Tuesday, December 31, 2013

365/365 The End


With the posting of this photo I have completed my first project 365 without missing a single day throughout the year. It was challenging; it was fun; it was frustrating; it was validating; it was daunting; it was amazing! I have learned so much this year, a lot of it about photography, but also much about myself, others and the world. I have learned what it is like to see the world, both the interior and the exterior, with new eyes and an open heart and mind. I have learned what it is like to share sorrow and joy amidst a community of people whom I only know through their daily photographs. And, I have learned that this entire experience has become such an integral part of who I am and who I strive to be that I can't imagine not continuing on and on and on....with a picture a day.

There have been days where I have had to wrestle the photo and then there are days when the photo wrestles me. Today was the latter of those days. For several months I have thought about what my final image of the year would be. I had several possibilities working. As I picked up my camera today for the last shot of 2013, suddenly none of them would do. The image of the mobius strip came to me; I had to do something with it. This may not be the most creative photo, but it does speak to me of this day that is both the end and the beginning.

May 2014 be a year of blessings, peace and adventure to each of you and those you love.

A Day (And Night) Out

As we get older and really don't need anything, it becomes harder to find and give meaningful Christmas gifts, gifts that aren't simply a placeholder beneath the tree.  This year we all made lists.  Because this is a family of avid readers, most of the lists included several books.  We are also a family of foodies so many of those books were cookbooks; along those lines, there were also a few kitchen sundries on various lists.  Though Weber did ask for a few books, his list was primarily things that he did not want - namely clothes and anything that had to be put together and then picked up and put away.  His one exception to the clothes rule was socks.  Well, not actually sockS, but a sock; particularly the one to go with the one sock I gave him for his birthday a year and a half ago.  I am happy to say that he did indeed have one sock wrapped under the Christmas tree.   And one shall become two....the story about either socks or divorce.  Back to the sock...one sock, no matter how long you have been waiting for it, does not make for a very exciting Christmas.

I wracked my brain trying to think of something that Weber would enjoy, that would be fun, that he did not have to wear or put together.  Because his father worked for the railroad and Weber grew up around "train people" I decided on a train ride.  Though a month or so touring the country on Amtrak would have been awesome, time did not allow for that so I settled for an afternoon's ride on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad.  The train route is from downtown Grapevine to the Fort Worth stockyards (about a ninety minute ride).  There is a two hour "layover" at the stockyards and then the train returns to its original point of departure via the same route.

We arrived in Grapevine about an hour and a half before our departure time.  Though Grapevine is most often thought of in relation to DFW airport and big shopping malls, it has a very quaint, old-time feeling main street, which is where the train depot is located.  Main Street is lined with all kinds of specialty shops. restaurants, and even an olive oil tasting place.  The street was all decked out for Christmas.  You couldn't help but smile at all of the holiday cheer.

The local funeral parlor had a Nativity scene out front.  I had to chuckle at how Mary and Joseph, or maybe it was the three wise guys, decorated their Christmas tree.

Thirty minutes before our departure time we made our way to the depot to wait for the train.  We checked in and were given our boarding passes.

Here's our car.

We handed over our boarding passes and off we went.

The train runs weekends from mid-February through Christmas.  Our trip yesterday was the last run for the train until February 15, 2014.  There are specialty events on the train throughout the year as well.  As you can see, the car is all decorated for Christmas.

I believe that one of the things that keeps us young and able to find joy in life as we get older is to be able to experience something with a childlike spirit every now and then.  There is no doubt that as the years pass and we have done more and more things and been more and more places, that becomes difficult.  It is not impossible though;  seeking out such experiences is something that we should all do more frequently than we probably do.

This is the face of a happy (little) boy :-)

The trip to Fort Worth took a little longer than normal because of traffic on the tracks.  Who knew there are enough trains in the metroplex to cause a train traffic jam!  We did learn that there is a hierarchy for train traffic if multiple trains are on the same track.  First priority goes to military trains.  Then Amtrak.  Next is freight trains.  And lastly, tour trains; that was us so we were delayed.  Several passengers were upset about our late arrival in Fort Worth because that meant we only had about an hour and a half in Cowtown.

Here's a question:  If your goal for an afternoon is to spend time visiting Fort Worth, why would you ride a train that takes probably twice as long to get there and is on a schedule?  Though we enjoyed a plate of fried pickles and a walk around the stockyards, that was ancillary entertainment.  We were in it for the train ride.  It is not surprising that this same group of people was upset when the return trip also took longer than expected.  The children on the train were much more patient and quiet than a particular group of adults.  Enough said.

To make the day a little more of a special occasion, we decided to spend the night at the Gaylord Texan, a big resort hotel that has many special attractions during the Christmas season. One of which is Ice, an exhibit of figures carved from tons of blocks of ice.  This year's theme was The Nutcracker and there was a bonus section of scenes from New York City.

The temperature in this exhibit is 8 degrees.  Each person is given a temperature appropriate jacket to borrow as they enter the hall.

It is amazing to realize that all of these things are carved by hand, that the artists have to carve in these 8 degree temperatures for days on end as the works of art are taking form.  Maybe they should take up butter carving at the State Fair!  At least the working conditions are not quite as frigid.

We enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel.  One of the advantages to staying the night is the Weber did not have to be the designated driver and could therefore enjoy a beer.  Our meal was not fancy; we actually ate at the sports bar, but it was very, very good.  Just what we, who are not fancy people, wanted.

After dinner we strolled through the huge hotel atrium that was also heavily decorated for Christmas. There were lights, figures (not carved from ice) and model trains amidst greenery and an inside river walk.

We had a wonderful 24 hour respite between the busy-ness of our birthday and Christmas week and the return to work next week.

364/365 Leftover

"A Christmas Train Rife"

Here is December 30th's post, a little late...more on that in the next post.  All is good!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

363/365 Connected

"Out of Power"

After three birthdays and Christmas I am officially our of power.  Seemingly so is the Internet at our house. AT&T can't do anything about that until tomorrow afternoon.   I guess we all need a break every now and then.  It is amazing how disconnected I feel without an Internet connection! 

There is nothing creative at all about this photo, but it pretty much sums up the day...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

362/365 A Potrait

"My Two Lensbabies"

 Today is my 52nd birthday.  I'm not sure why disclosing one's age has always been on the socially unacceptable list.  It is what it is.  There are days when I look and feel far beyond my years; then there are those days when I feel much younger.  The truth is, no matter how young or old you look or feel,  where you are is where you are and it is much better than the alternative.

This is the first birthday that I have celebrated after having finally succumbed to Facebook.  I'm glad that a friend convinced me back in July that I needed to join.  It was a great feeling to wake up this morning to a number of birthday wishes on my timeline.  As the day progressed, the birthday wishes kept coming.  What a blessing to know that for at least a little bit of time today, so many people thought of me.  I am honored to be surrounded by so many friends both old and new and near and far.  

My own birthday wish was for a simple celebration with my family.  My beloved husband took me out for breakfast this morning.  This afternoon Erin and I did a little shopping while Brooke and Weber prepared the birthday meal that I requested - cauliflower macaroni and cheese with green chili sauce and cole slaw.  I know; it sounds strange.  Just consider the source.  It all makes sense now, right?  It was an awesome meal.  Rather than a birthday cake, I also asked for oatmeal, peanut butter and chocolate chip scones.  There is definitely an advantage to having a live-in baker.  (There are also some disadvantages, but we won't go there right now.)  Weber made the coffee to go with the scones.  It was an absolutely perfect birthday meal!

Those in my family are also great gift givers.  I received several books - some that I specifically asked for and others chosen "especially for me."  Brooke reads many literary blogs and keeps an eye out for things that she thinks that others might like.  She gave me two such things.  She did the same for Erin for Christmas.  Erin was thrilled because she has a hard time choosing what book to read next.  She suggested that her sister might start a "personal reader" service.  Always the mind of an entrepreneur.

For those who aren't as sure what to give, there were Amazon gift cards.   I suppose I could just turn them over to Brooke so that she can keep my bookshelf current.  Weber got me a jacket that I had asked for and, as it turns out, a new microwave.  The latter was neither requested or intended but as we were preparing for dinner and Brooke was trying to melt some chocolate, she chimed in with, "Um...chocolate melts at 88 degrees and this stuff has been in there for five minutes and nothing is happening."  Bad sign!  Weber did a little research and discovered that although we are not sure of the nature of the exact ailment from which the microwave is suffering, it is clear that it is going to be more expensive to fix it than replace it.  Hello....Amazon.com  Being the nice guy that he is, Weber didn't even ask for my Amazon gift card.

Erin went through my blog posts from the last year and collected her favorite pictures and had a photo book made for me.   She arranged the pictures into various categories: Capture Your Surroundings, Capture Nourishment, Capture Your Adventures, Capture Your Fellow Man, Capture the Everyday, Capture Family, Capture the Beauty of the Earth, Capture Your Love, Capture Whimsy and Capture Yourself.  Seeing the images from the past year collected in one place is an awesome way to reflect on all of the blessings that I received during 2013.

As a final gift, Erin and Weber both helped with the daily prompt.  They have both been such good sports when it comes to being in front of the camera.  Each has bailed me out many times over the year when I have needed a smiling face to accomplish the daily photo prompt.  You guys are awesome!

I had a great day!  Thank you to everyone who had a part in making that happen!

Friday, December 27, 2013

361/365 Well Used

"Blessed Art Thou Among Women"

This is a rosary that belonged to Weber's grandmother.  The rose petal beads were made from her mother's funeral flowers.  Though rose petal beads start out rose colored, over time and with use they turn black.  These beads are black having been prayed with by now four generations.  I was struck by  how the bokeh is pink, as if the light and life of those roses still live within the beads.

Hail Mary full of grace
The lord is with you.
Blessed art thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

360/365 Reckless

"The Greatest Gift"

After sleeping in this morning, I spent some time this afternoon playing with my new Christmas toy, a Lensbaby lens.  This is a mirrorless special effects lens system that has a very small "sweet spot" of focus that is achieved manually.  My vision makes it a little challenging, but I am having fun trying to conquer the learning curve.

I had in mind a different quote to accompany this image, one that more directly speaks to today's prompt of "reckless"; however, when I went to the Internet to verify that I was remembering that quote correctly, I stumbled across this one and decided that it spoke to me more loudly and clearly today for several reasons.  First of all,  relying solely on my own eyes to focus this lens rather than the auto focusing help that my regular lenses afford could be very frustrating.  I choose not to let it be.  Thanks to digital photography I can keep shooting until I get it right!  But more importantly, though our society tries to tell us that the Christmas season is all about material things, it's not.  The true spirit of Christmas is all about the love we give and receive from the heart.  Without that, no amount of stuff will create happiness, joy, peace or love, all those things that are wished for in this season of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

359/365 Christmas

"Beethoven's First"

It is hard to believe that Christmas Day has come and gone already.  I'm not exactly sure how it all happened but I think everyone had a good day.  As far as Christmases go, we had a relatively low-key day.  That was OK with me.

I learned one thing today.  My family is a bunch of serious enablers!  They all gave me great gifts, many of which will support my photography obsession journey.  I got everything from a new camera strap, to a flash and, from Erin, the Bible illustrated with pictures done with Lego minifigures.  Yes, there is a God minifigure somewhere!

I also got a Beethoven action figure.  Like most things (and people) in my world, he quickly became a model for a round of pictures.  Photographing him with some of my new Christmas toys sparked my creativity.  During the month of December I have been looking at all kinds of photos of people's Elf on the Shelf shenanigans.  They have been super creative and a lot of fun to look at.  I have decided that I am going to photograph my friend Ludwig throughout 2014 in this same vain.  I'm sure he will get into some mischief in the new year and I want to be there to document his every move along the way.  OK, reality check.  I probably won't photograph his every move.  My goal right now is to capture at least one photo of him each week.  So here we begin - Beethoven's first - of 52.

I didn't do a very good job with taking pictures during the day today.  I think I was too busy reading instructions and playing with new stuff...and eating.  As I looked through the day's photos it is funny to me the one that emerged as my favorite.  I'm not even sure why, but here it is.

Brooke painting Erin's fingernails with silver polish.  This was then followed by another coat with red and silver sparkles.  How silly is this?  I love it.

I hope that you all had a blessed Christmas Day however you celebrated.  May joy and peace fill your hearts and homes during this Christmas season and in the new year to come.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

358/365 By the Chimney With Care

"Merry Christmas to all
and to a good night!"

Harley tried to stay awake and watch Santa fill stockings, but it was late and she couldn't keep her eyes open or her ears perked for another minute.

Monday, December 23, 2013

357/365 Jolly Ol' St. Nick

"Welcome to Adulthood"

My baby turned 21 today.  I have successfully raised all of the offspring to adulthood. Is it time for retirement now?

It is hilarious to me that the day's prompt is St. Nick.  Erin despises Santa Claus, always has.  We have zero pictures of her on Santa's lap.  And, we have zero ornaments or decorations depicting Santa.  Erin has always said that she believes Santa to be kind of creepy.

Erin made her way into adulthood today with not a lot of pomp and circumstance.  We planned a girl's day at the mall, but it was less than fruitful.  The birthday girl found nothing.  But she is still smiling because we managed to avoid going anywhere near Santa's cottage.

"Happy 21st!"

We then went out for dinner.  Her dad wanted her to order a drink - just because she could.  She finally did, but I don't think that it was the highlight of her day.

After dinner we headed home so gifts could be opened and cake could be eaten.  Brooke made her a brown butter cake with apple butter between the layers and a thin coating of butter cream frosting.  It was delicious!

"Birthday Cake No. 21"

We'll all have a quiet day tomorrow  before I sing for two services tomorrow night and Erin does her duty in the church nursery.  Christmas morning will be here before we know it;  hopefully we'll not be too exhausted to enjoy the day.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

356/365 Glow

"Happy 24th, Brooke!"

Let the celebrations begin!  Today is the first in our week of birthday celebrations - Brooke, Erin and me and sandwiched there in the middle is Jesus.

Being the creature of habit that she is, we celebrate Brooke's birthday the same way each year - dinner out and a movie.  Tonight's dinner was supposed to be Ethiopian fare, but the restaurant of choice was closed for a private party.  How rude!  Plan B was Indian food.  It was a very good alternative.

Books have always a favorite gift of Brooke's.  As of late, cookbooks are a safe bet.  I have to laugh at the recipe she is showing us here.  "Good Morning Sunshine Bars" - this kid does not use the words "good" and "morning" in reference to one another.  We'll see if she actually makes these bars.  Perhaps they will convince her that morning is an OK time of day.

Another birthday tradition for her is to go to a movie.  This started on her third birthday, back in 1992, when we took her to see The Lion King, which was brand new.  Where have the years gone!  In the last few years, I have opted out of the movie routine.  Brooke's taste in movies has evolved into one that enjoys intense drama and violence.  I have not evolved much past The lion King in what I enjoy in a movie.  She and her sister are now perpetuating the birthday movie tradition while I am at home watching a Barbara Walters special that I recorded last week.  See.  This explains why Brooke and I don't go to the movies together.

When she gets home from the movies, Brooke will begin baking her sister's birthday cake.  This has become the newest element to her birthday traditions.  As a baker herself, she never really wants a birthday cake herself.  She is much happier with some kind of savory ethnic food.

Tomorrow will be another day of birthday celebration!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

355/365 How's The Weather?

'A Peaceful Rain"

Today was a gray and rainy day.  This afternoon, once the heavy rains had stopped, I took a walk outside.  I was struck by the vibrant colors of these fallen leaves.  Against the surrounding grayness of the day, they just jumped out.  I may have also noticed them because of the gentle dance they were doing as they floated through the puddle.  

I was surprised by how blue the sky looks as it is reflected in the puddle.  It seemed dull and gray as I looked up at it.  I'm sure there is a metaphorical lesson in that somewhere.

Though I do love the colors in the above image, I feel a little guilty using it as documentation of today's weather.  I played around with some of the other shots from today, converting them to black and white since my perception of the day is that it was gray and colorless.  I like the way this one came out.  The raindrop covered leaves seem to be reaching out. 

"Gray, Rainy and Beautiful"

Friday, December 20, 2013

354/365 Lit Up

'A Different Perspective On Light"

We have officially made it to Christmas break!  If I had an extra week I might be ready to face Christmas.  As things stand right now, I'm not.  Most of the "stuff" that needs to be done is done.  I have even wrapped most of what needs to be wrapped.  My issue this year seems to be a mental thing.  My head just can't wrap itself around the fact that Christmas is five days away.  Im not sure where or how  I got off track this year, but it is a very weird feeling.

We did go to the symphony last night to hear their Christmas concert.  For a couple of hours I was in the Christmas spirit.  Other than last night's concert, I don't even feel like I have listened to much Christmas music this season.  Usually by this time of year, even before Christmas, I have heard so much of it I'm ready to just move on.

This funk I'm in seems to be manifesting itself in my photos as well.  We went to look at a nearby light display tonight.  It is beautiful and unquestionably quite festive.  I took lots of photographs, but none of them really moved me.  It seemed like there was something not quite right with each of them.  With many of the images, the problem was the same; there were pole lights illuminating the sidewalks that distracted from the beauty of the tree lights.  Many people would probably overlook this, but once I noticed it, that was all I could see.  I loved the colors of the lights, the shapes of the trees and their reflection in the water.  Those path lights though, even with decent starbursts, were just plain annoying to me.

I thought about trying to edit out the lights.  First of all, that was more time and effort than I had to give to this project and secondly, the path lighting was also reflected in the water so they really couldn't be removed without creating another level of weirdness in the photo.  I liked the way the reflection of these lights looked, even with the undesirable pole lights.  I then decided to try an experiment.  I flipped the photograph vertically thus placing the trees' reflection "right side up" and the actual trees in the place of the reflection.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Suddenly the light from the intrusive path lights looked like stars shooting from amidst the trees and the lights themselves as the stars that had landed on the ground..  These lights became much less of a distraction.  And the abstractness of the now upright trees spoke to me.  This photo is meant to be upside down, which is now right side up.

All week long I have been playing with different lights and lighting effects.  Tonight's outdoor shots are a continuation of that.  I was happy to create the starburst effect with the lights on branches of this tree.

Here is an image of the trees and their reflection "correctly" oriented.  I managed to avoid all but one of the annoying lights in this one.

For some reason, I don't like this as much as the flipped image.

This next photo is also indicative of my weird state of mind.  I was created with intentional camera motion.  It gives the trees an interesting feeling of dimension.  I may not like it tomorrow, but tonight I find it somewhat fascinating.

I hope that a good night's sleep that involves no alarm clock in the morning will snap me out of this mood and get me ready to enjoy the girls' birthdays and then Christmas.

353/365 Reindeer

"More Reindeer Games"

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

351/365 Quiet

"Not Stirring"

I didn't have as much quiet in my day today as I would have liked.  I had to go to school this afternoon to meet with a prospective student and then give a placement exam.  This evening we had a fantastic dinner with friends.  It is so nice to share a meal in the quiet of someone's home rather than amidst the noise of a restaurant.  So many eating establishments now have multiple TVs and music playing as well as lots of people trying to talk over the multiple TVs and music that conversation is next to impossible.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to come close to finishing the last of the cleaning and decorating.  Then maybe I'll have a few hours to spend like the little guy above!

Monday, December 16, 2013

350/365 Hospitality

"Home and the Holidays"

This photo is more about how I finally got some decorating done than it is about hospitality.  I guess hoping that all who enter our home are blessed with love and laughter tends toward hospitality....sort of...loosely...???

Weber received a "secret" package in the mail this afternoon.  I wasn't allowed to look, but he did give this guy, who was hitchhiker in the box.  Now that the tree is up, I wanted to play a little with bokeh.  Maybe tomorrow it will have shapes.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

348/365 Christmas Wish

"Grown-up Christmas List"

I got my grades submitted this afternoon and now I can think about Christmas.  So what do you think was the first thing that I did?  I had a meltdown.  I realized how close Christmas is and how little I have done to prepare.  I am in such deep trouble!  My Amazon Prime membership will probably pay for itself this weekend!

Tonight we finally dragged the tree out of the garage.  It is up and its lights are plugged in, but it has no ornaments yet.  And, there are no other decorations anywhere...except the pumpkin that is still sitting in the dining room.  I feel like we are going to have so little time to enjoy the Christmas decorations at this point that it is hardly worth the time and trouble of putting them up.  I really dislike taking them all down and packing them away too.  .I think I just need an attitude adjustment and perhaps a little sleep.  

Today was selfie #12 for the year.  They have gotten so much easier over the past twelve months.  Granted, this is not exactly a true selfie since you can't see my face, but I have taken several other true selfies this month so this one counts.  I said so and I'm in a bad mood  The important thing here is not me anyway; it is the Christmas list.

One of my all-time favorite Christmas songs is "Grown-up Christmas List" sung by Amy Grant.  When I read the day's prompt I knew that I wanted to try and incorporate the song into my picture somehow.  I didn't quite get the image that I saw in my head, but it is close enough and that's OK.  What is important, is the song lyrics.

"No more lives torn apart,
that wars would never start
and time would heal all hearts.
Everyone would have a friend,
right would always win,
and love would never end."

This is my grown-up Christmas list.

Friday, December 13, 2013

347/365 No Peeking

"Can I Peek?"

I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as a mentor for this little sixth grader.  Today was our last meeting before the holidays so I got to give her her Christmas gift.  It has been a while since I have shopped for a girl this age.  I enjoyed the chance to again peruse the children's section of the bookstore looking for just the right book for her.  I finally settled on "I've Lost My Hippopotamus" by Jack Pruletsky.  I also made her a hot pink and purple hat, colors that I never knit with for my own girls.

She wasn't sure whether she got to open her gifts today or if she had to wait until Christmas.  After a little hesitancy, she asked if she could open it and was thrilled that the answer was "yes".  We had a good time reading silly poems together and talking about how our families celebrate Christmas.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

346/365 Through My Window

"Through the Window to the Door"

"They're home.  They're home!  THEY'RE HOME!!!