Saturday, January 22, 2022

Composer Study - Ludwig von Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven, a German composer and pianist, was baptized on December 17, 1770 and died on March 26, 1827. According to Wikipedia, "He remains one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music; and his works rank among the most performed of the classical music repertoire and span the transition from the Classical period to the Romantic era in classical music. 

"His career has conventionally been divided into early, middle, and late periods. His early period, during which he forged his craft, is typically considered to have lasted until 1802. From 1802 to around 1812, his middle period showed an individual development from the styles of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and is sometimes characterized as heroic. During this time, he began to suffer increasingly from deafness. In his late period, from 1812 to 1827, he extended his innovations in musical form and expression."

Beethoven's musical talent was obvious at an early age. His father, Johann van Beethoven, taught the young Ludwig very harshly and intensively. Later, he was taught by Christian Gottlob Neefe who was a composer and conductor. It was under Neefe's direction, in 1783, that Beethoven published his first work, a set of keyboard variations. 

Coming from a dysfunctional home, he found relief with the family of Helene von Breuning, whose children he befriended, loved, and taught piano. At the age of 21, he moved to Vienna and studied composition with Haydn. 

In 1800, Beethoven's first major orchestral work, the First Symphony, premiered, and his first set of string quartets was published in 1801. Despite the deterioration of his hearing during this period, he continued to conduct, and premiered his Third and Fifth Symphonies in 1804 and 1808, respectively. 

Beethoven was almost completely deaf by 1814, and he then gave up performing and appearing in public. Wikipedia states, "He described his problems with health and his unfulfilled personal life in two letters, his Heiligenstadt Testament (1802) to his brothers and his unsent love letter to an unknown 'Immortal Beloved' (1812). After 1810, increasingly less socially involved, Beethoven composed many of his most admired works, including later symphonies, mature chamber music, and the late piano sonatas."

His late string quartets which were written in his last years, including the Grosse Fuge, are among his final achievements. He died in 1827 after some months of bedridden illness. Beethoven's works remain the mainstays of classical music repertoire.

Olivia listened to three pieces composed by Ludwig von Beethoven and commented on them below.

Fur Elise 

- This is a classic piece that everyone knows.

- I've listened to it on Spotify.

- At around 1 minute, I don't like that part. Then when it changes back, at 1:23, I like that. 

- At 1:50 - I didn't care for that part either. I like the nice, flowing part at 2:23 again.

Sonata - Claro de Luna 

- I prefer the violin version of this one. It seems to flow a little bit better.

- It is a lot of the same thing. That's pretty common for sonata. 

- It is very's not sad.

Fifth Symphony

- Right...this one. I've heard this a lot. 

- Wasn't this in the Little Einsteins...the ones who were going into a cave?

- At 1:27, that's the part I hear a lot. 

- I like this one. 

Composer Study - Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy, a French composer, was born on August 22, 1862, and died on March 25, 1918, and is sometimes seen as the first Impressionist composer. 

According to Wikipedia, Debussy was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. "Born to a family of modest means and little cultural involvement, Debussy showed enough musical talent to be admitted at the age of ten to France's leading music college, the Conservatoire de Paris. He originally studied the piano, but found his vocation in innovative composition, despite the disapproval of the Conservatoire's conservative professors. He took many years to develop his mature style, and was nearly 40 when he achieved international fame in 1902 with the only opera he completed, Pelléas et Mélisande.

Debussy's music was a reaction against the German musical tradition. "He regarded the classical symphony as obsolete and sought an alternative in his 'symphonic sketches'....His piano works include sets of 24 Préludes and 12 Études. Throughout his career, he wrote melodies based on a wide variety of poetry, including his own."

Wikipedia also stated that, "His works have strongly influenced a wide range of composers including Béla Bartók, Olivier Messiaen, George Benjamin, and the jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans. Debussy died from cancer at his home in Paris at the age of 55 after a composing career of a little more than 30 years."

Olivia listened to four pieces by Claude Debussy and had comments about them while she listened to them. The songs are below.

Clair De Lune

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 

- I don't think I've heard this one. I've played a couple of his pieces of his before, but this one doesn't sound familiar at all. 

- It is a relaxing song. 

- It's not sad, but it's not overly happy either. 

- It's a very soft piece. The lower keys...the's flowy.

Arabesque No. 1 

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 

- I might have played this song. I'm guessing that it is either this one or the other one (Arabesque No. 2).

- He does a lot of flowy pieces. In terms of rhythm, they are much easier to play. You don't have to be right on the dot with it which is nice. 

- This is definitely a harder version than what I played. I also think that the piece I played wasn't this long. 


Olivia's thoughts and comments: 

- He was the only composer who I know of who wrote the accents and some of his terms that you have in music in French. I believe it was him. Everything else is Italian-based.

- I feel like he does a lot of scale work. It makes it easy [to play] since you're only going up or down the scale. 

- The chords do sound nice together starting at 3:21.

- You can always tell when the ending is coming up with his pieces. It's always a soft ending.

The Girl with the Flaxen Hair

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 

- It's like he is watching the girl from afar. Saying that out loud, it kind of sounds creepy. 

- Soft ending.

- That's a short piece. 

- I liked his music. It was nice. His stuff falls in the more contemporary area of music. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Composer Study: Antonín Dvořák

Antonín Leopold Dvořák, a Czech composer, was born on September 8, 1841 and died on May 1, 1904. He was one of the first Czech composers to achieve worldwide recognition. 

According to Wikipedia, "Dvořák frequently employed rhythms and other aspects of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia, following the Romantic-era nationalist example of his predecessor Bedřich Smetana. Dvořák's style has been described as 'the fullest recreation of a national idiom with that of the symphonic tradition, absorbing folk influences and finding effective ways of using them.'"

From the age of six years old, Dvořák was a talented violin student. In 1872, the first public performances of his works were occuring in Prague. Wikipedia also stated that "in 1874, he made a submission to the Austrian State Prize for Composition, including scores of two further symphonies and other works. Although Dvořák was not aware of it, Johannes Brahms was the leading member of the jury and was highly impressed. The prize was awarded to Dvořák in 1874 and again in 1876 and in 1877, when Brahms and the prominent critic Eduard Hanslick, also a member of the jury, made themselves known to him. Brahms recommended Dvořák to his publisher, Simrock, who soon afterward commissioned what became the Slavonic Dances, Op. 46."

Wikipedia continues, "In his career, Dvořák made nine invited visits to England, often conducting performances of his own works. His Seventh Symphony was written for London. Visiting Russia in March 1890, he conducted concerts of his own music in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In 1891, Dvořák was appointed as a professor at the Prague Conservatory. In 1890–91, he wrote his Dumky Trio, one of his most successful chamber music pieces. In 1892, Dvořák moved to the United States and became the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City. The President of the National Conservatory of Music in America, Jeannette Thurber, offered Dvořák an annual salary of $15,000 – an incredibly lavish sum for the era (equivalent to $432,056 in 2020), 25 times what he was paid at the Prague Conservatory. While in the United States, Dvořák wrote his two most successful orchestral works: the Symphony From the New World, which spread his reputation worldwide, and his Cello Concerto, one of the most highly regarded of all cello concerti.

"In the summer of 1893, Dvořák moved from New York City to Spillville, Iowa, following the advice of his secretary, J.J. Kovarík. Dvořák had originally planned to come back to Bohemia, but Spillville was made up of mostly Czech immigrants, and thus he felt less homesick....This is where he wrote his most famous piece of chamber music, his String Quartet in F major, Op. 96, which was later nicknamed the American Quartet. 

"Shortly after his time in Iowa, Dvorák extended his contract at the National Conservatory for another two years. However, the economic crisis of April 1893 resulted in Thurber's husband's loss of income, and directly influenced the National Conservatory's funding. Shortfalls in payment of his salary, along with increasing recognition in Europe and an onset of homesickness, led him to leave the United States and return to Bohemia in 1895. 

"All of Dvořák's nine operas, except his first, have librettos in Czech and were intended to convey the Czech national spirit, as were some of his choral works. By far the most successful of the operas is Rusalka

Dvořák has been described as "arguably the most versatile... composer of his time". In fact, as a celebration of his life and works, there's an annual Dvořák Prague International Music Festival. 

Olivia's comments:
- It kind of seems like it would be a lullaby. It kind of has that sad tune to it. It's not terribly cheerful.
- It's nice - there's more emphasis on the violin than the piano as the piece goes on. 
- That was short. 
- It definitely seemed more like a lullaby.

Olivia's comments:
- Did he not have any happy songs? 
- Silent Woods - shows that it won't be terribly energetic. It feels like you are in a creepy forest. Just listening to it, you can feel it. 
- It may be a silent forest, but this feels more like a dead forest or a forest in wintertime. Normally, forests have a lot of sound with the birds. 
- It sounds like he's more fond of the violin in his music.

Olivia's comments:
- I can hear the sonatina - the parts repeat.
- It changes...and then it goes back. There are three different parts of it. 
- The violin is better in this piece. Songs in major keys tend to be happier and lighter.
- The tempo has changed (from the first two pieces) to a much faster one. 
- Compared to the other two pieces, this one was much better for me. 

Olivia's comments:
- It's in the middle - it's not super sad, but it's not super happy. 
- This sounds like a song you'd maybe play to help kids fall asleep. 
- It's nice to hear it on the harp. I think the main instrument he liked to compose for was the violin. 
- It was more of an abrupt ending than I thought. I pictured more of a slower ending. 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Composer Study - Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn was born Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, and became a German composer, organist, pianist, and conductor of the early Romantic period. He was born on February 3, 1809, and died on November 4, 1847. 

Mendelssohn's compositions include piano music, organ music, concertos, symphonies, and chamber music. According to Wikipedia, "His best-known works include the overture and incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Italian Symphony, the Scottish Symphony, the oratorio St. Paul, the oratorio Elijah, the overture The Hebrides, the mature Violin Concerto, and the String Octet. The melody for the Christmas carol Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is also his."

Mendelssohn was born into a prominent Jewish family and was a grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. According to Wikipedia, "He was brought up without religion until the age of seven, when he was baptized as a Reformed Christian. Felix was recognized early as a musical prodigy, but his parents were cautious and did not seek to capitalize on his talent."

He enjoyed success early in his career in Germany, and revived interest in Johann Sebastian Bach's music, notably with his performance in 1829 of the St Matthew Passion. He was well-received in his European travels as a conductor, composer, and soloist; his ten visits to Britain – during which many of his major works were premiered – were a significant part of his adult career. 

A Midsummer Night's Dream - Wedding March

Olivia thought or commented: 

- I feel like if someone were going to play it during a wedding, it would be during the recessional - it is celebratory. 

- You would probably hear a very short part of the song (during a wedding).

- It's nice. You can definitely tell that something big is going to happen or did happen.

Lieder ohne Worte, Op. 19 - No. 1 in E Major, MWV U 86 - "Sweet Remembrance"

Olivia thought or commented: 

- I can definitely see why it is called "Sweet Remembrance" - just that feeling and sound that someone is thinking about a happy memory. 

- It sounds like it is just the piano. I don't hear any violin. 

- I don't think I would choose to play this piece on the piano.

Spring Song

Olivia thought or commented: 

- Sounds like something you would play at an outdoor party.

- Also sounds like a piece that someone could dance to.

- I liked this one, but I think I liked "Sweet Remembrance" better because of the overall feeling. 

War March of the Priests

Olivia thought or commented: 

- This should be interesting (when I told her the title of the piece).

- It feels like it is building up to something (up to 1:43). 

- At 3:45 - this feels like the ending. It reminds me of something I would hear in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. 

- That was a long ending (about 1 minute and 45 seconds). It needed that amount of time. Although it was the ending, you could hear a part repeated over and over again. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

End of the Year Questions - Reflecting on 2021

These questions are from a swap on Swapbot that look back on 2021: 

1. If 2021 were a movie, what was the title, and what happened? The first thing that comes to mind is "Where Did the Time Go?" 

Even though the past year was packed with lots of activities, milestone birthdays, and challenges (like doing the 75Hard challenge and drastically changing the way I ate, exercised, and approached life), it went by so quickly. It seems like each year there never is enough time to get everything done that I want to accomplish. 

2. What worked well in 2021, and for what are you grateful? For the first 75 days of the year, I was using a habit tracker and doing the 75Hard challenge. I was eating well, exercising 90 minutes a day, reading at least 10 pages, journaling, and doing other activities that I wanted to do. 

I really liked the program and ended up continuing a modified version of it until about October. Then, I started getting side-tracked with the holidays and they took priority. 

I am very grateful I did the program because it showed me that if I set my mind to something difficult, I can do it. It is a matter of setting small, achievable steps to reach the major goal. 

3. What was challenging or disappointing about 2021? We had multiple major problems with our only car. This was a huge setback financially which was disappointing. 

We also struggled with Hoss's hooves from February through September, and worked with our vet and farrier to find a solution. They (and we) tried everything. In September, we made the difficult decision to give Hoss and Bailey (who were now a bonded pair) back to the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation. They ended up being able to discover the problem (an abscess in one hoof) that, thankfully, was caught in time. Olivia was very observant and - had she not been - things could have been a lot worse for him (either long-term issues or euthanasia). 

The good news is that both Hoss and Bailey were adopted within a month of going back to MHARF. Although they are in different homes, Hoss has a miniature companion and goats at his new farm and Bailey is at a stable with 15 other horses, and she is used for giving lessons. So, she's getting lots of attention.  

4. What were your most meaningful moments this past year? At the end of the year - from December 23rd to January 4th - we quarantined at the request of Sophia's study abroad program. In order to board her international flights, she needed a negative COVID test. So, we didn't want to risk it given the appearance and easy transmission of the omicron variant. 

Although we were sad that we couldn't do things we normally did - like go to Christmas Eve service, spend time with extended family on Christmas, go out to do special things for Sophia's 21st birthday, and go out to a Chinese restaurant on New Year's Day - we celebrated these occasions at home together as a family. 

We started some new traditions (like playing Risk together as a family over multiple days after Christmas and into the New Year), watched movies together, and made food together. We worked on projects that we hadn't had a chance to do because we were always out and about...rather than at home. 

5. Where did you spend a lot of time and energy? Although I felt like I was driving a lot to take Olivia to the homeschool co-op twice a week and to speech therapy, I did spend a lot of time and energy at home which I enjoyed. 

I enjoyed watching Olivia paint many barn quilts during the summer for clients. She was earning a lot of money that she has set aside for college.

6. What did you learn this last year? I learned how to take better photos and use my camera in ways I didn't know how to use it. 

I took a photography course at North House Folk School with Layne Kennedy, a very talented photographer. Olivia and I enjoyed photographing waterfalls.

We also explored places on our own - like High Falls at Grand Portage State Park. This park is adjacent to Canada, although - at the time - we couldn't go into Canada because the border was closed due to the pandemic.

The photography course challenged me to look at taking pictures different than I normally would do, and learn to tell a story about the places we visited.

7. Looking back on 2021, on a scale of 1-10, how happy were you overall, with 1 being depressed and 10 being happy and content? I think about a 7 or 8 in terms of being happy and content. 

8. As you look to 2022, what will be the highest use of your talents? As I think about different skills and talents during the upcoming year, I would like to use my:

- research skills to help find scholarship opportunities for Olivia, 

- writing skills to write a book for Olivia to give to her as she starts college, 

- organizational skills to keep everything in order as Olivia finishes high school and Sophia studies abroad, 

- decluttering skills as I get rid of things we no longer want or need in our home, barn, and garage, 

- organizational skills as we plan for a trip to England and Scotland for Olivia's graduation trip,

- gardening skills to make the farm look nice for Olivia's graduation party, and 

- communication skills to help me talk with potential employers as I search for a job later in the year. 

9. What will success look like in 2022? If I am able to accomplish all the things I mentioned in #8, I would feel like 2022 is successful: 

- help Olivia secure scholarships, 

- write a book for Olivia, 

- see Olivia complete high school after being homeschooled since Kindergarten, 

- hear that Sophia had a successful trip in Thailand, 

- get rid of a dumpster of things from the home/yard/barn (so a thorough deep clean and decluttering), 

- have a great family trip overseas, 

- complete the gardens so they look full and colorful, and 

- secure a meaningful job. 

10. If you select a "word of the year" - share what it is for 2022, and why you chose it. I'm not sure what word I pick. I go between four words: Trust, Acceptance, Embrace, and Change. 

I'm thinking Change might be it because there is inevitable change that comes with aging, seeing the girls get older and move to the next stage of their lives, and change in relationships. 

Then there's change that I initiate that can be positive - like saving over $70 per month by changing garbage collection companies and changing phone companies so we get faster and more reliable internet while saving ourselves money. 

2022 will be filled with many changes. I just need to trust, accept, and embrace them - whether I am ready for them or not. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Composer Study - Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms was a German composer, conductor, and pianist of the Romantic period. He was born on May 7, 1833 and died on April 3, 1897. 

According to Wikipedia, Brahms was born in Hamburg and spent much of his professional life in Vienna. He is sometimes grouped with Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach as one of the "Three Bs" of music, a comment originally made by Hans von Bülow, a nineteenth-century conductor. 

Brahms composed for piano, organ, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, voice, and chorus. As a virtuoso pianist, Brahms premiered many of his own works. He also worked with performers of note, including the violinist Joseph Joachim and the pianist Clara Schumann (the three were close friends). 

Brahms has been considered a traditionalist as well as an innovator, by his contemporaries and by later writers. "His music is rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Classical masters. Embedded within those structures are deeply romantic motifs. While some contemporaries found his music to be overly academic, his contribution and craftsmanship were admired by subsequent figures as diverse as Arnold Schoenberg and Edward Elgar. The diligent, highly constructed nature of Brahms's works was a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers."

Olivia listened to four pieces by Johannes Brahms and had the following comments:

Olivia thought or commented:
- I can picture people dancing in a ballet. I was thinking you meant that it would be a waltz. It would be more of a piece that people would prefer to.
- It's very dramatic.
- A lot of dynamics - a lot of really loud and then soft. You can definitely tell what parts of repeating because of the dynamics.
- The tempo was fast!
- I liked it.

Olivia thought or commented:
- This is definitely slower than the first piece.
- It almost feels a little more sad...especially at the beginning. 
- It is like the songs are opposites (the first one and this one). 
- Feels like this song has sections - kind of like a sonatina - where you have the first part and then a second part (different from the first part), and then a third part that is kind of like the first part (different, but parts are the same).
- I liked it...but I think I like the Hungarian Dance one better.

Olivia thought or commented:
- It definitely starts out as tragic. It's soft, but I think the way that they are performing it with it being loud and then going softer makes it feel tragic and sad...or someone is mourning. 
- If someone had gone missing or someone has died - this would be the music that would be played....but kind of in a romantic way. I don't see this as a piece for someone who is mourning the loss of a would be more of mourning the loss of someone they had romantic feelings for. 

Olivia thought or commented:
- Yeah, I can see it as a lullaby.
- (Olivia yawns.)
- Seems a little sad. 
- The first one was happy and dramatic...and this one is less.
- It sounds familiar...the rhythm sounds familiar.  
- Listening to the lyrics - it sounds familiar, but I just don't remember it. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

God is at Eye Level - Photography as a Healing Art (Book Notes)

A book that was recommended as part of the photography course I took last year was God is at Eye Level - Photography as a Healing Art by Jan Phillips. 

There was a lot of good information and quotes as well as reflection activities to do. Below are some things I found most interesting in the book: 

- Each snapshot was a story, calling on my imagination to fill it out, find my place in it, take my lesson from it.

- Many of us have the technical know-how and creative eye to shoot and print photographs every bit as stunning as those in galleries and photo books. The question is, are we doing it? Are we creating a body of work and putting it out there for people to see?

- No one in the world can make the same photograph of a person as I make, for the image my camera records reflects the relationship between me and the person on the other side of the lens.

- Each of us holds in our memory images that have affected us, changed our way of thinking, moved us to laughter, to tears, to action. Some of us are who we are today, doing what we are doing, because a photograph moved us in that direction. 

- The root meaning of the word document is docere, "to teach." Whether we are documenting the evolution of our families or the revolution of a third-world country, the images we make are teaching tools. 

- When we set out to document something, we are tasked with revealing the essence, the true spirit of it, as we see it and feel it in our bones.

- Photography heals because it reveals this essence within things. In the process of looking, finding, framing, shooting, all one's energies are focused purely. 

- I'd photograph people, places, events that had meaning and joy I didn't want to lose sight of. Photographing meant I could keep an image to savor later, reflect on, find myself in when I was lost.

- As I improved in the craft, another voice came along, whispering, "Share this." 

- There is no need to hold onto photographs that do not shed light,  bring joy, tell a story, evoke an emotion, reveal a person's inner beauty, capture an important moment in time, or reflect a piece of the world that touches my heart.

- It is entirely up to me to throw photographs away if I am not satisfied with how well they meet my standards.

- Photographs provide evidence that our lives have meant something. They show our relationships with people, the places we've traveled, the events we've celebrated and honored. Of all the things that happen to us in the course of our lives, the most important get photographed. Photos are our autobiography, a way of telling the tale of who we are.

- What images are we gathering of events, large and small that mark the passage of our lives? How an we, as photographers, document the history of our families, our lives, our communities in a way that shows what matters to us, what forces bring us together?

- It is an easy thing to produce as a slide show of music, images, and words that portray the unfolding of a group's mission and values. Giving back to people a reflection of themselves in action, giving service, living out their faith or their commitments, is a tremendous gift. ANd it heals us to make these images, to place ourselves in the context of compassion and service, to bring to the table our gifts of visual discernment and delight.

- Like those who teach what they need to learn, we must photograph what we need to see. 

- The healing aspect of photography is that it often leads us to those moments of togetherness, drawing us to those people whose spirit attracts us for some reason - and we come away with a picture of the kindness of people and the yearning that we all have to be truly seen by another.

- Include stories when you exhibit photographs. THey add breadth and dimension to a visual that can very well stand on its own. The stories we tell about our pictures can extend their reach, bring to light new ways of bridging the distance from one person to another. 


- I have always taken pictures the way people keep journals and diaries. It's a way of ordering my reactions to the world, of placing my ideas and feelings in a concrete form outside myself, of breaking my isolation. (Diana Michener)

- Every creative person has a second date of birth, and one which is more important than the first: that on which he discovers what his true vocation is. (Brassai)

- Find something you like to do. Learn to do it well, and do it in the service of the people. (Karlene Faith)

- The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and power to serve others. (Joseph Campbell)

- The work of art which I do not make, none other will ever make it. (Simone Weil)


The Enduring Navaho - shows Laura Gilpin's photos when she was 77 years old.


Syracuse Cultural Workers  -

International Women's Writing Guild -

Creative Education Foundation -

The Foundation for Women -


- Try to remember the activities you turned to as a child when you felt lonely and out-of-sorts. Do you do any of these things now? How have you replaced them?

- Make or find a photograph of something that calms you when you see it. Frame the photo and put it wherever you spend the most time in your day. 

- Create a video with your best old and new family photographs. Put them to music and show it at your next family gathering. 

- Imagine that you have one roll of film which to convey your response to an event in your life. Choose an event that carries some emotional weight. How do you represent these emotions in your images? What time of day would be most suitable? What colors come to mind? What objects? 

- Select one of your favorite quotations and illustrate it photographically. When you review your photos, pick the one that works best, enlarge it, and create a poster with your image and the quotation.

- Study some of your favorite photographs. Try to figure out what it is about each that evokes strong feelings in you. Notice their design, texture, composition, color. 

- Pick a subject that has some symbolic value, such as an old oak tree. Shoot it at different times of day and at different apertures. 

- Take your camera on a trip and document the experience. Create a slideshow of your images so you can record and share your adventure. 

- List three things or activities you feel passionate about (e.g., hiking or being out in nature). Choose one and develop a photo essay on some aspect of it. Expand your way of seeing. Look from the bottom up. Look through things. Look from the bird's point of view or the worm's.

- Plan a portrait day for your closest friends. Create a makeshift studio by putting a chair or stool in front of a white wall or a fence or patio door covered with a white sheet. Have your model sit in indirect light rather than in sunlight. Invite your guest to outfit themselves in a way that captures something essential about who they are and to bring whatever props they need to fill out the scene.

- Sort through your body of work and see if any underlying themes surface. What things do you tend to focus on when you photograph? What do your images say about what's going on in the world these days? About what's going on in you? 

- What issues are being discussed in your local community? What images could you make that would reveal your opinion about these issues?

- What attracts your attention when you are in nature? How does it make you feel? Do photographs of these things help you capture that feeling?

- Imagine you have the chance to communicate something important about who you are to someone of great significance, but you can do this only through your photographs. If you had to select 20 images that would say what you wanted to say about who you are, what images would you use?

- Look at the photographs in your home, and see what stories they contain. What do you feel or think of when you pass by them? How do they serve you? 

- Look at the photographs you have on your walls or altars. Take some time with each one to see what healing it offers you. How are you affected by those images?

- Sit down with a few of your photo albums and a wastebasket. As you go through the pages, remove all the photos that are blurry, too dark, too light, not quite right for some reason or another. Take a deep breath; then throw them away.

- Document the rituals that your family engages in - your waking hours, the preparation for school and work, the meals you share, the evening hours, the activities you do for fun and relaxation.

- Create a picture story called "One Square Block." Choose one block in your community and walk around that block during different times of the day just noticing what draws your eye. Photograph whatever is compelling. Consider enlarging and mounting your best images and hanging them in a bank or library or restaurant in your community. 

- Take one of your favorite photographs and write the story that's behind it. Why did you take it? What did it mean to you? What else was going on at the time?

= Find a few images from your childhood that include you and some members of your family. When you are with those family members again, bring out the snapshots and ask each one to tell the story of what was going on for them on the day the photo was taken.

- Ask your children to write a story about themselves based on a few of their early photographs. Put these words and images together into a book, make a cover with a title and their name as the author, and present it to them as a present on some special occasion.

- Give some thought to what the "sacred" is in your life and to the spiritual truths that guide you on your path. Make a photo excursion and gather images that reflect this sense of sacredness and illustrate the essential oneness of all beings. 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Happiness Scavenger Hunt #3

In December, I did Happiness Scavenger Hunt #1 and #2 on Swap-Bot. This is the third and final Scavenger Hunt in a series of three. The goal is to photograph something that fits each of these six categories. Something that: 

Reminds you of someone you love 

Whenever I see cardinals, it reminds me of my parents - both who have died (Dad in 2012 and Mom in 2015). These cardinals were at our home on January 6th - what would have been my Dad's 90th birthday. 

They - along with another pair - are frequent visitors at our feeders. They love the sunflower seeds. The cardinals lift my spirits with their expressions, beautiful color, and gentleness to one another and other birds.

Is useful to you

The Ninja blender is probably one of the most useful appliances in the kitchen. There are three containers - this large one, a medium one, and a smoothie size. I use it to make everything from smoothies to sauces to dicing vegetables.

You like to share with others

There are a lot of things that I like to share. One thing that is on our farm is a barn quilt that I helped my daughter paint. She designed the barn quilt and picked out the colors. I taped it and did much of the painting of it. It is visible from the road so that the public can see it.

I like to share my cooking and baking skills with others. When people see some of the things I make, they ask for the recipe, and I'm more than happy to share that so they can make the food at their home. This is an egg bake that I made for Sophia's 21st birthday.

Continuing on that theme, I recently shared my beverage-making skills with my family. We had strawberry daiquiris (some had rum for those who were legal age and others didn't if they were underage and/or didn't want to drink). 

The other thing this picture represents is sharing my time to create memories. We played Risk for 4 days as a family before Sophia left for her study abroad trip to Thailand. Sharing my time so we all could build memories with one another is important to me.

Another thing I like to share are my sewing skills. Over Christmas break, I helped Olivia with a pattern modification and pinning the inner part of a bag to the outer part of it. She's holding her almost-done bag that I pinned. 

Another way I share my sewing skills is by making things for others. Below are five quilts that I made using squares that my mom had cut but never had a chance to sew together before she died. Two of the quilts I made for my sister, one for Olivia, one for my niece, and one is leftover. My brother didn't want it because he has a lot of quilts. Sophia didn't want a second one (last year I gave her and Olivia a quilt that my mom started and didn't finish).

I also like to share my past experiences as they relate to my daughters and what they are doing. For example, Sophia was packing for a four-month study abroad program. Although I haven't done a study abroad program, I have traveled internationally - including twice to China. So, I spent time with her during the week prior to her departure going over what she needed, how to pack, and getting the items that would make her time in Thailand easier.

Tastes delicious

On New Year's Day, we had a Chinese meal. Even though it isn't the Chinese New Year (which is February 1st this year), we have Chinese food each New Year's Day. It started when Paige and I lived in San Francisco in the late early 1990s and we were looking for a restaurant that was open on New Year's Day. The Chinese ones were open, so we went to one. Thus, started the tradition. 

This year we were quarantining because the study abroad program asked students and families to quarantine before departure. Students needed to have a negative COVID test in order to go on international flights. So, I ordered a bunch of frozen Chinese food and sparkling apple cider. Although it wasn't the same as going out, it actually was delicious. We all said that we would want to get the food again.

Another thing that was delicious was the homemade cake and cake pops for Sophia's 21st birthday. The cake pops, in particular, turned out. They had chocolate cake mix, chocolate pudding mix, chocolate chips, some crushed Oreo cookies, and chocolate frosting. They were dipped in white chocolate and had chocolate drizzled across them. 

Is all your own

My friend, Karen, made this table runner for me. She has such an eye for fabric colors and patterns as well as thread colors. She knows I love plants and flowers, so this is the perfect table runner for me.

Gives you hope for the future

My daughters give me hope for the future. They are both service-oriented, compassionate, loving young women. When I look at what both of them have done and what they want to do in the future, I am encouraged and inspired by what they will do.  

This picture was taken at the airport on January 4th as Sophia waited in line to check in for her departure to Thailand. We will see her again on May 1st. 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

My Favorite Photos - December 2021

It's hard to believe it's 2022. I remember as a child my dad said, "You'll be 34 in the year 2000." 34 years old. The year 2000. Both seemed unfathomable. 

Here it is 2022 and I'm 55...56 in June. Again...unfathomable. Where has the time gone? 

Looking back on the last month of 2021, there were many photos that I enjoyed seeing and remembering things about. 

The month started out with rain.

The rain turned to snow.

On December 6th, we saw a sun dog. I don't think I've ever seen a rainbow one - just a white one. The photo shows the sun and one half of the sun dog. Imagine that rainbow going up over the sun and going down on the other side. It was huge and such as surprise to see so early in the morning. 

Sophia performed in the Festival of Christmas again this year in the handbell choir. 

She's a junior now. Seems like yesterday she was starting college.

The Festival of Christmas had over 200 student musicians. As always, it is an impressive show.

I made two apple pies in early-December. The crust is a recipe from my grandma on my mom's side who was a baker. I gave one pie to a friend who I took a felted luminaria class with, and the other we kept for our family.

On December 11th, Olivia coordinated a service event where she received funding to get fleece blanket kits that will be donated to Solid Ground. The organization supports people who are escaping from domestic violence situations and restarting their lives. This is one of 13 fleece blankets that were made. 

Also on the 11th, the Lions had a bake sale. I made these brownie bombs (which were really good...a new recipe!) and about a half dozen other recipes. I was happy to see that all the plates of treats I brought were purchased. The proceeds help support the Lions. 

On December 12th, Olivia was St. Lucia at church. The pastor had said something funny which made her laugh. 

As a family, we made a travel blanket for Sophia for her trip to Thailand. The travel time from here to San Francisco to Qatar to Thailand is something like 21 or 25 hours. The blanket is one she can use to cover herself up with as she sleeps on the plane. 

Olivia picked out the floral fabric and I picked out the purple minky. Paige, Olivia, and I each sewed a part of the blanket together. We gave it to her on Christmas and she really likes it. 

On December 18th, Sophia moved out of her suite on campus since she will be studying abroad for spring semester. She wanted to go out to eat at Namaste - an Indian restaurant - which we did. It was nice to have one-on-one time with her. 

On the 19th, after about 20 photos, I finally got a photo with the girls smiling and dogs seated (or laying down) and mostly looking forward.

On the 21st, Sophia had to get some shots for her study abroad trip. On the way back home, we stopped at a new bubble tea place which we both enjoyed. 

On Christmas Eve, we visited Dan (Paige's stepfather) at the nursing home. We did the visit through the window so we could see and hear one another. It isn't an ideal situation - we would much rather visit inside and give Dan a hug. However, she can't risk getting COVID and not being able to go on her study abroad trip. 

That evening, we had our traditional pizza dinner and each opened one gift. Danny was guarding the  presents. 

We gave Sophia Thai money for her study abroad trip to Thailand which starts on January 4th...only 3 days away.

Scooby stood guard on the presents under the tree on Christmas Day.

We gave Sophia a purple hard-sided suitcase for her study abroad trip.

One of Olivia's gifts was a plate and bowl set. She likes the color she was excited about the big bowl for popcorn.

Christmas Day was a quiet one with just our family since the study abroad program asked students and families to quarantine. Students need a negative COVID test in order to board the international flights. If they don't have a negative test, they can't participate in the program. The stakes are high.

We had a maple twist coffeecake for breakfast - a recipe that came to our family from family friends. 

For dinner, we had ham, baked potatoes, Brussel sprouts, cornbread, and fresh fruit. 

So, after dinner, we drove to Minneapolis to look at the lights. This is a church across from the Walker Art Center. 

We enjoyed seeing all the lights on people's homes, trees, and front yards. Wrapped tree trunks were popular this year. We liked this tree with the wrapped tree trunk and then bulbs hanging on the branches. 

Olivia did some sewing on Christmas through New Year's Day. She was one of the assistants at a 4-H sewing workshop and didn't have a chance to make the bag using the fabric that was provided. She didn't care for the fabric that was provided so she made another version with llamas and cute graphics plus made the squares and bag larger. 

On December 26th, I saw 2 coyotes in the pastures. The woven wire fence is the only thing separating that coyote from the backyard where the dogs go out. There was some debate on the Facebook pages I posted this and other photos on about whether this was a coyote or wolf. It's a coyote because of the pointy ears and snout. Wolves have wide snouts/muzzles and rounded ears. 

The coat on the coyotes was gorgeous with a combination of cream, tan, brown, gray, and black.

I was super excited to see a pileated woodpecker in the backyard. This one looked for insects on the pine tree and visited the suet feeder. 

They are such large birds compared to other woodpeckers we see around the farm. These two photos show the size difference between a downy woodpecker and the pileated woodpecker on the same suet feeder. 

The feeders have been busy throughout December with goldfinches, woodpeckers (downy, hairy, and pileated), dark-eyed juncos, blue jays, cardinals, and black-capped chickadees. 

We left the native plants up in the garden as a food source and shelter for the birds and wildlife. It has been neat seeing all the tracks around the plants.

There are still some seeds remaining in the plants that the birds pick out and eat. 

On warmer days, the dogs have enjoyed playing outside. 

I love this photo of Cooper. He was jumping up and down at the gate as he watched me come in from garage. 

Our next-door neighbor cut down tree limbs that were hanging over the field next to us (his property). It is rented out and the farmer who uses it had said that the limbs were growing too far over the field and he couldn't plant the whole thing. 

So, he aggressively cut down the tree limbs and then cut them into woodstove/fireplace size. I stacked the left side and he stacked the right side. There's A LOT of wood! The next step is the split it all and then we will divide it. We'll both be set for a while. 

During December, I finished five quilts that my mom had started, but never completed before she died in 2015. I've had the quilt squares in a bin in my home office. Finally got around to sewing the squares together. Earlier this summer, the girls and I picked out fabric for the backing of the quilts. I had plenty of batting on hand, so it was good to use that up. 

I gave 2 quilts to my sister on December 26th (the 18th anniversary of the death of her husband who was only 38 years old when he died, making her a 35-year old widow raising two young boys). Another quilt Olivia chose. Two quilts were offered to my brother and Sophia, but both said they had enough quilts. Maybe someday they will change their mind. 

On December 30th, we celebrated Sophia's 21st birthday. Because we have to quarantine for her trip, it wasn't exactly how she or we envisioned spending it. However, we did get curbside food from a local restaurant that we hadn't yet tried, had cake, and opened presents. We also surprised Sophia with a Zoom call with her friends and family. 

On the Zoom call, I shared a PowerPoint presentation I made that showed photos of Sophia from infant to as recent as a day before her birthday. She was shocked and so happy. She is taking the recorded version of the Zoom call and a copy of the PowerPoint presentation with her to Thailand so she can watch it whenever she wants to.