The Family That Runs Together

Two years ago, one of the area hospitals expanded their sleepy little 10K road race into a full blown Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K event. A huge undertaking, to bring such a big event to our mid-sized, in the middle of nowhere city. I ran the Half Marathon that year, amazed by the participant turn out and even more amazed by the city, the volunteers and residents that came out to make a wonderful race.

Back in 2009, just under 10,000 people participated in the Illinois Marathon Events. Then in 2010, the participants expanded to almost 15,000. This year, almost 19,000 people are registered for the Youth Fun Run, 5K, 10K (new this year), Marathon Relay (expanded this year), Half Marathon and Full Marathon. The 5K would be held on Friday evening instead of Saturday morning.

Because I "require" each of my kids to run a 5K race before issuing them a cell phone at the age of 12 (still too early, I think, but my daughter was one of the last in her class to get one), we decided to participate in this year's 5K event. (More on my requirement - I want my kids to work towards an athletic goal of some sorts. I was never athletic growing up and after I started running at the age of 25, I realized how empowering it is for one to be able to strap on a pair of shoes and hit the road. I want my kids to feel that empowerment or confidence with their fitness.)

So we all signed up for the 5K race. I mentioned this to my friend, Jill, who happens to be my neighbor and the mother of Brian's best friend. She decided to sign up her family, too. Then we learned Erica's friend, Jen, was signed up. Many of our friends and their families planned to run the event. Us and 5,000 other people. What fun!

Here we are, Friday night, heading towards the starting line and the pace groups forming behind the start.
Heading to the Start
I was a little worried about Brian - he didn't spend much time "training" for this run. He ran on the treadmill every now and then. He ran / walked a bit with Jill's boys. He ran / walked with me last weekend (more like sprinted for 20 seconds and then walk at a snails pace for 10 minutes - I was really concerned).

I projected at best, we would complete the 3.1 miles in 35 minutes. For me, this is a very leisurely pace, so I decided to run with my camera. I put the little 50mm lens on and tucked it into my sling bag. No problem, really!

Because I wanted to capture the build up to the starting horn
Running Trio

Pre-Race Goofiness

Slight of Hand

Fleet of Foot

I wasn't able to take pictures while running, because there were so many people and I was trying to keep track of Scott and Brian. Brian did great, keeping up with us at a good pace, only walking every now and then.

The best thing about all the races - the finish line is at the 50 yard line of University of Illinois' football field. How else would I ever get to run on that football field?

We all finished around 33 minutes, well within my projections. A great run by all!
Family Achievement


Next year? Scott and Erica are considering the 10K. I am announcing that I am going to run the full marathon. So there it is - my first step - a formal, public commitment.


Thursday Night Band Concert

In our school district, opportunities for instrumental instruction starts in 4th grade with strings. Then in 5th grade, band instruments are introduced. The process for picking a band instrument was based on the perspective student's ability to produce some sort of sound with the instruments they were interested in. I had suggested to Brian to try the clarinet. He did try the clarinet and his second choice, the saxophone, which he ended up with. As it turns out, in his school, only two students ended up with the saxophone. I'm not really sure why, it can't be that different from a clarinet (there are at least four of them). Anyways, I like the sax, and Brian enjoys playing. As a bonus, he doesn't squeak too much or make awful noises with the instrument!

Ever since he started playing, we've asked Brian when the band would perform in concert. The school holds several concerts a year - the Holiday concerts, the 5th grade concert (the one Brian didn't sing in at all), the 4th grade concert and the Orchestra concert. But not a word about the Band concert.

We learned there would be a District Wide Band performance - with all the elementary schools - towards the end of the school year. All the 5th grade band members take a day to practice together, culminating in a concert that evening, at one of the middle schools.

But as a last minute add to our school's Family Arts Night, the school band was asked to perform. This is what we were looking for - a nice, small concert with just our school's band, at our school.

Hi Mom and Dad
Tonight, he's the lone sax player - the other player wasn't able to attend. Talk about pressure!

I couldn't figure out why the trombone section was so large - at least 7 of them!
The Trombone Section
I was told the trombone is an easy instrument to learn - that's why there are so many of them. I'm not sure I 100% believe that, but I guess if you have a lot of brass, then it makes the band sound full.

One of the pieces - Frère Jacques, performed as a round:

Brian is in the second group, so at the end, you can hear his sax playing. [You just have to sit through some "rough spots" and clarinet squeaks to get there.]

And a successful first concert for our 5th grade band!

I'm glad they had the opportunity to perform tonight, as I most likely won't be able to get as close during the All District concert.


Free Night

You wouldn't know it, but we've been under a Tornado for most of the evening. All the rain we've had over the last two days has resulted in the cancellation of both ball games tonight.

So instead of being double booked, I am enjoying an free evening.

What to do? Take photos, of course. Because even though we are under said tornado watch, the sun is shining. It's a really windy, though, which makes for challenging picture taking with the macro lens.

But I'm not looking for ultra fine detail tonight. Just something to lift my spirits.

The Red Japanese Maple in my neighbor's yard, blowing in the wind:
Red Flags

The cluster that is waiting for the rest of the flowers on the viburnum bush to fade before making its debut:
Late Bloomer

Here's "bokeh Shirley" (and our dirty glass door) -

I need to go now and coerce the boy to take a shower. Maybe I'll have time to catch part of tonight's episode of Glee on the DVR. Or maybe I'll go to bed early.

Here's to unexpected free time.


Faded Pink

Since I started using Lightroom to process my photos, I find I don't use textures or actions like I used to. Mainly because that means I need to export to .jpg and then open up PSE, make my edits, re-import into Lightroom and send to flickr.

But my full afternoon / evening just opened up completely, so I played around a little bit with one of the flowering crab photos I took Saturday evening, while on a walk with hubby.

The original:
Pink Explosion

I ran The Pioneer Woman's Soft and Faded Action on it (one of my favorite actions) and then added Kim Klassen's Serendipity texture on top, using the Soft Light blending mode at 100% opacity. Flattened and saved. That's it - it took me maybe 5 minutes to complete the transformation, because I have to fiddle with things (like checking out the impact of each blending mode, even though I chose Soft Light first).

Faded Pink

It happens to be Texture Tuesday at the Kim Klassen Cafe, and the Serendipity texture I used is free when you sign up for Kim's weekly newsletter. A free texture every week!



Random Thoughts, April 25, 2011

I liked last Tuesday’s episode of Glee, except the “math” at the beginning of the show really bothered me. The Glee Club needs to raise $5000 by selling taffy, each priced at $0.25 apiece. How many pieces of taffy do they need to sell? So, how does Mr. Shu get the equation 5000 x .25 = 20000? [The last I checked, 5000 x 0.25 = 1250] The proper way to form the equation is Pieces of Taffy * unit price = $ raised, or Pieces of Taffy x 0.25 = 5000. Solving for Pieces of Taffy, we have Pieces of Taffy = 5000 / 0.25 = 20000 Pieces of Taffy.

I really liked the song Gwyneth sang, so much that I had to look it up. Turning Tables, originally performed by Adele. As a result, Adele’s most recent CD, 21, is now en route to the house.

When it comes to music, I prefer to have the physical CD, which I then rip into mp3 format and bring into my iPod.

While buying Easter Candy for the kids, I thought I would try something new – Chocolate Ferrero, instead of the Hazelnut Ferrero. Meh, I think I’ll stick with the Hazelnut flavor.
Chocolate Ferrero
The Twilight Delight Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate I bought (at the same time as the other candy) is so divine. Ghirardelli used to offer a similar chocolate with espresso. That was even better, but they must have discontinued it.

After two weeks of drinking a mix of "regular" and Starbucks coffee, I'm back to 100% Starbucks. I didn't realize how much I missed it.

I watched the family who lives behind us (Kellie and Ian) with their little kids on Easter, having an egg hunt. It reminded me of the time my kids were little, we were having our own egg hunt, and the then owners of that house watched our kids running around, collecting eggs. How the tables have turned.
See how our kids have grown:
Running With Glee

I love all the flowering crab trees in the ‘hood right now. When / if Kellie and Ian move (they’ve found another house down the street with more room and they are trying to sell their house FSBO), we’ll plant some in the area between the houses.
Flowering Crab

The next four days will be crazy – two baseball games, one soccer game, one soccer practice, a violin lesson, two dentist appointments, a band concert and a family 5K race. That’s on top of school and work.

I’ve been kind of grumpy these last couple of days - maybe it's the prospect of all that needs to happen this week, maybe it's just me. But I’m reminded of the blessings in my life, and I am humbled by it all.

Leaving you with Adele performing Turning Tables. Worth a listen.


I Heart Faces Challenge - Pets

This week's I Heart Faces photo challenge is Pets. I'm entering this photo of Booda, one of the horses at the boarding stable where our own Caesar lives. He's definitely an active guy, full of energy. He's "playing" around with Kizzes. The two are a pair!

Maybe Booda is Being Playful

Shortly after this picture was taken, Booda settled down, and he and Kizzes resumed hanging out peacefully together.

Head over to I Heart Faces for more animal photos, tutorials and more.


Here's That Rainy Day

2011 has been the year of rainy holidays. Granted, we've only had two of them (President's Day and Good Friday), but we aren't setting a positive trend.

Maybe the rain isn't because of the holiday, but because of where we've chosen to eat during our day off. We've been enjoying lunch at the local sushi restaurant. I believe we haven't seen the sun when we've eaten there:
New Year's Eve - Cloudy and damp
When Teresa Visited - We had dinner there, so it was night (no sun).
President's Day - Rainy
After the last Illini Basketball game - Rainy
Good Friday - Rainy

That's it. I think we can't go back there unless it's sunny and warm. That should break the curse of the sushi restaurant.

I captured the rain dripping off the restaurant's awning. And once I converted it to black and white, it reminded me of the song, Here's that Rainy Day, a song I learned in college while singing with an a cappella group.

Here's That Rainy Day

Maybe I should have saved
Those leftover dreams
But here's that rainy day
Here's that rainy day
They told me about
And I laughed at the thought
That it might turn out this way
Where is that worn out wish
That I threw aside
After it brought my love so near
Funny how love becomes
A cold rainy day
That rainy day is here
It's funny
How love becomes
A cold rainy day
That rainy day is here

Take a listen here - Chris Botti on trumpet, followed by Rosa Passos singing the song.


Earth Day - Good Friday

Just a few images of the parsley that is due to go into the garden. I'm glad I didn't plant them out there last week because either the bunnies would have eaten them or the cold temperatures would have frosted them.


Morning Dew

This Good Friday and Earth Day, remember the sacrifices paid and the beauty that is the Earth.


Thursday Diptych - Spring Fields

No Team Up Thursday this week - Lee is visiting her sister in warm, sunny Arizona.

But in the spirit of Team Up Thursday, I prepared a diptych - scenes from the fields in Spring.

Spring Fields

The daffodils are fairly common, but the purple haze only appears in the cornfields until the farmers plow them away. I'm sure they are weeds, but they transform the brown fields into fields of purple ripples. Then, like the sunny daffodils, they are gone. Such is the fleeting of Spring.


The Piano - An Epilogue

About two months ago, I chronicled our last days with the Family Piano.

I am happy to report that it safely weathered the journey down south to my sister's house in North Carolina, and it looks great in their house. In fact, it looks so much better there than it did in our house.

My sister, Teresa, reads my blog, and picked up on my "complaint" that she hadn't sent pictures of the piano in her home. They painted the room this weekend and she sent the picture yesterday.
Settled In

The room previously served as their formal dining room. Since they have a huge "Morning Room" off their kitchen (seriously, the dining area there seats 8-10 people comfortably), they've converted it to the music room.

Familiar Yet Different

Teresa considered waiting until the window treatments were installed before taking the picture, but I'm glad she didn't. In fact, I hope she went light on the window treatments because the light in this room is fabulous. Note directed to my sister - take some pictures of my cute nephews in this room, facing the windows - they will turn out beautifully!


What's The Buzz

I did something I normally don't do - I stalked a honeybee.

My daughter would be running, screaming from the tree, but the bee isn't hurting anyone and needs to get pollen.

I just wish he would steadily hover above the flower, thank you.
[The picture I got of the bee hovering was out of focus. Into the delete bin it went]

I had to settle for this one instead - the only slightly sharp keeper of the 5 or so pictures I snapped.
Buzzing Around

Next time, I'll try 3D tracking with my focus point. Maybe it will yield a more accurate focus with the moving bee.

Fortunately, static flowers are not a problem:
Flowering Crab

Shot during my lunch hour at work. Yes, they are somewhat used to the fact that I randomly wander around with my camera in tow.


Baseball Jamboree

Another April, another start of the baseball season.

For the second year in a row, Brian's team will be sporting forest green shirts. Nice color, but kind of a pain to photograph (so dark).

I'm so glad the season kick off Jamboree was held Sunday instead of Saturday. As you may recall, Saturday's weather was less than pleasant, with the wind, rain and cold. Bearable for a one hour soccer game, not so much for a three hours of baseball.

Instead, the boys were blessed with comfortable temperature and sunshine.
Rays Group Picture 3

There was the usual waiting around in packs.

And some actual baseball.
On First

The official games start this week. Our crazy schedule just got a little crazier...


Interviewed by Lee

Today I am being featured by my friend, Lee, on her blog, Embrace Life. For those who don't know Lee, she is a wonderful photographer (we collaborate weekly on Team Up Thursday's photography challenge), writer and memory keeper.

Lee is running a series of weekly Interviews, modeled after the Proust Interviews from Vanity Fair. I am honored to be a participant in her series, and my Interview questions and answers are below and at Lee's Blog.

What age did you start keeping a journal?
I recall writing in one while in Middle School and High School, but I was never consistent with writing. I transitioned to recording daily events in college, using a desk calendar. Not a journal of deep personal thoughts, but still a record of the daily rhythm of my life. This continued until I started my Project 365 Blog in 2009, and since then, my main repository of events and occasional thoughts are played out in one of my two blogs.

Who’s diary/journal (dead or alive) would you like to read?
That’s a hard one, because I’m a fairly private person and think most people are the same and wouldn’t want their innermost thoughts read by a complete stranger.

Who have you suspected of reading your diary?
I’m a pretty trusting person, so I don’t suspect anyone of reading my journal. That’s my hope, at least!

What is your idea of the perfect journal?
Certain aspects of the Perfect Journal for me have changed over time – I’ve gone from fancy bound books to writing in a spiral notebook, from pocket sized books to the standard 8.5”x11” book. But I am extremely picky about the paper – it has to be thick enough not to bleed through when using a fountain pen. And the paper must “feel good” as I am writing on it. The pen is as important as the journal – I prefer the micro-ball or fine fountain pens - smooth, dark ink.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse (in speech and/or writing)?
In writing – the conjunctions and, and but. In speech – “Do [fill-in-the-blank] Right Now, Please”, which gets repeated at least 5 times with threats of varying degrees before my kids actually move.

What quote most speaks to you?
I have a quote in the sidebar of my blog - “Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some,” by Robert Fulghum. I think it’s stayed on my blog all these years for a reason.

Who (or what) inspires you?
The beauty I see in front of me (it’s all around you – you just have to recognize it). Nature. Music. I am inspired by anyone who creates harmony and/or expresses beauty, regardless of the medium.

Who is your favourite fictional character?
Mulan (and Hermione Granger) – strong women who didn’t let their gender or circumstances get in the way.

Who are your favourite writers?
When I was little, I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder. I still love the Little House series (which was re-kindled when my daughter read the books). Nowadays, I like contemporary women writers. For example, I’ve read all the books Amy Tan, Jennifer Weiner and Katherine Center have written – so at least those three are included in my current favorites.

Which natural talent would you most like to be gifted with?
Empathy. And Patience.

What is your greatest creative talent?
In music, I have excellent pitch. I pick up music quickly – like that new song they are trying to teach in you in church – I get it after the second time I hear it. I like to think that In photography, I have a good eye, but most likely that has been developed over the years.

What is your greatest creative challenge?
Telling the story – whether that be through music or photography (or other medium). Translating what I see in my mind’s eye to the photograph. The human eye and the brain that processes vision is so complex and nearly impossible to mimic with a camera sensor. I don’t like post processing, but I do find it can be a creative outlet.

How I got to know Lee - I first met Lee through a scrapbooking bulletin board and I got to know her and her lovely family through her blog. We've had the opportunity to meet, back in 2009:

I'm so glad we've maintained our friendship over the years - Lee is an inspiration and a person worth getting to know.


I Heart Faces Challenge - Wind

This week's I Heart Faces photo challenge theme is Wind. I guess I should have lots of wind photos, since we live in what feels like the wind center of the country.

But the photo I am submitting was taken in upstate New York, along Oneida Lake. When it storms there, the wind certainly rivals what we have here.

The Salute Again

Head over to I Heart Faces to check out the great photography tutorials and challenges!


A Win in the Wind and Rain

There's at least one game each soccer season that takes place under less than ideal conditions. Last October, it was the game where the girls played in the cold and wind.

I hope today was the inclement weather game for this spring. Not only did we have cold and wind, but rain, too. Driving to the field at 8:00 this morning, with the rain pelting the car, I just "knew" we would arrive to find the games cancelled. Nope - Game On!

One small problem - our team was short players. Not an unusual problem, as our opponent was short, too. I guess many of the players decided to stay at home because the weather was so bad . Really, the prospect of running around in the cold, wind and rain at 8 am on a Saturday is not very appealing to anyone, especially the teenage female set. I admit that if I wasn't at this game, I wouldn't be out taking my normal Saturday run.

So we played the game with 8 players per team, short 3 players. The lack of players meant Erica played forward for the entire game - a great opportunity for her. She ended up scoring during the first half - her first goal of the season. We were so excited for her.

The team was down 2-1 at the half, and in the second half, they managed to score twice to win the game. Their team is used to leading the entire game, so coming from behind to win is a bit of a mental accomplishment.

Looking Up the Field Soccer

Half Time Huddle arsenal soccer

Coming off the field with the win:
Come Away With the Win soccer


Camera Phone Friday - Remnants

I'm not sure why, but I tend to find things to photograph with my iPhone when I venture out to the manufacturing area where Scott works. Oops, clarification - the manufacturing area that Scott is responsible for. He actually has a comfy office, like me, in the office area, across the street from the manufacturing area.

Remember, Scott and I work at the same plant. We have tons to talk about at home. And our kids just roll their eyes when we start talking about burners and silica and stuff related to work.

The stiff prairie wind were back today, making it impossible to photograph the flowers and budding trees. The winds rustled up some remnant leaves and splayed them across the sidewalk.

The sun came out just a bit to cast the shadow of the chained link fence across the scene. Taken with my iPhone using the Hipstamatic App.

Wishing you a wonderful Friday evening.


For Today - April 15, 2011

Outside my window… clouds, whipping winds and chance of thunderstorms. Yup, it’s April on the prairie (after the last two gorgeous days, we had forgotten).

I am thinking… that I need to perform a complete pond cleaning this year. It’s been at least three years since we pumped it out and thoroughly hosed it all down. It’s a full day, back breaking job, but the pond really needs it.

I am thankful for… all the resources I have. Recently, on Facebook, a friend posed the question – If you were incredibly wealthy, what extravagant purchase would you make? The responses varied from “a personal plane” to “a winter home in the Bahamas”, etc. I thought about it, and I realized that compared to 99% of the world’s population, I am already incredibly wealthy. I’ve already made several extravagant purchases just in the past month [just start with that thousand pound horse]. I am extremely blessed.

From the kitchen… shrimp with Asian noodles and salad for dinner tonight - fast and easy.

I am wearing… lots of blue today – blue jeans, a turquoise polo shirt and my royal blue trench coat.

I am creating… nothing!! I need to finish off the Italy book and hopefully start on a little book for Brian’s 5th grade teacher.

I am going…
to the stable this afternoon, then off to book club at Anne’s tonight.

I am reading…
The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, our book club selection this month. Unfortunately, I’m only about 10 pages into it. I can’t seem to find the time to read unless I am on vacation.

I am hoping…
my sister sends me the picture of the piano in her house….I’ve reminded her at least twice now… [Hello, Bueller….. anyone home?]

I am listening to…
Adele’s 19 album. I realize I am way behind the times. Erica downloaded Rolling in the Deep off her current 21 album and I’m catching up with her previous work.

Around the house…
the winter boots, gloves and coats have been put away. I must have brought upon the wrath of old man winter, because there’s snow in the weather forecast this weekend.

One of my favorite things…
my 105mm macro lens [yet another extravagant purchase, I admit]. I’ve had it less than two weeks and I wish I had bought it sooner.

A few plans for the rest of the week… weather permitting, soccer and baseball games are scheduled for tomorrow’s full Saturday. The baseball season officially kicks off this weekend, so next week we’ll have a full schedule of games, practices and visits to the stable.

A few pictures to share:

Both taken with my 105mm macro lens. I am so in love with this lens....


Team Up Thursday - Spring

I'm pretty certain Spring is here to stay, and for that, I am grateful.

Team Up Thursday - Spring

I think Canada might be a little bit behind us in terms of Spring bloom, and I love Lee's picture with those twisty branches and delicate emergence of leaves at the end - a perfect vision of early Spring.

I took my picture this morning at one of the garden plots the Park District maintains. It's right by my daughter's school, and with the lovely sunshine this morning, coupled with lack of wind (unusual for this time of year), I couldn't pass it up. Every spring I vow that I will plant bulbs in the fall, but it never happens. Maybe this year.....

On Thursday, Lee Curie and I create a diptych based on a theme. You can view the other great diptychs at the Team Up Thursday Flickr group.


Varying Your Focus Point

A small study in the impact of Focus Point on your photograph:

The framing, focal length, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are identical in these two pictures.
Exposure 1/4000 sec
Aperture f/4.0
Focal Length 105 mm
ISO Speed 400

When I processed them in Lightroom, I used the same settings on both photos - a slight exposure increase to lighten up the exposure, and a clarity and vibrance boost.

The only difference is where I set my focus point:

Far Point of View
Focus point set on the yellow flower, about half way up the scene.

Close Point of View
Focus point set on the white flowers in front. The yellow flowers, trees behind the focus area are blurred.

I'm not sure which scene I like better**, but the two photos show how your choice of focus area can impact the end result. So choose those focus points wisely!

**I think I would have like the second photo if I had framed things differently - lower to the ground to see more of the stems of the white flowers


Springtime In Full Glory

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. ~Hal Borland

Morning Flowers
Red Bud Flowers

Flower Cluster
Lilac Buds
Both photos taken with the 105mm Nikon micro lens.

On Sunday afternoon, temperatures soared into the 80's and it felt like Summer was going to take away Spring's glory. But that warm front only served to kick start all the budding trees into flower and we are now enjoying the new color. I hope it stays around for a while.


Black and White Clouds

Spring brings the most bizarre weather around here - one day there's snow, the next day, warm breezes. As a result, the skies are always changing.

Sun Through the Clouds

A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction and at such a speed...It feels an impulsion...this is the place to go now.
-- Richard Bach


The Loss

“That's what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we've changed because of it and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning.”
-- Richard Bach

My daughter started playing soccer in the Fall of 2009, on a 6th-8th grade team. In the league, they maintain the teams with the coaches, so she's basically had the same teammates and coach for the past two years. And in the 20 or so games played, her team has never lost a game. Until today.

It was the first game of the spring season, and maybe the girls were just a little rusty. They looked a little lethargic during the first 5 minutes of the game, and suffered a penalty that resulted in the other team scoring early.

I know they will recover and go on to win future games. After all, winning isn't everything, and what you take away from the loss is what's important.

Some of my favorite shots from the game:

In the picture below, #12 had just scored the team's only goal, right before end of the first half.
Becca Scores

For my daughter, it's all about the socks! She collects them (or rather, she picks them out and I pay for them).
All About the Socks

One of Erica's attempts on goal:
Attempt on Goal

Next week's game starts really early and I hope the girls rest up for a return to the winner's circle.



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The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code. and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) prohibits the use of digital property to be used without the consent of its owner.

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