For Your Inspiration: Think You’re a Good Photographer?

Sometimes I tell myself that one day I will take a bunch of photography courses, buy a professional DSLR camera, and begin a long and glorious career as a photographer. Then I watch videos like the one above and realize that I will never be as awesome as this guy.

Talk about an artist in the office!

This photographer made the entire Rube Goldberg device out of items found in his photography studio! It was perfectly themed–all of the photography equipment, the occasional pictures taken by the machine throughout its course, the seamless videography–I am simply in awe!

Well, maybe this video is a sign that the photography business isn’t doing so hot these days. After all, what kind of busy and hard-working portrait photographer would have time to craft such genius?

He must have no life. Yeah. That’s what I’ll tell myself . . . 😉

Milan Street Style

I am really excited to be posting my first ever series of street style photos!

I just couldn’t visit the fashion capital of the world and not take some pictures of how people were dressed. It was an interesting experience, and I think I’ll make a habit of it. My goals for future street style photo excursions are to:

  1. Keep moving targets in focus. So much blurry!
  2. Get more pictures of the fronts of people
  3. Look less like a stalker

Hope you find the pictures inspiring. This week, expect a post about Milan Fashion Week trends for this Fall/Winter season. (Blech, I’m just getting used to the idea of spring being on its way, and now we’re talking fall and winter again.)

Two models outside of a fashion show in Parco Sempione


I wish these images were more in focus, because these fellows were faaabulous.

More fur. In hat form!


Plenty more street style pics after the jump!

A fellow tourist geeking out about the runway set up in the park!

I like a man who’s not afraid of color

Just too cute

This chica has an incredible silhouette . . . and I dig the leg warmers

Just preppin’ it up in the aquarium


Can’t get enough of sheer maxi skirts. Tons of ladies were rocking these in Milan.

Her boyfriend is well-dressed, so I’ll forgive her for wearing a Hollister sweatshirt IN MILAN 😉

First High-Fashion Shoot: Part 3

The third batch of pictures from my December shoot with Kelly, and a whole new look in this one. I really love how we kind of ended up with an earthier version of the 50s pinup vibe.

One more round of photos to be posted in the future! And then on to bigger and better things.

Right now, I’m busy editing photos of our weekend getaway to Italy and of Milan Fashion Week! No, I was not at any of the shows :-(, but I stalked around outside a bunch of them and spied several snazzy-looking models. I’ll be posting about runway trends and street style.

Until then, peace.

Plenty More Pics After the Jump!

What I Wore (plus a suprise): Or Are We Dancers?

If you ignore the half-opened eye, this is kind of a cute picture of me “dancing”

I love to dance.

I’m not really sure how to qualify my relationship with dance besides this simple phrase. I wouldn’t dare say that I am good at dancing. Someone in my family might die laughing, as I have a reputation for being quite the klutz. After all, I’ve never even taken a single dance class.

On the other hand, I have choreographed dance teams of fifty K-4 and later 5-8 grade students at the summer camp where I used to work (My team won first place in the end-of-camp competition one year). I’ve danced in talent shows. I’ve taught the electric slide to a wedding party :-), and I’ve ended up in countless photos and videos from weddings, graduations parties, and school dances where I have been gettin’ ma groove on.

Thrifted jacket, gifted scarf, Charlotte Russe T-shirt, American Eagle jeans, Payless slouch boots

Whether or not I’m good at it, dancing is a part of who I am. I often can’t help but break into spontaneous choreography in malls, supermarkets, and the occasional public square in Spain during carnival . . . I think anyone who loves music, is grateful for the healthy body God has given them, and loves to just do feels the same way about dance.

Sometimes you just have to let the joy and excitement out. For example, in the photos included in this post, I am wearing a very sunshiney outfit in some of my favorite colors (with a new scarf from my grandma) that made me incredibly happy. So what did I do? I danced, of course.

In the words of Colin Firth after accepting his 2011 Oscar for Best Actor:

“I have to warn you I am experiencing stirrings somewhere in the upper abdominals that are threatening to form themselves into dance moves.”

To show you that I’m not alone in this love and in this tendency to cast off social propriety in favor of a pop, lock, and drop, I have whipped up a little something extra for this particular what I wore.
The surprise is after the jump!

Don’t get excited. It’s not that fantastic, haha.
In fact, it is a very poor quality video that I recorded of a little boy who jumped up on the stage at carnival and started breakin’ it down to “We Found Love.”
He was moving so much I could hardly get a clear shot of him through the crowd. Talk about being confident in who you are.

The Amazing Husband

I don’t know how it happened, but we are actually in Milan safe and sound this morning. Well, I do know how it happened–by the grace of God and because Josh is my hero.

You might have gathered by now that this post is not about the season premier of this year’s Amazing Race (which I will greatly miss watching each Sunday night in Pastor Wally’s basement with the young adults from Journey.) It is more about that fact that Josh and I are kind of living The Amazing Race right now.

We got on the train for Madrid yesterday four hours before our flight was scheduled to leave. There wasn’t even the slightest worry that we would be pressed for time, as we would arrive in Madrid almost two hours before the plane would leave for Milan.

Of course, God apparently had some plans to teach us about patience, perseverance and preparing for the worst. And maybe promptness . . .

There are two train stations in Madrid, and we apparently passed the station that was closest to Barajas airport and got off the train a good twenty-minute Metro ride down the line. When we tried to ride back, the train we were on stopped for the day, and we had to find yet another. We finally got on the last Metro we would need at about 6:00pm (our flight was scheduled for 6:45). On the Metro, I looked down at my boarding pass and saw the most haunting words I have ever seen in me life: “Gate closes at 6:15.”

I freaked out! We would land at the airport with a total of five minutes to get our Visas checked, make it through security, and get to the gate before it closed for good!

We arrived at the Visa check at exactly 6:15, and I was beginning the slow and painful process of convincing myself that everything would be okay in light of the missed flight. This is a difficult task for me, as I like to believe that things are the end of the world. Maybe the three of us (our friend Kristen was with us) could buy last-minute tickets on a later flight or a flight the next morning so that we wouldn’t lose the money for the return flight and hostel.

When I calmly explained our situation to the woman at the Ryanair help desk, she replied, “What are you talking about? This flight doesn’t leave for another 25 minutes.” Whatever “gate closes at 6:15” meant, she didn’t seem to think it was a problem. I didn’t have time to question her before Josh was darting back to the Visa check. I tried to tell him that it was no use–that the gate was closed. He wouldn’t have any of it.

“We’re going to try,” he kept saying, “We’re going to try.”

To my amazement they stamped our visas for us with nothing more than a stern shake of the head for being so late, but as we sprinted for our gate, we saw that the security line was absolutely packed. As we waited impatiently (and hopelessly, in my case), Kristen* suddenly ran up behind us shaking her head and saying “I can’t go.” I didn’t even think to be shocked or sad at the time because I was sure that we would be joining her in a moment.

Security involved emptying our pockets, removing our coats and shoes, and shoving all of this (including our carry-on bags, camera, and packed dinner) into those little plastic boxes and waiting for them to appear on the other side of the conveyor. At 6:35, Josh finally made it through security right behind me–only to be told that he would have to go through again because he was carrying a laptop.

I looked at him and said as maturely as I could muster, “Don’t bother. We’ll get another flight. Don’t worry about it.”

And that was the moment when he set his jaw in the most frustrated yet determined manner that I have ever seen in the course of our relationship, yanked the laptop out of his bookbag, and ran to the back of the security line to go through the ordeal again.

I couldn’t bear to stand there and do nothing while he scrambled for his life, so I raced in search of our gate (without stopping to put my shoes back on, I might add). I was amazed when I finally found it with the door to the jetway still open. The attendant looked at me sympathetically as I skidded to a stop in my stocking feet and desperately held out my boarding pass and passport. He told me to calm down and that I still had a couple minutes. I was stressed beyond belief and in the middle of an asthma attack and gasped, “Yes–yes, I know, but–my husband!” I left both of our passports at the ticket check and sprinted back to security.

Josh wasn’t there.

I stood in the middle of the concourse of the Madrid Barajas International Airport and yelled at the top of my lungs, “JOSH! JOSH THURSTON! JOSH! THURSTON!”

I almost cried when I saw him–at 6:42–appear at the other end of the concourse, bolt past me, and run with everything that he had to the gate where his passport was already waiting for him.

I huffed and puffed behind him. We ignored the gruff female security guard who kept scolding that we were too late, we ripped Josh’s ticket out of the attendant’s hand, and we blasted down the jetway into the arms of a very startled flight attendant who smiled and asked us to take our seats. I paid no attention to the chuckles of the sophisticated Spaniards and Italians ogling at my feet sans shoes as I made my way to a seat at the very back of the plane. We had done it.

Josh had done it. My amazing husband, who has never looked more like a hero in my eyes, kept calm, kept the faith, and kept running when I had all but given up hope. Thank you, God, for your provision, and thank you for this wonderful, hard-working, faithful man who has led me through times of stress in our life even when he had to drag me.

Thank you that he now gets a mini-honeymoon in Milan as a reward.

*Later, I would find out that Kristen had accidentally bought tickets for 6:00am that morning and hadn’t been able to come with us on the flight. She’s going to meet us here tomorrow, though 😀

Awkward and Awesome Thursday: Fiestas de Amigos y Sardinas

Strawberry buttercream cake that looks suspiciously like a slice of pepperoni sub in this shot

I know I’m about a week late posting about this, but for Valentine’s Day last week, our class had the lovely idea to get together to celebrate our friendship while the majority of the remaining civilized world was celebrating mushy gushy love. (Who am I kidding? I like that mushy stuff, too . . .)

Since Josh and I were the only two “lovers,” so to speak, in the class, we felt silly running off to have our own little romantic evening while the other girls sat home alone watching Grey’s Anatomy reruns. Therefore, viva la fiesta! We ate goodies, talked about our vacation plans, and attempted to play cards . . . but Kristen left early with the only sufficient knowledge of card-playing that we had between the six of us.

It was awkward, it was awesome, and a lovely time was had by all ❤

Smooth like strawberry buttercream 😉
  • Unsalted popcorn . . . or rather, salting the unsalted popcorn for myself and creating an acrid mixture of crunchy crystalline chemicals masquerading as a party snack. I did better on take 2.
  • Washing my skinny jeans (which were somehow eluded by laundry day) by hand . . . while I was in the shower . . .
  • Broken sink, so I guess I’ll also be brushing my teeth in the shower.
  • Having Bre and Allie over for dinner and Carmen forgetting to feed them! Talk about a misunderstanding.
  • Bre once again managing to stay out of every single picture I took at the above get-together.
  • Finally making a hike to the mall at El Bulevar and finding out 2 euros later that it is closed on Sundays.
  • Carnival. Funny costumes and good music, but it was so random and unorganized! We had no idea what was going on.
  • The waiter at carnival who didn’t seem to want us to get up from our table. Ever.
  • The Gregorian chants floating up to my room as I type this. Apparently a local church is burning a giant paper sardine to represent the death of the flesh as lent begins.


  • Popcorn (not the sinfully salty batch) covered in chocolate and cherry liqueur. Only the best for our Valentine’s Day bash.
  • Apparently sheep in Spain say “Meh” instead of “Baa.” Haha, perpetually indifferent sheep.
  • The little boy breaking it down onstage to a Rihanna song at Carnival. I have a video! Coming soon 😉
  • Gofres. Deep-fried waffles with ice cream and flavored syrup. Yes, please.
  • Cathedrals. They never cease to amaze. They also do a good job of helping us decide which cities to visit. “Do they have a cathedral?” “No? Eh, let’s skip it.”
  • Spanish bagpipes. Think Celtic times Africa and then divide by amazing.
  • Finding a little craft store in Avila Centro! I’m going to buy some yarn and start some projects.
  • Mastering the complicated bus system here in Spain. I once was blind, but now I see! 
  • OMG OMG OMG OMG We’re going to Milan tonight!!! I am so blessed 😀

‘High on Avila,’ a Poem

 High on Avila

Maybe the altitude is getting to me
Or maybe there’s a little more than smoke in the fumes
Of ancianos forming clumps along the cobblestoned streets
Canes and furs and a refusal to freeze
Having grand old times with their whiskeys and wines
While I climb the winding way up between the moon
And the buildings lacking elbow room
But possessing an excess of tombs (like mine)
Tiny and always for rent

They say that nothing happens here

Then what’s happening to me
When this tree with bronze branches and fiery flowers
Is a lamppost—the same one that’s been here for hours
Pointing my way back to the bug jar where lights flicker
For hours and hours after they’ve gone out

I’ve gone out
And I haven’t found my way back home
Though I’ve known the winsome, lonesome road
More closely than it knows its spouse
I’ve known the hostel of a house
And loved each poorly heated nook
Each leaking hole and ancient tile
Each smile and stiff, unopened book
Cacique and Coke can’t hide the truth
The other ruthless spirits might
But vodka and Sprite won’t keep me from getting in out of the frost
They can’t keep me from getting lost
I’ll follow my breath and the cloud of frozen dew
You’d think that I’ve been smoking, too
Enraptured by the way I’ve walked
So many times before

They say that nothing happens here
But only here

Only here when a kid slaps his skateboard down
To the ground like another does in Central Park
Or some slum in Milwaukee or a sidewalk in Sayre
Is the sound suddenly the best talk I’ll ever hear. I swear
Only here do his wheels clatter along gray-gold cobbles
Like a caballero to the rescue of some maid in La Mancha
Only here is the tiny, green cop on patrol—
Chirping at me to cross the calle now and not later—
Just a peregrine sparrow scaring me away from her nest
Of history wrapped in cathedrals and beer
And the rest of the birds? The cigueñas bringing babes
But not enough to renovate—
To satisfy a city
Don’t cry. The old ones don’t need your pity
I swear they’re all just jumbo jets
Too big to be pets but purring their promise to take us away someday

Away to the exotic zones I’ve dreamed of one day touching
Like the kids selling crack in Teresa’s plaza
Who’ve thought about taming but settled for naming
The places they’d find if they vaulted these walls
For here?
Nothing happens here but historia
No one lives here but the living
And I’m giving up my dreams of reaching beaches
And boudoirs. Fantasies
Like Fantas in Aquarius cans
Pour elixirs of gold and jewels so old
That just sniffing them quenches a dynasty’s thirst
For conquering thrones in some tropical clime
Conquistadors all, for in no time at all
They’ve captured my heart
Not the islands or kingdoms with gaping, Gothic domes
They’re somebody’s home
But not mine

They say that nothing happens here
And to me, that’s fine

So let the Ziploc bag pass by
Sin buzz, I dunk my head in the sky
Clear and skimming mountains without their help
Paris, Milan, Morocco, Taipei will one day
Be just chapters in a tourist guide
And I know that I may never taste or sniff their sultry wares
But who really cares?
‘Cause me I’m already high
As high as Avila

I’m high on a night in Avila

Spanish vocabulary:

ancianos- old people
calle- street
ciguenas- European storks (found everywhere in Spain)
historia- history (or just story)

"Fingerprints Are in the Sandstone" (Salamanca)

Salamanca is the prototypical college town–typical by European standards, that is. Like any college town, you can expect to see plenty of young people, happening downtown hangouts, cool contemporary architecture, and lots of quaint shops and cafes. The one difference is that this particular college is one of the oldest in the world.

This being the case, the city has grown around its rich historical heritage. No amount of population growth has been able to choke out beautiful universities, bell towers, rotundas, and (of course) cathedrals.

The city’s culture has, however, been quite shaped by the influx of eager students to the University of Salamanca. A tradition has developed that involves finding a tiny, stone frog sculpted into the facade of the university. According to legend, if you look for the frog and do not find it, you will never finish your studies. EVER! Haha, if you do find the frog, however, not only will you graduate in a timely fashion, you will also marry within the next year. Some people believe firmly in these old wives’ tales, but others just see the finding of the frog as a general omen of good luck.

Well, we found it, so let’s just hope that’s a good thing 🙂

Title from the song “Salamanca” by The Go Set.


I want one

It is a tradition for lovers to write their names on a lock and attach it to this well found in a Salamancan garden

Plenty more (including cathedrals!) after the jump!

The Old Cathedral

The “New” Cathedral. Built in the 1500s.



The cathedral’s many past inscriptions are permanently remembered by rusty “scars”


Plaza Mayor. Did some major photo stalking here.

"Let’s Have a Carnival" (Avila)


We are en carnaval here in Avila!

Carnivals are an age-old Spanish tradition which basically embody the sentiment “We haven’t had a legitimate holiday to celebrate in a couple of weeks. Let’s throw a carnival!” In this case, we find ourselves in the dull slump between Christmas and Easter. The Spaniards won’t have any of it. They declare a carnival, dress up in ridiculous costumes, dance in the streets, eat fried food, and stay up all night drinking. We excused ourselves for that bit . . .


The costumes were all so creative. Children and adults alike were completely decked out. Some in very authentic-looking store-bought ensembles, and others in adorably resourceful homemade outfits.

I have to admit, when I heard that there was going to be a parade, I didn’t realize that everyoneregardless of whether or not they were in the parade–would be dressed up. I wish I had taken another peek at this post and fit right in!

Speaking of not fitting in, I was dancing all by myself in the plaza to music that was blaring so loudly that I simply do not understand why no one else would dance!

The music was so interesting. The traditional Spanish tracks they played at first sounded like a cross between and African war dance and a Celtic wedding march. It was so invigorating. Then they proceeded to play heavy bass American dance anthems whose lyrics were to trashy to be popular in the US. This is the part where I started to dance. I couldn’t justify listening to songs like “I Got a Hangover” without convincing myself that I only liked it for the beat.

An “Occupy Europe” group. No kidding. They had Guy Fawkes masks and everything.

Nothing sells touristy crap like a horse head

This man was dancing with his granddaughter onstage. She got so confused when she saw that everyone was watching her!

After the parade, everyone crammed into an area that is called the Mercado Chico (“little market”). As you may guess, “little” signifies that it is probably not meant for hundreds of rowdy party-goers of all ages. I really get the impression that the Spanish like to be crowded. It makes everything seem more festive–like more of a community. As an extrovert who draws most of her energy just by occupying the same space as other human beings, I definitely understand.

Even though it had been sunny and warm for most of the day, as night fell, we again felt the nip of Avila’s winter. Josh, Kristen, Ariana and I slipped into a cafe to warm up and then retreated back to our respective apartments to be lulled asleep by the songs of drunken teenagers.

Hopefully the local Easter festivities are a little more organized 😉

Darn kids dressed as LMFAO wouldn’t stop moving . . .

This guy’s hair was visible from everywhere . . . I think this pic is hilarious!