Friday, February 26, 2010

The Best Bookstore

Let's take a little poll: Is Powell's Books in Portland the best bookstore in the entire world? Post your comment below. If it's not, it's got to be up there near the very top. A whole city block of books on multiple floors. New, used, all topics. You could probably find almost anything you are looking for. Oh, and for the techie types, there is Powell's technical books.

And here is a special section to me, the creativity section I discovered last spring at Powell's. I walked around a corner and felt a jolt, it's like the section just grabbed me and said "hello, here I am, you've been waiting for me." I purchased and read several books from this section last year before the move and I've got several more after a visit on Saturday. Can't wait to get reading! I just hope my suitcase is not overweight...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

99 bottles of beer...
You take one down,
pass it around,
98 bottles of beer on the wall.

Good luck getting that one out of your brain now! Another visit to the Rogue brewery in Newport, home of Brewer's on the Bay restaurant and the best beer cheese soup EVER!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


There are signs of spring here in Oregon, like this gorgeous barrel of daffodils at the Rogue brewery in Newport. Unlike our home in Italy where it's still been cold and frosty, it was beautifully clear and sunny in Oregon last week. I love seeing these signs of spring, Oregon has such a long and colorful spring. It will be interesting to see what it's like for us in Vedano... when it starts!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ode to Sand

Oh, the wonders of sand.
So much fun to dig in and pile up.
To scratch and to shape.
To feel between your fingers and toes.
To run free as the breeze on.
Beautiful, marvelous sand.

Our little buddy Beckett, playing in the sand on the Oregon coast. Is there anything more fun than sand to a little boy?

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Coast

Aaaaah, a place that I love. The Oregon Coast. We were on home leave in Corvallis last week, visiting friends, doctors, dentists, property managers and more than a few stores. Patrick took to calling it our "restocking trip." Very true. But one day, we got out the coast on a beautiful, sunny day. And I was reminded that with all of the exciting places we've visited in the last 10 months, there are still many wonderful things about our "real" home here in Oregon.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Timing is Everything

With photography, timing is everything. Finding the transient light, that fleeting expression, the transitions of nature. Or in this case, that other photographer's flash! I love this image from Venice, where just I happened to have the shutter open at the moment someone in the gondola took a picture. I love the star of light from the flash, the sharp shadow of the gondolier on the wall, the interesting exposure of the buildings. A serendipitous happenstance, I couldn't have planned this shot. That makes it all the better.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Deep Blue

So pretty, so painful. Why is it, that nature's way of warning you of danger, poison, etc., is often also beautiful? Sometimes colorful, or in the case of these jellyfish at the aquarium in Genova, just elegant and beautiful. An interesting paradox.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Light and Dark

Many of my photos include lines, and this image of bicycles is just a different type of lines. Alternating light and dark, the rows of bicycles with the light coming through set them off perfectly. One of my favorites from Amsterdam.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Street Signs

One of my favorite images of this "street" corner in Varenna, on Lake Como. It's not really a street corner, more like a corner of two pedestrian walkways. One along the harbor and the other a stairway up the hill from the lakefront through the town. Such a pretty corner, with the potted tree growing there with loving care.

Almost all of the street signs here in northern Italy are like this (haven't been too far south yet, so can't comment beyond Florence!): Engraved marble, on the corner of a building, facing the street they are naming. Beautiful for a place like this, but nearly impossible to utilize when you are trying to navigate in your car in the middle of a city! It's best to enjoy these signs as part of the charm and beauty of Italy, and bring a GPS if you come visit. You will be much happier for it!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Locks of Love

No, I'm not talking about hair! One final "love themed" post for this Valentine's Day week. You find these locks on bridges, ocean overlooks, anywhere near water. The couples right their names on the lock, lock it to something permanent (railing, lamp post, whatever) and throw the key into the water. It must be quite the European love tradition because we've seen them everywhere, once we started noticing them. I had never heard of this or seen this in the US. These are from Florence, on the Ponte Vecchio.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Love at the Sea

This heart art was found at an overlook of the Mediterranean sea, it Boccadassee (a little fishing village that is part of Genova). These little overlooks or benches in public parks are often places that young lovers will meet for a bit of privacy. It's not really private exactly, but when so many people live in such close contact it's all relative I guess. You will often find "love" graffiti in little spots like this.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Graffiti or Urban Art?

Occasionally we run across something on a building that is more art than graffiti. I wonder, was it intended to be there? Or did it just come out so cool that it became art and was left alone? This urban "heart" art is in Amsterdam. I love to convert these images to black and white except for the graffiti, it really makes it pop!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

We are in the states this week, our "Home Leave" in Corvallis, so starting with Valentine's Day today I thought I would post a few pics of various hearts I've collected in my photos.

This photo is one of my early favorites from our time here in Italy, from Bergamo. I actually didn't see the graffiti heart at all when I took the picture, but when I was reviewing on the screen it just popped out at me. This is a time I'm sure that my inner eye saw something that my conscious brain didn't even register. These types of images are what make me trust my instincts in my photography.

So enjoy this heart today, and a Valentine's wish from me!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Italian Design

Ooooh, what is this beautifully wrapped box? Dont't you just love the colors? The idea of "Made in Italy"? Don't you just want to keep the box all neatly wrapped? I certainly do.

This is a gift from Brandon and Patrick, a bit early for Valentine's Day. I have found this Italian company, Campo Marzio Design, that creates professional, office-type items - folders, bags, pens in bright colors and fun designs. So much of what is available here is available in the US that it is fun to find a company that is pretty unique and not gigantic and well known yet.

I had wanted to get a pen but didn't want to spend the money, just told them it was a gift idea for someday. Probably less than two weeks later, they came home with this box. They wanted me to open it right away but I couldn't. I had to wait and take some pictures first. :) The packaging is so pretty!
The little scroll inside tells about the craftmanship of the pens, refills, etc. It has both Italian and English, the funny part about it is that the English is a very literal translation of the Italian, which of course is quite awkward. I love it.Patrick and Brandon did a great job of picking out a pen design that I love. Patrick was a bit disappointed that I didn't want to rip open the packaging and use it right away, but it's because I needed to savor and enjoy the whole package. It magnified the gift, it's so pretty! So, to Patrick and Brandon I say:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Color is like Music

"Color is like music, it uses [a] shorter way to come to our senses, to awake[n] our emotions." I quite can't read the name of the quote's author in this photo, but I loved the quote and the color of this house in Burano. I'm sure every tourist that walks by it takes a photo of this. It captures your eye.

But, fun picture aside, I agree with the quote. I have been toying with this idea that there is a "soul language" that each of us has, a language that is a shortcuts our brain circuitry to our heart and soul. It gets past all of our outer layers of shoulds and shouldn'ts, our learned responses and expectations from our family, our friends, our culture, whatever. To a place where your response is truly you.

My soul language is visual imagery. Whether it be color, composition, light... It's one of the reasons I love photography and painting and any other type of visual art. It speaks to me.

A while ago, I was reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and feeling guilty. She loves the Italian language just for it's sound. Came to Italy to live and learn and experience the language (ok, and the food). There are lots of people who do this, so my brain was asking me, "Why aren't you so excited about learning Italian? Here you are in Italy for two years, every opportunity to immerse yourself, but you aren't taking advantage of it!" Complete guilt mode. Then I realized - that's not my soul language. Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer, words and language are probably her soul language, not mine.

I can immerse myself in the art and visual beauty of Italy and get just as much out of the experience, because it's my soul language. What's yours?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Farewall to the Alps

One last photo from Alpe di Siusi, before moving on to other subjects. Sun, snow, mountains, horses, what could be prettier? I'm not a huge horse fanatic, but could appreciate the beauty of these animals in the snow. So gorgeous.

I hope you enjoyed the brief visit this week to the Italian Alps!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Night Scenes

Here is Bolzano, at night. It was an pretty town, but amazingly quiet as soon as the stores closed. Very few restaurants open past 8 or 8:30pm. It's like it's not even Italy! Things are barely getting starting in restaurants around Milan at that time. My colleagues told me that this region is "not really Italy" but I guess I had to live it myself to believe it. It also shows how much we've gotten used to "Italian time" and come to expect certain things to be a certain way. It was a little reminder that's not true! That's what travel does for you, keeps you from getting complacent in how you think the world "is" - you realize that things in the world are a lot more relative than you had come to believe.

I've gotten much more into night photography lately, as this photo attests. Part of it has been the time change, we are out a lot more at night. When we travel in the summer and the days are soooo long - we barely make it to dark and we're done. We aren't wandering at midnight with an 8 year old in tow. :) So, in winter, I find that I've gotten to enjoy taking photos at night of more places. It's cold, but it's nothing some warm clothes and a periodic hot chocolate can't solve.

The other part of the increase in night photography has been this wonderful new 35mm lens I got in December, which has an aperture of a whopping 1.4 and allows me to just get more light into the camera. It has extended the range of light I can use to take photos while still hand holding the camera. It's enough that I tote around my big lenses (2 now!), I'm not interested in carrying a tripod and then setting it up, etc. So this lens does a fabulous job of extending my range at night while still keeping me mobile. It's like a whole new world to photograph!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Into the Distance

I love this image from Alpe di Siusi for the light, the shape and the hint of where it was taken in the distance. I have another version with much more in focus, but it doesn't have the "feel" that this one does. I thought about why not, and I think it's because this image isn't as obvious. It's not saying "See, look at me, I'm in the Alps!" Instead it says, "Hey look at me, I'm this fence in the snow. Look the snow is deep and it's a beautiful sunny day. Oh, and by the way, follow this fence out into the distance, there's a hint of something there, maybe some snow covered mountains. Don't you wonder where I am?" The secrets aren't all revealed at once, they invite the viewer in to share and speculate.

As I write this I am reminded of a great blog post by Jenny on that I read this week. Our life journeys don't have everything laid out for us all the time. It's like this photograph, you have to discover things one piece (or "crumb" as she puts it) at a time.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Breathtaking Moments

"Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by its breathtaking moments."
- Michael Vance

This photo started out as a fun photo of Brandon in Alpe di Siusi, he had scrambled to the top of a big snow hill and stopped for a moment to celebrate being at the top before we moved on. The sky was blue, Brandon's smile is so natural, just caught a happy photo. But when I change it to black and white, it becomes more powerful. It becomes a breathtaking moment to me, a photo essay on the joy of being 8 years old, in an amazing place and feeling free to just be and experience something new.

For Brandon, I wish a lifetime full of breathtaking moments, and the wisdom to see them and truly enjoy them when they happen. We are living a lot of them right now!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Majestic Mountains

This is the view from the top of the Puflatsch/Bullaccia mountain in the Seiser Alm/Alpe di Siusi of the Dolomites. We went up the ski lift/gondola to this point so that Patrick and Brandon could ride down on sled run (check out a video of them here). Yes, a 2km sled run! It was so crazy fun, they did it twice while I stayed at the top and took some pictures of the gorgeous mountains and valley.

The Dolomites are the Austrian alps region of Italy... The primary language is German, the food is more German, and all of the signs are in both German and Italian. It's a measure of how far my Italian has come that I preferred speaking Italian over German. We enjoyed these amazing peaks and want to go back for more!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What's This?

Take a moment to guess what this is before I tell you...

We saw this in Genova, in an art exhibit called "Dumping Art" at the Palazzo Ducale. This exhibit was cool for a couple of reasons:
1. The art was all made of things that people had scavenged from the trash or recycling, and it was all amazing.
2. Brandon's "Unit of Inquiry" at school right now is all about Recycling, Reducing, Reusing - so this fit in perfectly. He actually created a presentation with my pictures in Powerpoint and emailed it to his teacher to present in class. 21st century grade school!

So, what is it? It is old computer printed circuit boards, like CPU boards. They are painted black with the different components and connectors painted in day-glo colors that show up in black light. They are then arranged to form a column, with mirrors on the top and bottom which made it look like it extended forever when shown in the dark with only black light on it. It was super creative and fun.

That's what I love about Italy, when you explore, you just never know what you are going to run across!

Friday, February 5, 2010

It's World NUTELLA Day!

Yum! Today is the day to celebrate some chocolate-y, hazelnut-y (or Filbert-y, if you're from Oregon) goodness from the great country of Italy. It's World Nutella Day!

I would like to share both a recipe or a story or something to help celebrate the wonders of Nutella on this most special day.

Here is my favorite recipe. You will need:
1 jar of Nutella (any size)
1 spoon (any size)

Instructions: Open jar. Dip in spoon, swirl around a bit. Remove Nutella with spoon. Eat and enjoy!

If you don't know what Nutella is, you are missing out. I first discovered Nutella in November 2008 on a business trip to Italy. I had noticed it at the breakfast bar in the hotel, in little jam-type packages. So I asked my Italian colleagues, Gianluigi and Paola, at lunch one day, "What's Nutella?" Jaws dropped, conversation stopped, horror spread across their faces. "You mean, you don't know what Nutella is?" Gianluigi gasped. Gianluigi and Paola went on to describe how delicious Nutella is, the story of the great Nutella shortage, the best ways to eat it (Paola swears by it on a saltine cracker), and the fact that they don't buy it. "I can't," confessed Paola, "because I would eat the whole jar by myself it's so good!"

So I had to get some of this Nutella for myself. I went to the grocery store and in my almost non-existent Italian asked, "Dov'e' Nutella?" I must have a terrible accent because the guy told me in English where it was and I must have looked pathetic and helpless, because he led me to the end cap dedicated to Nutella. I brought it home to Corvallis, and then Patrick and Brandon and I cracked it open...
proceeded to eat it all with our spoons. Yum.

Now that we're living here in Italy we see it everywhere. You can have it on waffles by the Duomo (photo below), crepes in Paris and all manner of pastries are filled with Nutella. It's really used as much, if not more, than peanut butter in the US. So, today, on World Nutella Day - please go out and buy yourself a jar of Nutella (yes, it's available in US supermarkets) and try it for yourself. I want a report!!

World Nutella Day is brought to you by Ms Adventures in Italy, Bleeding Espresso, and World Nutella Day.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Let there be light

Love windows. Love windows with light coming through. Love windows with light coming through on a wood floor. Doesn't this look peaceful? Doesn't this look like what you want a living room to look like? I do. I want a comfy chair and a book and a blanket in that light. A cat on my lap. A pot of tea by my side. I can't help it, when I see something like this, I just have to capture it. My own personal light when it's dark outside.

What a crazy week this has been. It's not work, that's been reasonable, it's this darn Italian driver's license test! I've studied probably 15 hours or more in the last 7 days. Taken probably 50 or more practice tests. My passing rate is maybe 70-80% on average. The wonderful thing is that we can take the test in English. The horrible thing is that the English book has about half of the info that you can be tested on. So, I'm literally taking the tests to learn what I don't know! If I'm lucky, I'll get a test that has answers I know. If I'm not... well... I'll be studying a lot more.

The test is tomorrow at 10am. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

And once you've tried the wine...

You have to try the Grappa! You don't have to like it though. Grappa is a strong, grape-based liquor that is special to Italy. There are as many grappas as there are wines, with quite a range of flavors and strengths. I, personally, don't really like it. I would prefer a nice after dinner sip of Limoncello! But you have to appreciate the dedication to it here. Just look at that beautiful bottle, all sealed with wax and a special cork! Nicely presented of course, you can't just drink your drinks, you have to appreciate how they look first.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Good Stuff

Since we've been here in Italy, we've tried a lot of wine. And we've found a lot of good wine! I didn't like wine very much before we came here, but now I appreciate it in a different way. Now I can really tell the young wines that are more like juice from the more complex wines. There is nothing quite like tasting a fabulous new wine!

I also love all of the enoteche (wine shops) and grocery store shelves and window displays (like this one) that are filled with so much wine. It's such a part of the culture here. And when you buy wine in a nice shop, they wrap it beautifully for you or, really nice wines, come in these boxes. I really want one of these wine boxes, I have no idea what for, but I want one!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Just a Glimpse

A glimpse of the flowers, half hidden by shutters. A glimpse of color. I love this photo, another Burano image. Today it is sunny and -3C, the ground is frosty and I just needed something that said "warm and summery." That's the beauty of photos, they can take you to a different place and time if you want to go. You get to revisit places you've been or see places you've never been through someone else's eyes.

Yesterday we got back from a great weekend in the Dolomites, the Alps up near Austria. I won't have time to go through pics until this weekend, because this week is study week - my theory driver's exam is on Friday. My practice tests have improved from passing 40% of the time to passing 60% of the time... but those still aren't good odds. I'm off to make a pot of tea and to study!