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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Along My Run | 9 - October Marathon and Beyond

October culminated in the running of the Chicago marathon and my subsequent recovery period. After the Illinois marathon in April, I dipped into a bit of a post-race depression, but this time I didn't let it happen. I think the shorter days and dark mornings made it easier to let go of the expectation to get up and run. I simply decided to relax more and gave myself permission to take it easy.

I also didn't run any long distances the two weeks leading up to the Chicago Marathon, due to plantar fasciitis in my left foot. As a result, I don't have many running photos from October (so I included the photos from the start of November - I needed two more photos to make it an even 10).
Captured While Running - October Runs
1. Flip on the Lights , 2. This is the Day You Have Made. I will Rejoice and Be Glad in It, 3. It's a Perfect Day to Run Chicago, 4. Golden Days - 3 easy miles today , 5. First Movement , 6. Enjoying Fall , 7. Beautiful Morning for a Trail Run , 8. Looks Can be Deceiving - Steep Hill Ahead, 9. Cold but Golden , 10. Contrasts

Two weeks after the Chicago race, I ran a 6-mile trail race, held at Allerton Park. It was the perfect way to follow up my marathon - running something completely opposite - a trail race vs a road race, through a forest preserve instead of the city and a very small pool of participants (although it felt very crowded, especially at the start).

It was a perfect autumn day for a trail run.
Meander If You Please

Bursting Through

Melange

I love running in the fall - the temperatures are ideal, the air crisp and the leaves crunch underneath. I experienced something new running Sunday morning - watching, hearing and feeling the leaves gently rain down from the canopy above as I passed underneath. Just another reason to lace up and run outside.

Some other things to note - everyone seems to be commenting on my pink running shoes (on Instagram and Facebook)! I bought new shoes to add to my rotation - these are Hoka Cliftons, a highly cushioned yet lightweight shoe. The heel to toe offset is still low (5mm) and similar to the Brooks PureCadence, which I consider to be my main running shoe. I decided to try the Hoka brand, since they appear to help with plantar fasciitis. I have a fairly new pair of Saucony Kinvara5 which I am still getting used to (they are a bit on the stiff side). My last pair of shoes are pretty specialized - Goretex lined Inov8 Roclite Trail shoes that I wore during last week's trail race. They are waterproof, great in the rain and snow and of course, on a muddy trail. Can a runner have too many shoes? I guess not!

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The Scarecrow

The cold. The wind. The moon peeking from behind the clouds.

The scarecrow.....

Is It Real?

He's real, he's 12 feet tall and he stands so still, you think he's just a prop. Then you walk by and he starts to follow you.

You run away, screaming.

The scene is courtesy of my good friend and neighbor, Jill, and her husband, Buck. Last Halloween, he was the creepy, 12 foot clown. I wondered how they would top that, but they did this year with the Scarecrow.

Still scary in Black and White
Beware the Scarecrow

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November 2014 Desktop Calendar - Free Download - Fountains at the Bellagio

November is upon us, the weather has definitively turned cooler and Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend.

It's a time to visit warm Vegas!

If you can't get there in person, you can visit virtually - and enjoy the Fountains at the Bellagio.



To Download this month's free desktop calendar, click on this link at Box.com:
November 2014 Calendar - Fountains at the Bellagio

We did visit Vegas in November, about four years ago, an adults only trip to celebrate the 40th birthday of my good friend, Jill. It is a great time to visit - not too hot but still warm.

Some of our trip's highlights:

The Hoover Dam - a great half day or full day trip.
Vegas at Night.
Scenes along the Vegas Strip
Some Chihuly and an Oldenburg - Art in Vegas

Enjoy your extra hour this weekend!


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Curried Squash - Sweet Potato Soup

I really didn't fall off the face of the earth - I just wasn't in the mood to post anything last week. Maybe my lethargy is a remnant of the post-marathon slump, coupled with the shortened daylight hours.

I've also been busy most evenings traversing town, taking my son to and from Driver's Ed class. Oh, wait, I'm not doing the driving - I'm being driven around town by my newly minted, driver's permitted Boy. So maybe I'm just too stressed to do anything but sit on the couch afterwards.

OK, he's not that bad a driver, I'm just super high strung when I think he's going to hit another car (that's not happened)....or spin out the back end of the car when taking a turn too fast (yes, that has happened).

Deep cleansing breath....

Enough of my random blabbering - the real purpose of this post is a recipe for this luscious soup I conjured up.

Rustic Lunch - Curried Winter Squash Soup, Crusty Sourdough #foodie #yum

Butternut squash and Sweet potatoes - two of my favorite foods - melded together.

(I got in the habit of consuming one entire butternut squash and one-two sweet potatoes each week last winter while in marathon training mode - they are great sources of carbohydrates, fiber and of course, that orange beta carotene)

This recipe is my own, but I was inspired by Panera Bread's current menu offering of Autumn Squash Soup and a recipe for Curried Sweet Potato Soup in Runner's World Magazine.

Ingredients:
One Butternut Squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1" pieces
One medium Sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
One medium onion, roughly diced
Two cloves of garlic, smashed
One half apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1" pieces (I used a Honeycrisp because we love them)
3 - 4 C chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 C White wine (optional)
1 T Curry powder
1/2 C half and half

Preparation:
Add the squash, potato, onion, garlic, apple, 3 C of broth, white wine and curry powder to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil then simmer, covered for about 40-50 minutes, or until the veggies are soft and mushy. Blend the soup in batches if using a blender (I use an immersion blender - right in the pot) until nice and smooth.

Stir in the Half and Half and simmer until heated through, adding more broth / water if needed. (I like my soup on the thick side, so add more liquid to suit your taste)

I serve the soup topped with crumbled goat cheese and pumpkin seeds, and a side of crusty bread. I bet if you sprinkled on dried cranberries, that would be super pretty and tasty, too!

Since I'm the only one in the house that remotely likes butternut squash, sweet potatoes or any orange colored vegetable, I had plenty of leftovers. The soup keeps wonderfully, the flavors developing more fully after sitting overnight. I'm guessing it will freeze well, too, so make a big double batch and freeze the remaining portion for a quick and easy future meal.

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