62/365: Tulips to put some Spring into Winter

After being teased by the prospect of Spring, Winter reared its ugly head again. Today, highs in the 20's and a wicked wind from the Northeast. I should know, I had to run against it this morning.

So, I went out an bought some tulips, and I NEVER buy cut flowers.

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Random Picture Challenge

Lindsay introduced me to a fun random photo challenge over at 4 little men and girly twins.

This week, go to your 11th folder or September 2007 and find photo 11:

The 11th picture in my collection from September 2007:



A plaza in downtown Chicago, where Scott and I spent the weekend celebrating our 15th anniversary. Near the Theatre district, I'm sure the fountain has an official name, but I don't recall. We enjoyed walking around the streets of Chicago, walking around Millennium Park and experiencing the musical Wicked. What a great weekend!

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61/365: Friday's Self Portrait

I have been having a bit of photographer's block on Fridays, so for the 2nd Friday in a row, I opted to set up the tripod for a self portrait.



I am bundled up in a robe because the Spring-like weather has turned back to Winter and I was COLD. Tonight's activities included our Ladies Book Club meeting where we sort of discussed John Irving's The 158 Pound Marriage. The consensus of the group - skip it - even with the racy theme (swinging couples in the 70's), the characters were unlikeable and odd.

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Friday Fill-Ins #113



Hannah and Rascal - will they every get along?

1. I'm an engineer by degree but somewhere deep down, I'm a closet artist and, I hope someday I'll be able spend more time on that artistic side. For now, the engineering gig pays the bills.

2. Why do I have a D70 and not a D300 yet is because I am waiting for the price of the D300 to go down. I expect this will happen when Nikon releases the D400 later this year, so I continue to be patient.

3. How does this photo editing software work, anyway? I'm talking about Lightroom and Aperture, compared with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Photoshop. I know about the latter, but don't know the details on the former. I guess that's just as well, I don't want to spend more money on software!

4. Every morning, I put Rusk Sensories Smoother on my hair. It's a leave-in conditioner that protects my tresses while I apply the hot hair dryer to it.

5. I consider myself lucky because I have been blessed by faith, family, health and wonderful friends.

6. One day we’ll see our two cats, Hannah and Rascal, act civil towards each other. I hope. Right now, they continue to hiss, swat and scowl at each other.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to meeting with my Book club friends, tomorrow my plans include running 8 miles and Sunday, I want to enjoy the Sara Bareilles concert(so stoked about that)!

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60/365: Morning Fog

Every morning on the way to work, I pass by an abandoned lot adjacent to a lake. There used to be a lakeside restaurant on the lot, but it was torn down, leaving three concrete piers that supported the restaurant.

With this morning's fog, I stopped to take pictures.

With 'No Trespassing' signs posted at the driveway and along the parking lot, I felt as if I was doing something illegal. I was on the property for a maximum of 3 minutes and captured several images.





Here's the before on the vertical picture. I straightened, adjusted Levels and cropped. I wish the finished picture showed more detail of the trees/bushes along the far side of the lake, but I overexposed. I probably should have taken more time instead of being concerned about those No Trespassing Signs.

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Simple Fun and Games

The other night (Tuesday night to be exact), I had a blast playing Cadoo with Erica and Brian. The game combines Charades, Pictionary, Trivia and Tic-Tac-Toe into one. Since we were having the most fun with the Charades and Pictionary elements, we decided to eliminate the rest.



Some memorable moments:
The charades acting consisted of the kids flailing their bodies on the couch or the floor, regardless of the word. They were completely spaz-ing out.
Erica did a great job acting out "acorn". She pretended to be "Scritch" from Ice Age. Hilarious.
Erica isn't all that good at drawing things. Her "beehive" looked like a face.
Brian draws well, but takes forever.
We spent much of the evening laughing - Good, clean, fun, and no electronics required!

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59/365: Small Signs of Spring

Today's weather - 60's and sunny. You can feel a bit of spring in the air.

I surveyed my garden for some tangible hints of the impending change of season and only found some subtle signs - tender red branches on the Maple, some buds forming on the Lilac and Viburnum bushes.




This week's theme at 2Peas is Before and After, showing the effects of Post Processing.

I Post process as little as possible, because I don't want to spend a lot of time in front of the computer (I do that enough at my other job!). But I recognize the power of being able to manipulate the image files and love the effects available.
Things I always adjust -
White Balance. Because I am too lazy to take a preset.
Exposure / Levels. Because my camera tends to underexpose.

Straight out of the Camera:


Adjusted WB, Exposure and I added some sharpening.


Any comments / critiques are welcome!

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58/365: Funny Hannah?

We are lucky Hannah is such a good natured kitty - she puts up with a lot.

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57/365: Crazy Hair Day!

In preparation for next week's Illinois Standardized Achievement Tests (ISAT), Brian's school is letting loose this week with School Spirit Week.

They dubbed today as "Crazy Hair Day". This means silly hats, wigs and hair styles. Brian opted for green hair. We pulled this off by mixing green food color in shaving cream and applying the green goop to the top of Brian's hair:





Most of the green had faded by the time I picked him up after school, but there was still a "tinge" of green present. During his dentist appointment, the dentist could detect the green hue.

Tomorrow is Backwards day. Could be interesting.....

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A Life Lived Fully and with Influence


Picture from my 1985 ARHS Yearbook

Through Facebook network, I learned of the untimely death of my High School Band / Music Director, Dennis Wrenn at the age of 58. He collapsed this past Friday, while on a High School Jazz Band trip in Greece. Even though I graduated almost 25 years ago, he was still leading the school's numerous Bands, the Orchestra and influencing the musical hearts of the students he interacted with.
Over 1200 people have joined the Facebook Tribute group that was set up hours after the news of his death was released. A testament to the vast influence this one man had over his students and the musical community he helped nurture and build.

What did I learn from Mr. Wrenn (he'll always be "Mr. Wrenn" to me, not "Dennis", as I am certain he would insist upon)?
  • I learned to broaden my musical horizons - through his connections, I was given opportunities to play in Pit Orchestras outside High School.
  • I learned an appreciation for Jazz, which I continue to love today.
  • I learned to step out and audition, even if I don't think I'm good enough, because in most cases, you really are good enough.
  • I learned to have fun with my music.
In his death, I've learned to embrace what you love, and to love what you do, because life is too short to not do what you love.

Mr. Wrenn, rest in peace. I know you are out there making beautiful music.


ARHS Orchestra, 1985. Mr. Wren is in the 2nd row, far right. I love that he chose to sit in the all of the musical groups' pictures - not all teachers did that.

Some links to the media coverage around Dennis Wrenn's death:
Metro West
Boston.com

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56/365 - Hard Drive Clean up

Seriously boring stuff today, but long overdue - with 2 gb of disk space left on the PC hard drive, several files needed to be moved to the external hard drives. We have an external hard drive continuously hooked up and a 2nd one used for back ups only. I pulled out the 2nd hard drive and started to copy files of my pictures from 2007 and 2008.



I now have two full copies of my photo files - one on each external hard drive. The PC hard drive only has pictures from 2009. And we now have almost 20 gigs of space. Let's see how long it takes to get back down to 2 gigs.

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55/365: The Tornados

One more week of indoor soccer left and Brian's team (with friends George and Drew) are undefeated. Today was "picture day" - parents bring their cameras and take pictures of the team.

Brian, George, Alex, Conor, Drew, Michael and Erin.

Of course, you have to have a silly pose, too.


This program has been great for Brian - an hour of running around with friends in the dead of winter. Much better than lazing around all Saturday in PJs (been there, done that!).

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54/365: Just the Girls Today

Another self portrait. Can you tell it is another gloomy winter day?


Kathleen's back - she and Erica watched the movie "Stardust" in the Master bedroom. At least that where they started out - the DVD player in the bedroom showed a lot of static, so about 30 minutes into the film, they relocated to the Family room. Of course, Kathleen spent the night.

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Friday Fill-Ins #112


Vast assortment of cheeses displayed at Burrough Market - London - January 2008

1. Give me a camera and I'll take your picture.

2. Whenever you think Spring is just around the corner, Mother Nature sends 4" of snow - that is the forecast for tonight.

3. I wish Hannah would stop meowing because she is hungry. Ever since we switched her to the indoor cat food, she has been inconsolable.

4. The goat cheese and bruschetta on garlic toast was the last thing I ate that was utterly delicious. I thought it would be the Stilton I purchased last week, but that was terrible.

5. To live in this world you have to be thankful for what you have.

6. Other than this one, Lindsay's is the last blog I commented on.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to spending time scrapbooking, tomorrow my plans include running at least 7 miles and Sunday, I want to do nothing, but I need to get the disk space on the computer under control - the 2nd external hard drive needs to be put into service!

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53/365: Playing Violin

A little bit of a self portrait today. I was inspired by pictures of Allyson, whose Project 365 involves taking pictures of herself. Every Day. I don't know how she does it - it was a challenge for me to orchestrate today's picture.



So while I won't be taking daily pictures of "me", I'll try to incorporate more of "me" in the future.

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52/365: Headless Brian and Some Cookies

This is what the kids resort to when Mom pulls out the camera:

Scott made Black and White cookies for tomorrow's work potluck.


I made my classic Chinese BBQ pork. I think my co-workers would revolt if I didn't bring it in. Maybe I'll take a picture of it tomorrow.

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Love: Valentine's Flower

Yeah, I posted this picture on my other blog, but I think it qualifies for the Love Challenge Traci is hosting this month.

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51/365: Heart of My Valentine's Rose

Scott bought both Erica and me a rose each for Valentine's day - a yellow one and a pink one. The yellow one didn't live up to its expectation - it never opened up and turned brown. But the blush pink rose opened up beautifully:



I took the picture by placing the flower vase on the floor, on top of Scott's black fleece jacket. I steadied the camera by looping the strap around my neck and under one of my arms so that the entire strap was taut. This made a big difference in keeping the camera shake down (a trick I had forgotten about). I pointed the lens down over the flower. I adjusted the WB, Levels and Brightness, then cropped into a 4x6. I think I want a larger print of this guy, so I'll play around with a 5x7 crop later.

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50/365: Morning Run

President's Day means a day off for us, which also means a weekday morning run for me.

Over the frosty bridge:




I went back to the bridge after my run to take the pictures (it's not very far from the house and a nice way to cool down).

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Erica's Baptism

Yesterday, we were blessed by Erica's Baptism.

She was baptized by Scott in the church baptistery, during the first worship service. Her middle school friends witnessed the event, along with members of the congregation in the worship service. A "surveillance" type camera filmed the event and broadcast it live into worship center.

This required us to wait around a bit.






Erica wore a bathing suit under the robes, but Scott was allowed to wear fisherman's waders:


Finally, it was time to get in the warm water, and then they were live!

Scott introduced himself and Erica.


Erica repeated The Good Confession:

"I believe
That Jesus is the Christ
The son of the Living God"


Scott then said:
"I Baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit"

She was immersed in the water:


A very special day for all of us!

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49/365: Special Baptism

A very special day for Erica - today she publicly professed her belief in Jesus and was baptized by Scott.

One of my favorite pictures from today - playing the waiting game.


After being immersed:

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New Kitchen Table

Our new kitchen table was finally delivered last night. We had outgrown the previous table and needed one that would seat up to more people - with friends and visiting relatives, a larger table was more practical.

I was also sick of the glass table top. I will NEVER purchase another table with a glass top. The old table will go out to the patio (in reality, it is a patio table, so it is going back to its "roots").

The new table is a counter height model, with 4 chairs and a double bench. Because of the additional height, Scott attempted to adjust the light fixture - yes, with a bungee cord (no immediate success here, we obviously need to buy some additional hardware).



Once the new table was set up, Erica and her Dad enjoyed some evening snacks, sitting on the double bench.



On an unrelated topic, Erica successfully endured the extraction of 4 permanent teeth and 1 baby tooth Friday morning. She chose not to be knocked out - only local Novocaine was administered. No complications and today she only took one dose of ibuprofen. She didn't keep the teeth because she knew I would take pictures of them! Probably just as well.

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48/365: Dinnertime

Our first family dinner at the new table.
Erica and Brian were forced to share the bench seat. They didn't kill each other, but certainly talked about it constantly.



We love the extra space, extra seating, and its counter height.

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47/365: The New Kitchen Table

Our new kitchen table, complete with Friday's bowl of popcorn.



More pictures and information at my other blog.

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46/365: Love and Kisses

Since Erica is adverse to being in photos, I asked her to pose for this shot, where she would be blurry and the Hershey Kiss would be in focus.

OK, so the Kiss isn't quite in focus, but I only got two shots at it (that's the attention span of a 6th grader) and this one was the better of the two shots.

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Chocolate, Love and Facebook on the 12th of February

Today's title truly represents the concept of 12 pictures on the 12th of each month - seemingly unrelated subjects that ARE related because they constitute some the elements that made our day.

First, Hannah enjoyed her morning drink at the bathtub. Why does every cat like to drink from a flowing source? They think the water is cleaner than what's in their bowl, and in this case, the water out of the faucet is pretty clean and fresh, but our cats also drink from our fish pond's waterfall, which I don't think I would do.


A bright and early (7:30!) appointment with the oral surgeon - Erica needs to have 5 teeth pulled for her braces. We set up the extraction procedure for tomorrow - we'll just get it over with.


After I dropped Erica off at school, I drove home to retrieve my camera. This is what was playing on the iPod:


Pulling out of the driveway, I noticed the lines of clouds behind the house. After I took the picture, I realized the clouds were quickly dissipating - looking down the street, you could only see blue sky - no clouds.


It's after lunch now, and I treat myself to some chocolate I purchased yesterday. This stuff is SO good.


The 2nd part of my drive home (there are only 3 main roads I drive to work on). Flat. Virtually no traffic on Rt 45 today. When I drove into work, there was an overturned semi trailer on the shoulder - overturned by the 60 mph wind gusts that blew through yesterday. I was hoping to get a picture of it now, but it had been moved.


At home, the kids were riding bikes outside. Today they had to wear gloves because the temps only hit 40 degrees today.


Brian worked on creating the paper model of this ancient wonder:


He finished it around dinner:


I had seen other photographers use this DOF technique and Erica allowed me to photograph her in this manner.


I went to the local garden center in search of some Cymbidium orchids. All they had were Phalaenopsis orchids, though. I attempted to photograph some of my Dendrobium orchids that were in bloom.


Finally, Scott set up his own Facebook account. He was avoiding it, but realized he should move into the 21st century. I hope he accepts my friend request.....

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