Last pictures from France

I have been home for almost a week… boy it is nice to be home.   I do miss France already and I want to share some “final” family vacation pictures.   I have already posted “typical” tourist pictures… and have saved “my kind of pictures” for this last post.  I hope you enjoy these unconventional vacation pictures.

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We took the TGV last Sunday to Paris the night before our flight home.   Isabelle’s sister and nephew took us to the train station and you can see them in this “selfie”… (is it still a selfie if there is a group?)

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I love the TGV and they have an interesting  advertisement campaign this year.   Here is an example of one of those advertisements.  Ben and I decided we could create one as well using a phone and Gwen.  (Ben’s sister… while she was sleeping)

 

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Sorry GWEN

 

 

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We love you…. Gwen… couldn’t resist… and had to post it twice…  (never gets old)

 

I have more advertisements…. I saw one for an Opera the first day I arrived in Strasbourg.  I am not much of an Opera guy… but if this publicity is anything close to the actual opera I really want to see it.

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I wonder if severed head “kissing” causes this opera to receive a Mature Audience rating

This was not the only “gore” based advertisement.  I saw another and at first I thought it had been “vandalized”… As I looked closer I realized that it had not been… it was designed this way.  (oh those edgy French)

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Kind of gross huh…

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Speaking of gross…  This is the toilet paper at my mother in laws house.   The “Soft & Saugstark” made me wonder… what is “saugstark”?   I decided to “google translate” this…

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I had assumed that “saugstark”  was German… but google tells me that it is Norwegian for “Juicy”.   I was using “SOFT and JUICY” toilet paper…  hmm   Gross.

Boy… I know this is random… and it is only going to get worse…

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This sign makes me laugh… “French but wild”…  Made me think of a new coffee table book title… “Where the wild things are… France”
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I drove by this tree in a small village… I thought it was paint at first… but it is actually wrapped in some kind of fabric
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Sam took this one for me…   Maybe just a bit too much detail?… I think I  we all get the idea…   the yellow part is not needed.
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In walking I noticed these ridged tiles every where… finally figured out they were for the blind… they show… (by texture) where to cross the street  and the nearest one shows where to catch the bus
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Do you every wonder where “delinquent” light poles hang out?
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SDF means “Homeless”… and this was on the front of a store.  Not sure I understand exactly what this all means… lots of “X”s… but the two that aren’t…  what do they mean… You can hug and charge batteries in their store?
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Bartholdi’s home town… Colmar.   Strange to see a model of the statue of liberty in the middle of the road.
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hmmm…. is this bad? or am I a bad person because I think it looks cool?
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Sometimes I wished I didn’t speak/read French… I would have assumed that this was a sign that didn’t allow mimes… or invisible walls constructed by mimes
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Ya… I can handle anger… but “rage’ scares me…
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This was in the front door of a store… I am not sure what it is suppose to do or be….there is something oddly suspicious about this fake dog
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Here is a frozen yogurt store… pretty cute… except the odd milk wavy thing in the middle…
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Here is a product called “eat me”…   do you think it is food?  Sure would be a horrible name if it was hand soap or worse rat poison!
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Everyone to the ice skating rink!   Babies included… Boy are they “customer greedy”… anything for a dollar… (don’t worry baby heads are soft… nothing bad can happen)
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This is a “PSYCHOGENEALOGISTE” office… I had never heard of this before.   I asked Isabelle if you went there and a “PSYCHIC” told you about your ancestors.   She says this was a “PSYCHAITRIST” who tells you which ancestor you can blame for all of your mental illnesses… (not sure which is worse)

This is all for France… Hope there was at least one picture that made you smile!

Strasbourg, France 2017

I would be amiss if I didn’t share some pictures of my wife’s home town… Strasbourg.   (Located in Alsace…  Just writing that makes me chuckle… pronounced “Al’s a**” ).  I am going to share some pictures taken while out walking.

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Thursday we dropped off the rental car and started our walk home.   On the way home we ended up at Flam’s.   Isabelle does not feel like we have really visited “Alsace” until we have eaten some “Tarte Flambe”.  This is one of the little “traditions” we have adopted since she left her home to come live with me.  (With that said… I did build a brick oven in our backyard so we could make these at home. They are delicious)

We all have our little “habitudes” when we get here. (Habitude→ Habit, Custom, Way) One of my “habitudes” is walking… lots of walking.  Because I wanted to spend time with the kids and wife…and because I think everyone should be like me…  I asked, begged, bribed and shamed the rest of the family into going out and walking with me.   (Isabelle wasn’t hard… the rest… well…)

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Here is yesterdays’ walking… 26 km (16 miles) over 4 and 1/2 hours.  If you look closely there is a McDonald’s stop.   This happened to be one of my bribes.  We invited Uncle Jack, Mami(Isabelle’s mother), Cousin Josh and Jarod and the children walked to and from McDonald’s which is about 6 km.

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Ben is missing… playing in the back with his “new friends”… while Isabelle was telling everyone how many calories they were eating.  (She is not a big fan of McDonalds)… I usually wont eat there either but ended up eating a hotdog.  (Didn’t know they had hotdogs at McDonalds and it wasn’t bad… well for McDonalds)

 

 

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Sam and Gwen in front of the colza (rapeseed) fields.

The two older children… Sam and Gwen…  decided to stay with me after McDonald’s and walk along the canal de la Bruche.  This is definitely one of my favorite walks.   Beautiful for miles and away from the noise and pollution of the city.   It is also a very easy walk since it is  paved and almost completely flat.

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I take a picture of this farm every year. (bet it is already in this blog…)  This is my dream home and it is right next to the canal trail… hmm someday.
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I only took this picture while walking on along the canal… and it is just after the canal.   (11 km later).   I think I was busy trying to get the kids to stop looking at their telephones.

The canal trail connects to a trail along the “Ill” river which leads into Strasbourg.   This is also a fantastic walk… and it leads to one of the more “picturesque” parts of Strasbourg.   This trail also happened at a fortunate time since the kids were starting to be bored with “nature” and were asking for something more “urban”… with pastries.  (Gwen doesn’t like McDonald’s and hadn’t eaten yet).

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Crossing this bridge (on the roof…) and taking pictures is also an every year tradition.  The feature and the following picture are taking from the top of this bridge.
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You can take some amazing photos from this view point… especially panoramic shots.  I have this picture in my bathroom… hmm  not sure why it is in my bathroom.
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Pont Couvert…   pretty awesome… Just after this bridge is Petit France, Strasbourg… One of the first things I saw when Isabelle brought me to her home town… I took the children on the very path she took me and of course… the kids didn’t care… jesh
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Entering Petit France… in front is a small bridge that swivels to let the boats pass.  I often stop and take a picture on this bridge.
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Here is a picture from that bridge.   I am looking the opposite way of the feature picture.
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Looking the opposite direction I can see the “locks” opening and letting a tourist boat through.  I once watched one of the gates get jammed by a log…  (when you have nothing to do… anything can be exciting)
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This is looking towards the bridge and you can see that it has swiveled open to let the tourist boat pass.
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Some of you may not know this but Johannes Gutenberg lived a good portion of his life in Strasbourg.
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Here is the cathedral of Strasbourg…  This was blown up in beginning part of one of the Sherlock Holmes film
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Another view of the cathedral and also one of the oldest buildings in Strasbourg the Maison Kammerzell.   Isabelle and I ate here with some close friends…   (Choucroute of course)

Sam and Gwen were real “troopers” for this walk. (saying that makes me feel so old)  I am not sure they enjoyed it like I did but they didn’t complain and Gwen got her “pain au chocolat”.

I will post one more time before I leave France.  I am starting to pack and getting that anxious feeling I always have just before I leave.  I wonder why leaving for home always makes me stressed…   I have been saving up some of my more strange (or if you know me typical) vacation pictures for the last post…  keep in touch I hope they don’t disappoint.

Bubbles, Bugs, Markets and Crotte!

One of the great things about vacations is that you can spend the entire day doing stupid or weird things.  I really like doing stupid and weird things and I spent a good moment just watching bubbles.   I will talk more about them in a moment but before I do I want to present you with some random stuff from my walking.

The kids and I went for a walk… one of those walks where you end up going no where and it takes you hours to get there.  (vacation walks)  I told them lady bugs were good luck (especially if you eat them…  ) so we were hunting lady bugs.

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Here is the first lady bug we found.   Sam took this picture with my camera… what a great picture.  I told him he could have my camera if he could get mom to buy me a new one.  (I know how to work the family system)
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Here is the next one… Gwen found this one and I think there is something wrong.  I have never seen a black lady bug with red spots!   Must be the result of toxic waste someone dumped… (hmmm… we were next to a cemetery)

Ok… Enough lady bug pictures… I am sure you are waiting for nice pictures of France.   Before I show you those I want to share another thing.

I have been “chronicling” Oberhausbergen’s (wife’s home town) struggles and various campaigns against dog poo.   Last year I had a blog post dedicated to their “lute contre la crotte”. (Sign with dogs bum taped up  … click if you are curious).  This year they are still vigorously working to eradicate poo pollution.

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This sign states that it isn’t magic… (difficult) just pick it up… My THOUGHTS… what good is magic if you can’t make poo disappear?

Enough poo…   hmm that brings to mind one more thing.   It is asparagus season in Alsace.   I love asparagus!!!  We were all having a spring scavenger hunt on “Isabelle’s Hill” and my asparagus craving got the best of me… so I took off for a brief moment.

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I walked over to a local farmer’s coop  called “Hop’la”.
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I purchased some asparagus….   this was a bit expensive but I like supporting local farmers.   Unfortunately I couldn’t get any of the kids to eat this… even with the promise of stinky pee…
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Here I am catching back up to the group…. who were busily searching out “spring” things for their hunt.   They all mocked me saying I looked like the “man in yellow” from curious George.  (Could have been worse they could have said I looked like the monkey)
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Walking back from our hunt… Gwen and  Ben were a bit disappointed that it was over already.
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Some of the others… like Sam… were ready to get home.   I kept having to call them and tell them to wait up.

Time for the bubbles!..   There are moments that I feel like I have the perfect idea for a “brillant” coffee table book…  Here is another idea…  Bubbles across Europe.

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This one looks like a ghost chasing after the children.

I watched a homeless man entertain many children and (my favorite part) annoy oblivious passing pedestrians with his bubble blowing.   The children loved this…  and so did I…especially since every now and again a bubble would escape and blow across the square hitting some un-expecting adult…  wished I had a picture of that!  (these bubbles left a nice soapy mark… it was awesome).  I spent almost an hour watching this. I was also eating a “mixte”.   This is one of my favorite lunches in France.   Most of the bakeries will have premade sandwiches.   A “mixte” is the name that “Paul” (if you want to see a picture click on the link) calls its ham, butter, and cheese sandwich on a baguette.   I promise it is fantastic.

I am really sorry this post is very random…

Last thing… Markets… I love the markets in France…  Here are a couple of the markets we have visited.

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I promise to update you soon on this trip!… I will post more pictures but I can’t promise that those pictures will be more interesting than bugs or poo…  I am tired of the bubbles… so no more bubbles (promise)

 

 

Family Vacation in France

I didn’t write in this blog or do anything weird this weekend.   This weekend we all got on a plane and flew to France. (Our annual family vacation to France.)   Even though the kids have flown often, I still worry about keeping them entertained.   In an attempt to have Ben do something other than iPad or video watching I asked him to draw a picture of me.   He took this very seriously.  He began by holding up a pencil while closing an eye.  He earnestly studied my very handsome masculine face… and then he began to commit  what he was seeing to paper. That is at least what I thought he was doing.  (Drawing me… what could go wrong?)

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I saw this…umm…  I was ready to tell him just to go back to video watching.   (One eyeball is not even on my head… and what is with the rat teeth).   I then quickly thought that I can’t have Isabelle see this… she will probably hang it somewhere prominent.  Mom’s can be a bit “blind” to these kind of things… not realizing that this would only show how untalented our son is… or worse how weird he thinks his father appears. I was thinking about “accidently” spilling my coke on it… and then realized there was a much better way…   I asked him to draw mom!

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It turned out better than I could have imagined.   I was hoping to play her vanity against her motherly pride… but now I had a picture that put in to question her loving and patient parenting skills.  (I may look “goofy” in mine.. but at least I don’t look “mean”)  Most people that know her would laugh… but it is still perfect since I could always follow up with… you never know what happens behind closed doors.   This picture was so good that instead of keeping it as a counter argument for not showing mine…  I have decided to post them both here knowing mine will be forgotten once you see hers.

Ok… back to our travels….

The plane flight went very well and in Paris we honestly “flew” through passport control and customs . (I am not sure I can say “honestly flew”… since we were “actually” walking really fast) I seem to always stress when it comes to connections especially where there is a short time.  We had what I thought would be not enough time between landing in Paris and  leaving on our train for Strasbourg…. but I was completely wrong.    This time even with the “I have to go to the bathroom” delays…  made it with perfect timing.   We didn’t miss our connection, have to run or pee our pants… and we didn’t have to sit for 6 hours waiting for the next train

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If you ever fly into Charles de Gaule airport and need to take a train it is very convenient since the train station is located at the airport.   I am sure that many Americans do not think about taking a train but I enjoy them… especially the TGV and sitting in first class.   In the picture above you see the children on the train playing Uno and they look surprisingly awake.

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When I travel I always look at google timeline and see where I have been and how much time and distance I travelled between places.  It can be eerily accurate as you can see by our 417 km train ride that took 2 hours and 2 minutes (Paris to Strasbourg on the TGV).  It can also be completely off… like our 6.6 km airplane ride that took 3 hours and 29 minutes. (worlds slowest airplane). hmmm…   In reading this back… I realize that this might have been the most boring paragraph I have ever written for this blog.

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Speaking of boring, my children soon became bored with Uno.  I am a caring father so I searched the train for entertainment.  In between cars  I found a sign showing some new game for children.  The game had no written instructions only a picture and I knew exactly what this meant…  this game is appropriate for all ages. (even those who are not old enough to read)   This would be perfect for all of my children and I named it the “Yellow Hand” game. (based upon the picture)  I went and got them but not one of them wanted play.  They all demonstrated a complete lack of adventure.   I tried to coerce them by explaining that there was very little effort needed on their part… all they had to do was hold their hand in the door as it closed.   So disappointing…   and I am left wondering would a hand really turn yellow? Oh… ya…   I have one other quick question for those of you who are more “grammatically” gifted… is it correct to have punctuation (“!”) if you don’t have words? (hmmm… and should I have assumed a certain age based upon the presence of punctuation?)

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We arrived at “mami’s” house (Isabelle’s mother) and the weather was beautifully warm and sunny.  I love springtime especially when it isn’t raining and I am not home doing yard work.  When we arrived, even the children noted how beautiful everything was especially the magnolia tree next to the house.   One of them… (can’t remember which one… they were very noisy) asked if we could bring some seeds back home from the tree.  I said  we already had “lots”…  but in Utah they look different… and are called sage brush.   (only a “white lie”.   I am not sure they would grow in Utah… plus you should see the ground… what a mess)

I have not yet used my “good” camera.  These photos were taken with my phone and the magnolia picture… well google decided to apply some “effects”…  not sure why google randomly does this.  I personally think it is messing with me.

I forgot to mention the fact that Isabelle did not come with us from the train station to her mother’s.  She unfortunately had to attend the funeral of a dear friend’s father.  She left directly from the train station while her sister drove the kids and I to her mother’s home.   Yes… I selflessly stayed with the children (actually I got stuck with them…).  

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We quickly ran to Super U (weird name for a grocery store… huh…) so I could make them something for dinner.   We bought my children’s idea of “French dietary staples”:

  • coquillette (elbow macaroni)
  • des lardon (American bacon cut up into little pieces)
  • pommes noisettes (little mashed potato balls that are crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle)
  • ketchup
  • une baguette (you know… the bread you always see in movies about France)
  • Orangina  (orange soda… with real orange pulp… at least I think it is real… if it isn’t… I wonder what it is made of… )

As you see in the picture above  I also patiently (or lazily) taught them to make their own dinner.  (So I lied when I wrote “so I could make them dinner”… but again it is just a little white lie since they need to learn how to be self-sufficient)France 09

I also wanted to add my idea of “french dietary staples”.   Here are the items I bought for myself.

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I consider these items “gateway” food to real french cuisine (with the exception of the mauricette).   Let me explain the mauricette.   This is a delicious pretzel like roll found in Alsace and you can not go wrong when serving these to Americans…  actually you can go wrong if you argue with your wife that they are “P”retzels not “B”retzels.

l’Ortolan:   (french cheese gateway for Americans)

This is a baby step towards real french cheese.   It is a delicious… almost butter flavored cheese that feels and looks like camembert.   It is so mild, delicious, and really easy to like.  I have met very few Americans who don’t love it.  If you are unfamiliar with and nervous about trying french cheese (especially the stinky, or runny ones) this is definitely a good starting place.  One “pro” tip… (I have seen this done… so don’t laugh) don’t cut off the white mold… you eat it.   Once you have had this… you can try anything… maybe Roquefort… and when you spit it out in disgust… you can remember that you have eaten at least one french cheese that you liked.  (I love roquefort as well… but you may not)

Rillettes:  (pâté and fois gras gateway for Americans)

I know that there are some french readers out there who will be rolling their eyes with this one… but from the view point of an American trust me.  French like to eat meat that looks like it belongs in a can of cat food. WORSE… It is often made of liver and sometimes liver from mistreated geese or ducks.   Rillettes is the best introduction to this cat food eating culture.   First of all the texture feels more like meat should feel.   Second it is shredded pork and has a nice pork almost bacon-y taste.   Once you have become accustom to eating cat food (think of the money you could save)… you will be ready to try pate and even fois gras.   Here is another pro tip… don’t put ketchup on the fois gras it really bothers the french… trust me.

Oh… I had best tell you that I don’t mix the cheese and the meat… I made two mauricettes… one with l’ortolan and the other with the rillettes.. (don’t want you to think I am “weird”)

Stay tuned… I will be sharing my vacation over the next several weeks… maybe there will be some more “Pro” tips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to be a Panographer

I promised to post a “how to” make panography (this is not pornography… big difference although I imagine someone might have combined the two… Sorry… I will not)…  so here it is.   I saw this done by happenstance several years back  and was intrigued by the “look” (was not searching for something else and had a typo).   There is software that you can download that will create something similar from a photo but I believe creating your own is much more interesting.

Before I walk you through this process (It is not complicated… just tedious).  I would like to share with you some “old” panography I created of Strasbourg.

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I do not consider myself a photographer but love playing with photography… (like the Cyanotypes).   NOW… enough back story and… Here are my instructions.

Step 1.   Find a place and take 100s of pictures (or maybe less) .   Sounds simple but the trick is to keep the camera in the exact location and tip up or down or turn it from side to side.  The easiest way to do this is with a tripod… none of mine have been done with a tripod.  (I kind of like the interesting distorted look you get when you do it by hand…  just don’t try to distort it… it will not look ok).

Step 2.  Hopefully you did Step 1. with a digital camera… otherwise you need to scan in all of the pictures  (and you will really hate doing this… nightmare).   You will also need some “picture” editing software…. nothing fancy… just any that allows you to create a custom “canvas” size and have layers with adjusted opacity.  (I use a free one that is very simple… paint.net)  Create a canvas (blank picture) that is large enough to hold all of the pictures you are going to place (if you run out of space you can re-adjust the canvas size after the fact).   I like to shrink my pictures to about 1/3 of their orginal size… so usually I need a canvas about 4 times the size of my shrunken picture….

Step 3.  I shrink one of the pictures, then copy and paste it into a new layer on the canvas.  I then change the opacity of that layer to 100 (255 is completely opaque).  After the first one is set.  I put the next one down overlapping the first and matching it up as best I can.   I then repeat this with all of the other pictures until I get the image I was looking for.   I often need to adjust the picture by rotating it… but that is where the fun is.

That is it not too bad huh???   Here is a couple pictures walking your through the process.

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First picture (I am starting this from the far right)

 

 

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Now I have changed the layer’s transparency to 100
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Now I have added two more pictures… (will repeat until it looks the way I want it to look)

 

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Here it is finished.  

I hope this was interesting…   You are only limited by your imagination. (for example…I wanted to show all sides of a building at the same time… and did it this way.)

 

 

 

Vacation and Long Walks

Today was fantastic… (very little shopping… we still did some… you know… les soldes… but it was limited).   My vacations are a time for walking… I mean really walking.   I love walking around and exploring… (plus I have to walk off all of the pastries I am eating).     This is kind of “creepy” but google tracks you everywhere you go… and they are now getting good enough to know when you are walking, riding in a car, on a train… or in an airplane.  I thought It might be interesting to share my “google timeline” for today.

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The light blue is walking and the dark blue is riding in a car.  I walked 22.5 km today!!!  and  walked all the way to Germany… actually a park called “Jardin des deux rives”.   This park is on the Rhine and is located on both the French side as well as the German Side.   Here are a couple picture of my walk to the park

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Ill river Strasbourg (kind of a funny name for a river)

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L’Eglise St. Paul (My favorite church in Strasbourg… not that I go to this one… just like to look at it)

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Random sign about bikers and pedestrians and respect… (maybe not as interesting)

Back to the Park…

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The kids, their cousins, and my wife met me at the park on the French side and we crossed the bridge to the German side since they have an awesome water playground..   The kids loved it…  Ben being Ben… wanted to make friends but was struggling since he can’t speak or understand German…  We managed to teach him “Wie heißt du?” so he could at least get a name…  and he and the other kids made up for the rest with splashes… (newly discovered universal language)

Here are some pictures

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We also climbed  Weißtannenturm a 44 meter tower (144 feet tall).   I have done this several times… but every time it moves (it moves with the slightest breeze)… I end up sitting down and embarrassing myself.  Here are some pictures of the tower..

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(give you an ides of what you are standing… or if you are like me… sitting on at the top)

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View from the top… Strasbourg and Kehl

Before I end this post… I learned one thing today… little German girls are (please excuse the language… but not sure how to express it any better)… BAD ASS…   There was a “big kid” section with a rope course and I saw two little girls starting to play on it.   I wanted to run over and pull them off… but then noticed they were doing it better than my older kids.   Here is a picture of them moving across one of the sections… Notice how high!  and they are in dresses????

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See ya tomorrow…

 

 

 

 

OH No… Les soldes d’été (forgot about it)

Before I get to the “SOLDES”… I want to say that the day started off… well beautifully.   We went for a nice walk around Oberhausbergen… Isabelle’s home town. (funny name for a french city… but they are all strange names in Alsace)

Here are some pictures from the morning walk… You will note that almost all of my vacations pictures end up at somewhere with food especially pastries… you can also see… Sam enjoying an éclair breakfast.  (yes I am still a horrible father when it comes to making breakfast)

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After the walk Isabelle asked me to help buy her mother a dress for our nieces wedding next week.  I agreed even though I hate shopping… and I did this because it was for Yvonne (wife’s mother).   Everyone jokes about their Mother in-law… but I seriously can’t find anything negative to say about mine… (maybe I just found something to complain about… she is too perfect… ).   Honestly  Yvonne is truly an angel and I love her dearly…   Both she and her late husband are people that I admire and really want to emulate.  As an example of their kindness both of Isabelle’s parents worked for Albert Schweitzer (who was born in a nearby village — Kaysersberg)  doing charity work.   Here is a picture of Yvonne with Albert Schweitzer.  (hopefully I don’t need to explain who he is…)

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I can really get off topic…. sorry…back to shopping…  We left for Strasbourg and to my dismay… realized way to late to back out… with a believable excuse… that France was having their summer sale…   France has some interesting commerce laws and “Sales” happen only twice a year… Winter Sale and Summer Sale.  The only fond memory of these sales was the first time I saw them… and kept wondering why everything was marked as already “SOLDES”… (at the time didn’t know that it was the word for “sale” in French).   My wife had a similar experience in the US… except she was wondering why everything had gotten “SALE” (means “dirty” in french… and she didn’t know what it meant in English)….

Unfortunately this is where any good feelings about “les soldes d’été” end…  I mentioned earlier about going to hell and Satan giving me a crochet hook as punishment… well this would be his next torment… (go shopping with your wife… and there is a big sale)   My wife can spend literally hours (like today… ) looking for a bra…  I especially hate lingerie stores… never no where to look….  I finally couldn’t take it any longer so I left her and the madness… and I wandered around Strasbourg taking these pictures…

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and I of course ended this walk with something to eat… ICECREAM…

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Decided to try a new flavor   GERANIUM…   and it tasted like… well  like the flower smells… kind of horrible…

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Tomorrow another WPD (Weird Picture of the Day)…