until you return to the US" (Seriously?) For a time, I just gave up and let it all continue to sit.

Of all people, dear husband mentioned that Tammie had a jewelry business. He recommended that I email her. (That's how it is when you're not a Facebook lovin' gal- you have to get the scoop from hubby). Long story short, in the middle of a military move, Tammie kindly took on my sorry jewelry box full of odds and ends and gave it all a sparkling new life. What she did is a testament to her skill, creativity, resourcefulness, and talent. Don't believe me? Check out her blog with photos of the pieces and her handiwork.  and here

Her specialty isn't necessarily to repair your jewelry, as she did for me, though quite obviously she can do just about anything! She's crafted lots of jewelry and has a lovely store for you to check out. If you're looking for a great gift of jewelry for yourself or a friend, I highly recommend Tammie.
The holidays are coming up! Give her a shout! (at her blog page chok-full of craftiness) Or browse her Etsy store here.   You can purchase her talent on ArtFire as well - click here.
Thanks again Tammie- you're amazing.


Trick or Treating - tonight.
Boo! To you!

Witches Stew

by Gareth Lancaster
Bubble, blubber, squirm and gloop,
Boiling broth of bat's tail soup.
Wobble, slobber, liquid goo,
Add the sole of one old shoe.
Spooky shadows dance around,
Of frogs and rats and snarling hounds.
Steam swirls rising to the roof,
Add one small ear and one old tooth.
Gnarly, scratchy, tickle and itch,
Stir round and round to make it rich.
Mushy, sticky, sizzle and stew,
They're making mischief just for you


A Trick of a Treat

by Nancy Hughes
Dressed up little creatures
on a dark October night
run from door to door
giving everyone a fright.
They come and ring your doorbell
and before they will retreat,
they beg you for some candy
by yelling "trick or treat".
When their bags are full,
they run home to eat their fill.
They taste a bit of everything
and by morning they are ill!
So to keep the youngsters healthy,
I've figured out a deal.
This year instead of candy,
I'll give them all oatmeal!

If You've Never

by Elsie Melchert Fowler
If you've never seen an old witch
Riding through the sky--
Or never felt big bat's wings
Flopping, as they fly--
If you've never touched a white thing
Gliding through the air,
And knew it was a ghost because
You got a dreadful scare--
If you've never heard the night owls,
Crying, "Whoo-whoo-whoo?"
And never jumped at pumpkin eyes
Gleaming out at you--
If all of these exciting things
You've never heard or seen,
Why then--you've missed a lot of fun,
Because--that's HALLOWEEN!

Four Little Pumpkins
(adapted version of popular poem)

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate,
The first one said, "Oh my, it's getting late."
The second one said, "But we don't care."
The third one said, "I see witches in the air."
The fourth one said, "Let's run, and run, and run. Hurray quick! Get ready for some fun!"
Then whoosh went the wind, and out went the lights,
And those four little pumpkins rolled out of sight!

Happy Halloween (& Toussaint Holiday) to everyone!

Engagement Session- Cold Feet

Passion? Photography.
I would so very much love to work on the side as a part time pro photographer. I love photography- from the challenge of trying to capture something with my own camera, to looking at photos from long ago. If it's a photo, I'm interested. For me, there's something incredibly special about capturing a moment and aligning emotion to that moment. But my skills are far from polished. I don't have a bag filled with awesome lenses.  I work with what I have, though I know my lack of gear at this point causes me to feel limited. So it is with much frustration, despite workshops and courses, that progress feels so slow.  Nevertheless, I utterly love photography.
I do.

So it was during an engagement shoot for Tyler and Nicole last week that I was surprised to get cold feet. She's here in Belgium for a work study for one semester. He came to visit. They are engaged to be married in October next year. I was with them for about an hour to take some shots.
This session was such a learning experience. The location got changed. He showed up in a dark shirt despite a chat about 'clothing color pallate'. The weather was dreary and odd. They arrived an hour late. Trying to get them to pose in the ways that I wanted, trying to deflect their recommendations for poses that I knew wouldn't work, trying to pull emotion into the photo, or capture a twinkle of what they see in each other, that was all hard work. I came home stating that perhaps I should just stick with the hobby end of photography. Perhaps I should just save the money I'd spend on another class. Perhaps I should just sell the darn camera. Perhaps I should take up pro-wrestling.
I see error all over the shots I took. Mistakes that shouldn't have been made in the first place.
Cold feet- a quintessential sign of anxiety. And just like marriage, a house can't be built from the roof down. Perhaps it's the same for photography, or any passion.
A few days on, I've contemplated further on my chilly toes issue and realized that what has rocked my passion is foundation. So, instead of taking up pro wrestling, which might, in fact, be cheaper, it's back to the drawing board to build a stronger photography foundation all around.
In the meantime, I wish Nicole and Tyler all the best and pray that there are no cold feet for them!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Whirlwind Trip

They said they wanted to squeeze in as much as possible. I said "You'll be tired"
They said they wanted to see Paris, Brussels, Brugge, Amsterdam, castles, and initially, London, in 12 days.
I said, "You'll be tired."
Cousin Lauren's teachers gave the OK for her to miss school and take on the experience of a lifetime.
I'm so glad, cause there's a lot of things that you just can't learn from turning the pages of a book.

It wasn't long before they arrived. They hit the ground running and they stayed running, with only the occasional indication of fatigue. Amazing travelers our Aunt Christy and Cousin Lauren! They never seemed to get tired.
 They battled the crowds at Versailles, climbed the stairs of the Arc de Triomphe for a glimpse at a twinkling Eiffel Tower, snuck a peek at Moulin Rouge and Notre Dame, and said a passing "hello" to Mona Lisa.

But despite aching feet and dreary weather, they pressed onward and upward to more new and exciting destinations. Next up- castle visits....
And yet, they wanted to travel on and to continue to see as much as possible. Additionally they visited Brugge, Breendonk concentration camp, and then took a 'girls trip' to Amsterdam....
So in the city of bikes and canals, they visited the Anne Frank house museum, took a canal cruise, and viewed  Rembrandt's work in the Rijksmuseum.
The tulips weren't in seasonal bloom over the fields, but the Bloomenmarket was alive and kickn' where we'll have to say they tip-toed through the tulips (in their own way).
 They spent very little downtime. If we could, we'd have them stay another 2 weeks and we'd take them to see even more, but alas, they need to return home again.
The family misses them.

Needless to say, we're glad they came with so much enthusiasm.
We're gonna miss them too!

Friday, October 5, 2012

They're here!

We have a couple of visitors for 2 weeks. Aunt Christy and Cousin Lauren have safely arrived and will be touring a slice of Europe. We're looking forward to every minute with them (not to mention the welcome excuse to head to the Grande Place for hot waffles).
Welcome to Belgium! We hope you guys like it here as much as we do!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

All the way from Singapore

We have friends who we met here, about 4 years ago. They attended the same school initally and were a huge resource of help, advice, and support. Eventaully, as it seems everyone does in Brussels, they up and moved away. To Singapore. We've only had a chance to visit briefly once since then, but we keep in contact via emails and our family blogs. We were thrilled to have such great friends drop in for a visit with us, on their travels. We hope, very much, to see them next, either in Toronto or perhaps Virginia...who knows, maybe someday in Singapore?
We had a traditional sushi making party and then headed out to a new, local, pick-your-own farm. Great fun on a lovely sunny day here in Belgium. A good time all around.....
You are all growing like sunflowers. Wild, bright, and happy as can be. We're looking forward to seeing you guys again! Keep in touch!