Last Minute Gift Ideas - Shop Local, Shop Handmade

I admit to being a procrastinator, especially when it comes to the busy holidays. For example, I only last weekend (that would be a mere two weeks before Christmas) designed and ordered this year's Holiday card. So folks, don't expect an on time card from our family!

So, for those last minute shoppers who don't want to brave the mall this weekend, I'm suggesting you get out to a local market place for some unique, handmade gifts. Small artisan shops and vendors can be found even our small midwestern town - you might have to use social media or contact consignment shops to find them.

Some handmade treasures I've come across locally:

Beaded Wrap Bracelets
Today's Arm Candy #handmade
A friend of mine makes these and they can be found through etsy stores. The bracelet is flexible and wraps around the wrist four times for an instant layered look. The mixture of stones and crystals compliments casual and formal attire - I even wear mine to yoga practice.

Personalized charm necklaces
For A Special Friend
I found these simple necklaces at the local farmer's market. I'm not a "chunky" jewelry wearer (I rarely accessorize to begin with) and I love that the charms are small, interchangeable and personalized to the wearer. I gave the necklace above to a friend who moved away, bought a horse charmed one for my daughter and this one for me:
Capture Life

Handmade Soap, Specialty Syrup and Vintage Stuff
Made Fest Finds
I love handmade soap - they come in all sorts of fragrances from earthy to floral and are a great luxury to use. Real.Soaps are handmade in Chicago and also available via etsy. Your local natural store may also carry handmade soaps.

Sages Specialty Syrups are made in Indiana and the business owners frequent local farmer's markets. The syrup jazzes up the standard cocktail (mango ginger martini anyone?) or sparkling water or tea. I bought some spiced pumpkin syrup to mix into my fall coffee. You can find similar specialty syrups at your local foodie store.

Vintage camera - perfect for that sentimental photographer. I now own three vintage cameras - two of them, including the Kodak Duaflex pictured above still take film and one of these days I'm going to try make it work. For now, it's a nice conversation piece, along with my Brownie Hawkeye.

Local Designer Clothing - Chicago designer Kate VanAsten makes beautiful clothing at Wulfka. I found her at a local artisan fair and bought the beautiful Isis Dress. She also has skirts and shrugs available.
Dress

We're in the final stretch before Christmas, so good luck with the final days of shopping!

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Begin Again

I willfully sat down last Saturday (maybe two Saturday's ago - I've lost track) and actually watched a full length movie at home. (those who know me realize this is quite a feat - I don't sit down for long periods of time at home, unless I'm napping) The movie that successfully captured my attention - Begin Again, a music centric story of a washed up, mid-life crisis record executive who reclaims his life while helping an indie singer-songwriter record music in the streets of New York.

Begin Again stars Keira Knightley as the singer, and yes, she actually sings in the movie. She plays Gretta, a songwriter who comes to New York with her singer boyfriend, who is on the cusp of commercial stardom. She finds herself on the outside as her partner (played by Adam Levine) is swept away by the music industry machine. Mark Ruffalo plays the record executive, a drunkard louse, who sees potential in Gretta's stripped down, acoustic songs.

I thoroughly enjoy the movie, bought the soundtrack and now share some of it with you. I love the melodies and lyrics, but mostly the simplicity of the performances - there's real joy seen here.



Lost Stars, performed by Keira Knightley

Please, don't see
Just a girl caught up in dreams
And fantasies

Please, see me
Reaching out for someone
I can't see

Take my hand
Let's see where we wake up tomorrow
Best laid plans
Sometimes are just a one night stand

I'll be damned
Cupid's demanding back it's arrow
So let's get drunk on our tears

And God, tell us the reason
Youth is wasted on the young
It's hunting season
And the lambs are on the run

Searching for meaning
But are we all lost stars
Trying to light up the dark

What does it take to Begin Again? Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom, other times you need to take a chance. Most importantly, you have to know yourself and "to thine self, be true".



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Along My Run | 10 - November Contrasts

November is a month of contrasts - the leaves have peaked and by the end of the month, fall's glory is but a memory, replaced by a barren, skeletal landscape. We experienced a cornucopia of weather conditions - typical fall temperatures in the mid-30's, then a preview of winter with bitter temperatures, complete with single digit wind chills and a sprinkling of snow. To round out the month, the last day of November felt like Spring - a balmy 55 degrees.

Like I said, a month of contrasts.

November Runs - Contrasts
1. A year later and the way I run has changed me. Thank you for finding me that morning , 2. Peaking Canopy. Most of the Leaves are gone , 3. Passing Through, 4. Morning Haze. Even When It's Cloudy, a Rrun Makes Things Better, 5. Standing Still, before the Winds Picked up. Noted on my run - the Flock of geese overhead, in perfect V formation, the Hawk that flew by, the 20mph westerly wind between miles 7 and 9. Things that make you feel alive. , 6. Fading Away - I haven't run on this street in over two months, and it looks completely different now., 7. A Bit of Craziness -single digits. I even saw two other runners out there, so I'm not alone in my craziness. Wind was a killer., 8. Confessions of a Cold Weather Runner. Not shown - the double tights and long sleeve shirt I'm wearing., 9. Reaching Out For Someone I Can't See, 10. Brisk , 11. Take My Hand, Let's See Where We Wake Up Tomorrow , 12. November Blues -A warm and balmy morning - feels like spring! I'll take it - enjoyed my run in shorts and a tee shirt!

From a running standpoint, November served as a low-key, take things easy, run whatever feels good month. I cut back from running 4 days per week to 3 days, took more full rest days, added in more spinning classes and started a program with a personal trainer. I signed up with the personal trainer to address the strength imbalances I have between my left (weaker) and right sides, with the goal of preventing future injuries. I'm happy to report the Plantar fasciitis in my left foot is gone - I'm no longer running with tape or any arch support device.

November's Stats: 115 miles, 9:07 minute / mile average pace
Longest distance run: 13.2 miles one Saturday, even though we had originally planned to run 10 miles. We called it our virtual Half Marathon for November.

Hopefully, December won't pose too many foul weather challenges so I can finish up 2014 in good shape for 2015.

This month's running quotes, courtesy of great women runners:
I don't feel like myself unless I run. It's how I deal with sadness and happiness. I need it. It's like therapy.
– Kara Goucher

(I can totally relate)

A goal is just an awesome way to force growth on yourself.
– Deena Kastor


Running is not who I am; it's something I do; it's something I love.
– Lauren Fleshman


Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of.
– PattiSue Plummer


The things we love, have passion for, help us grow. What's your passion, what have you learned about yourself through that passion? My passions include running, photography and music. Embrace your passions each day - you won't regret it.

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December 2014 Desktop Calendar - Free Download - Acadia Sunrise

If you ever visit Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine, the sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain is a must-do "bucket list" activity. This location is purportedly the first place in the US to see the sunrise.



Adventurers, nostalgics and romantics make the cold, often snowy pilgrimage here on New Year's Day (hmmm, maybe a new "bucket list" item for me). I figured it would be fitting to have this close out 2014.

To Download this month's free desktop calendar, click on this link at Box.com:
December 2014 Calendar - Acadia - Cadillac Mountain Sunrise

To read more about Acadia National Park and my family's adventures there, head over to these links:
Long Pond Hike
Acadia Panoramics
Acadia Ocean Path
Afternoon Tea on Jordan Pond
Ocean Path to Thunder Hole
Biking the Carriage Trails at Acadia
4th of July Sunrise from the Top of Cadillac Mountain - Acadia National Park

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Friday Five - Gratitude

Well, I sort of dropped off the face of blog-land these past two weeks.

We received less than optimal news related to my hubby’s job and I’m feeling very unmotivated and lazy to write anything or take photos. In reality, our situation is manageable and not cataclysmic – there are many worse situations within my circle of friends, so I can’t complain. We’ll get through just fine.

We are looking forward to Thanksgiving, so in the celebration of the season, I am listing five things I am grateful for this November:

  1. Great Health – something we tend to take for granted.
  2. College tests, applications and acceptances – my daughter has been accepted at Michigan State and is still applying to other colleges.
  3. Good friends – whether near or far, web-based or not (I don’t want to use the term virtual friend, as they are as real as it gets), the support of friends conquers all.
  4. Ample resources – in the US, we have access to so much.
  5. Warm, cozy socks. I’m partial to Smart Wool socks. Unfortunately, my kids love them too and my daughter takes mine all the time, leaving me with cold, cotton socks. Fortunately, I recently received a coupon for a 20% discount. I hear they make great stocking stuffers....

And a photo to share - a kaleidoscope of colors, one of the first photos taken with my new iPhone 6!

Kaleidoscope in Flight #color #art

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

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Girls On The Run

Our neighborhood hosted a unique community event yesterday - the Girls On the Run 5K run passed through our sub-division. For a change, I was a spectator instead of a race participant and it was great fun. OK, I wasn't just a spectator, I also played the part of "race photographer".

Girls on the Run 5K

From the Girls on the Run Website, the program is aimed at 3rd-5th grade girls:
"Our mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running."

The local Girls on the Run Council has partnered with the YMCA and set up training sites at numerous elementary schools. The after school program meets twice a week with coaches, culminating in yesterday's 5K running event.

"The 20-lesson Girls on the Run curriculum combines training for a 5K (3.1 miles) running event with lessons that inspire girls to become independent thinkers, enhance their problem solving skills and make healthy decisions. All of this is accomplished through an active collaboration with girls and their parents, schools, volunteers, staff, and the community."

How awesome is that? From personal experience, I attest that running has given me more confidence, strength, stamina and most importantly, joy. The process of setting a goal, taking steps forward through discipline and training, then seeing that goal through provides an immense sense of accomplishment. I got to see those happy smiles of accomplishment on the runners today - and not just girls, but boys, mothers, fathers and teachers.

Girls on the Run 5K

Girls on the Run 5K

One of the runners was Ms J - a former 5th grade teacher to both my kids - and a friend. Ms J has transformed herself through weight loss and exercise and ran her first 5K today. I knew I had to cheer her on and give her a special high five as she passed by.

Girls on the Run 5K

It brightened my day to see and be a part of a great event from an organization with a positive mission.

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Senior Photos - The Best Friend

A is one of my daughter's best friends. They've attended the same schools since the first grade and became great friends in middle school.

Morning in London
Visiting London, June 2013

These two young ladies traveled to France and London together, even attended Lollapolooza last summer - they've shared so many adventures together, and I loved taking her Senior photos.

Senior AB

Senior AB

We got really lucky with the weather - our original plan was to take photos on Sunday, but with a predicted high of 50 degF and high winds, we postponed for a day. Monday turned out to be just perfect - mid 60's with autumn's golden afternoon sun.

Senior AB

I won't post the outtakes, but I will describe one of my posing fails - I instructed her to swing her head around in an attempt to create motion with her hair (you know, like those shampoo commercials for "full-bodied hair"). Never again.

The static pose is simpler.
Senior AB

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