Saying Goodbye

This morning we said goodbye to our family cat, Rascal. She was with us for 17 years and 2.5 months - from the mountains of West Virginia to the cornfields of Indiana, through the births of our two children, on to prairies of Illinois and through our adoption of two other cats. We always called her our family starter kit, so losing her has been very emotional, especially for me, since she is really "my" cat.

But we had over 17 years with her, and estimate she was 18 years old (she came to us in March, 1994). That's really old for a cat. I just wish saying goodbye was easier.



In her basket - if she's not sleeping with me, she's in her basket

In the earlier days:
Kids and Rascal

Taken about a year ago:
Fuzzy Cat

RIP my fuzzy cat.


Texture Tuesday - Not My Garden

I just wish it was. Huge swaths of white, purple and yellow adorn this garden, courtesy of the city park district.

The original:
White and Purple

With a new Linen Texture from Kim Klassen:
Textured White and Purple

Just in time for Texture Tuesday, where this week's theme is The Garden.
Although the above isn't my garden, I worked hard cleaning out my own water garden yesterday and I'm excited the water iris are just about to bloom. Check out the other garden inspiration at Kim's this week.


Recognition and Promotions

The end of May is normally busy time - end of school activities, two birthdays and the ongoing sports and music activities.

This year, we added in two ceremonies - one for our 5th grader moving on to middle school and one for our 8th grader moving on to *gulp* high school.

I just remember not too long ago, they were both toddlers. Where has the time gone?

The schools are careful not to call these ceremonies "graduations", because really, that is reserved for the end of high school and college (and I agree). But the ceremonies add a nice touch as the kids leave their previous schools for bigger ones.

For the 5th graders, they all received a certificate of recognition. Brian also received two special awards - one for his Curiosity and Creativity, and the other a President's Education Award for Academic Achievement.
Brian with his 5th grade teacher, Ms J:
Teacher and Student
I couldn't get him to take off those silly glasses!

For the 8th graders, we had a more formal affair - the girls bought special dresses and really looked nice.
The Four
These four girls have been friends all through middle school.

Since the girls almost never wear dresses (The last time was in 5th grade?), I took the opportunity for some additional photos. It took some additional coercion, but having multiple family members and friends around helps.

Up in the Air


And one of my favorites:

Congrats to all the 5th and 8th grader as they move on to new schools!


Field Trip – Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry

One of the highlights of 5th grade – the annual field trip to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. I first experienced this field trip three years ago, when Erica was in 5th grade, so I knew what to expect this year – an early morning departure, nice coach style busses for the kids and a fun time getting to know the other adults as the adults car pooled up to the Windy City. A select few parents (read – gluttons for loud noises and putting up with a large number of very excited pre-teens) ride the coach busses with the students and teachers, but a majority of us “chaperones” drove separately.

The museum’s group entrance is on the back side of the facility, and since we arrived by passenger vehicle, we parked in the main parking garage and walked outside around the museum grounds. Look what you miss if you simply park and enter the museum through the parking garage:

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
The outside reminds me of the buildings at MIT, namely the 77 Mass Ave entrance and Killian Court’s Great Dome. All buildings are designed in the Beaux Arts style.

Once inside, I was assigned my charges for the day – my own son and his good friend, Trey. They wanted to hang out with classmates Alec, Brady and Eric, who were the responsibility of my friend, Leslie - a win-win situation for everyone.

The boys goofed off a little bit before the museum officially opened:
Out of the Photo Booth

We explored several exhibits, including this flight simulator, where Brian managed to crash every flight he was responsible for. I guess a career in flying might be out of the question.
Flight Simulator Crash

We spent a substantial amount of time in the Science Storm exhibit and I don’t recall it being here three years ago. The huge exhibit explores the physics and chemistry behind the natural phenomenon of storms – from tornadoes to avalanches, tsunamis to lightning.

There’s a two story vortex:
Look Up into The Vortex

And a series of prisms that separate the white light into individual components.
The Dark Side of the Moon prism rainbow
This exhibit also allowed us to adjust several solar panels to fuel small race cars around a track.
Through the Looking Glass
Even as an adult with a science background, I continue to be amazed by this museum – they continue to bring interesting, engaging features, all to promote science, industry (the original Coal Mine exhibit) and even a bit of history (the U505 Submarine). If you ever get the chance to visit Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry is a must-see for adults and children.


Texture Tuesday - Architectural Details

Some building details from last week's 5th grade field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

The "original" or pre-textured version (I had converted it to Sepia in LR):
Column Details

The textured version, using Kim Klassen's Yesteryear texture, which is the featured texture for this week's Texture Tuesday.
Textured Column Details
I applied the texture using the Linear Burn Blending mode at 70%. This intensifies the texture's impact on the photo.

Be sure to hop over to Kim's for great textures and inspiration. And I'm working on the blog post from our field trip - so come back for some Science and Fun!



Out in the Open Air

As much as we love having an indoor arena during the winter and rainy months, riding the horses outside is a welcome treat. At the previous lesson barn, the girls never rode outside, so this is a little new for them, too. So we’re taking it easy on the horses and the girls today – riding in a gentle trot around the outside arena, slowing down when a car or truck drives down the road.

For whatever reason, Caesar is sticking out his tongue as he goes around.
Run with Your Tongue Sticking Out horses appaloosa

The girls and horses paired up for this go around. Caesar and Cody are good buddies, so they don’t mind walking side by side as the girls chat about who-knows-what.
Paired Up horses appaloosa

Blow the whistle and reverse directions! (You all have been to a skating rink where they do that, right?)
Making the Turn horses appaloosa

This one was taken towards the end of their ride – either the sun or the wind was starting to bother her.
Head On horses appaloosa

If the pictures all “look the same”, it’s because I shot them all from the same vantage point - sitting inside my car. Cody doesn’t like my big honking camera and lens pointed at him, so I have to shoot in “stealth” mode. I figure any capture is better than no capture!


The Fields of Gold

I must have yellow on my brain - my last post from a week ago featured a yellow flower and today it's a sea of yellow.

Life has been crazy, hence the lack of posts. With all the end of school field trips, concerts, promotion ceremonies added on to the routine stuff, I haven't had the time. Things will settle down after this week, thank goodness!

Yellow Waves Prairie

I took these pictures last week - as the sea of yellow in the fields only lasts until the farmers plow them away to plant soybeans or the yellow flowers fade away.

Spring Fields of Gold

I know the flowers are weeds, but they are so pretty to look at when driving down the country roads.


Texture Tuesday - Sunny and Old Fashioned

The hot spell we endured enjoyed last week caused many new flowers to burst into bloom, including this sunny columbine. I shot this at work, as a couple of the employees took to filling up some flower beds with an assortment of perennials a few years ago and we now enjoy the fruits of their labor.


I converted this to sepia and then added a texture from Kim Klassen.
Old Fashioned

I erased some of the texture from the center of the flower by applying a white layer mask (from Coffeeshop - Layer Mask for PSE) and erasing by applying a soft grey brush to the layer mask.

If you like today's photo, be sure to check out the other textured creations at Kim's Texture Tuesday.


Rainy, Cold Sundays Means Trying New Things

It's rainy, cold and raw outside. Feels like October, so much so that I made an assortment of hot soups last night for dinner. And roasted lemon chicken for tonight's dinner. Comfort food, in the middle of May.

I wanted needed to go to a couple specific stores today, but I found out both were closed on Sundays. Jeez. Apparently, every music store in our area is closed on Sundays. I guess those musicians who run the place perform gigs Saturday night and they don't want to work on Sundays. I understand, but really need to buy some saxophone reeds for my son....

With some free time on my hands, I decided to try my hand at making some Cake Pops. I used the Red Velvet Cake Ball recipe from Bakerella. In a nutshell, bake up a box of red velvet cake. Let cool. Crumble the cake and add a container of cream cheese frosting and mix together. Form into balls. Freeze. Melt some chocolate almond bark and coat the balls with the melted chocolate.

Setting Up
I bought lollipop sticks and stuck them into the cake balls. I stuck the cooling balls on some Styrofoam I found in the basement. I ended up tilting them so that the excess melted chocolate would drip on to the Styrofoam instead of the stick.

Yummy on the inside:
Sweet Center

While they were very yummy, they are a bit too sweet for my taste (I don't like really sugary sweets). I might try them again with a little less frosting. But they were a hit with the rest of the family.

I guess a rainy Sunday every now and then isn't so bad....


Perfect Spheres

As much as I don't like the crab grass in the landscaping, I love that the blades of the crabgrass are covered with a delicate fuzz that collects and forms the most perfect water drops.

Perfect Spheres water drops macro
Exposure 0.001 sec (1/1000)
Aperture f/4.5
Focal Length 105 mm
ISO Speed 400
Exposure Bias -1/3 EV

water Drops macro
The above picture was processed using the Aged Photo preset that comes with LightRoom.
Exposure 0.002 sec (1/500)
Aperture f/3.3
Focal Length 105 mm
ISO Speed 200

Formed by the mist of today's rain. Captured with my 105mm macro lens. Crab grass never looked so good.


Final Soccer Games

Two soccer games this week - Tuesday night, in the blistering heat and today, in the cold and misty drizzle. [As a runner, I prefer the cooler temperatures. Add in some cooling drizzle and it's ideal for a great run. Erica agreed that she enjoyed playing today's game more than Tuesday night's.]

The green team won both games, ending a no-goal drought that plagued them the previous two weeks.

Even though in this shot, Erica wasn't able to capitalize on the goal opportunity.

That was Tuesday's game - no scores for Erica. However, she did score today [insert proud mom smile].

Today's game marked the official end of the season. There will be a couple scrimmages and an end of the season celebration, but this may have been the last time for this group of girls to play as a team. Next year, the 8th graders separate to different high schools and may face each other as the opposition. I hope they take with them the spirit of sportsmanship that their coach has modeled throughout their tenure with Team Arsenal.


For Today, May 13, 2011

Outside my window… clouds are bringing some coolness and relief from the 90+ degree weather days we’ve had since Tuesday. I don’t mind summer weather, but I prefer it to happen in July, not May.

I am thinking… about what I should buy Scott for his upcoming birthday. I’m quickly running out of time…

I am thankful for…the cooler temperatures this morning.
From the kitchen…homemade pizza. We have lots of potential toppings – chicken, shrimp, olives, bacon…

I am wearing… blue jeans and a deep brown top - probably too “dark” for spring.

I am creating … a Blurb book for Brian’s fifth grade teacher – it’s 99% done – I just need to proofread it one more time before uploading.

I am going…to the clothing store this afternoon. I realize my spring / summer wardrobe is seriously lacking since I am wearing fall colors right now.

I am reading…nothing at the moment (other than the People Magazine my friend lends me – oh yeah, that’s not really “reading”). I have a trip planned in a couple weeks, so I’ll get a real book to read then.

I am hoping…the TV repair shop calls soon with news that they received the parts needed to repair the HDMI ports on our less than one year old TV. It’s been almost 3 weeks since I placed the service ticket.

I am listening to … Adele’s 21 album, but I think I like her 19 album better. My kids are listening to The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars. I haven't gotten sick of it yet, but I bet by next week I'll bristle when it comes on.

Around the house…the air conditioning got turned on Tuesday evening, but it will go back to “off” position soon, hopefully to stay there for a couple more weeks.

One of my favorite things…my Contigo vacuum sealed, spill proof travel mug. I don’t have to worry about coffee spilling in the car when I accelerate or stop quickly.

A few plans for the rest of the week…a visit to the stable, a 7 mile run tomorrow morning, a soccer game then house “stuff”. Otherwise, the weekend looks pretty open. Next week will be hectic – a trip to Chicago, Scott’s birthday, band concerts and baseball games all thrown into the mix. You may not hear from me much as I run from one place to another.

A picture to share:
water bokeh grass macro
Taken a couple weeks ago, after several days of rain and clouds. The glistening water makes me happy and I start to hear Adele’s song, Daydreamer, in my head.
And so I leave you with a video of the song, performed live.

Enjoy the rest of your Friday.


Texture Tuesday

For this week's Texture Tuesday, I added Kim Klassen's Luminous texture, in the soft light blending mode to one of my solomon seal pictures.

Textured Flowers

Here's the original:
Solomon Seal
(I did crop the textured photo a bit)

For more Texture inspiration, check out Kim Klassen's site and sign up for her newsletter to receive free textures!


A Tie

The last two soccer games were played in the sun and wind.

Wind so strong, when the ball was kicked high in the air, the wind carried it back.

The girls' team played with the wind during the first half. If they didn't capitalize and score, we knew at best, they would end up with a tie.

Two windy games, two ties.

At least they didn't lose.

Cross It

She loves to play, and works hard. I love that her ponytail is flying behind her. She's looking down field to see who is available to pass to. Her coach would praise her for that.

Have you ever noticed - there's always a dog at the game.
Here doggie, doggie:
There's Always a Dog at the Game

Now I'm going to have to search for them and take their picture. That will give me something else to do during the game! Of course, I do watch the action on the field, but sometimes you want a break from it all.....


Running Inspiration

It's been a week since the 3rd Illinois Marathon event. People are still talking about it around town - the event's impact on the community, people and the local economy. Planning for next year's event (April 23-24, 2012) has started.

At the end of last week's event, I've decided to run the marathon in 2012. It's not a decision made at the spur of the moment, buoyed by the all the excitement of the weekend, but a conscious one. I thought about running the marathon this year, but never made the commitment. I know the reality and time commitment required to train for such an event, and I wasn't ready.

I'm ready now, but only because a couple of my co-worker friends have inspired me to make the commitment. Because two years ago, neither of them had ever run a road race in their lives. And last weekend, they both finished their first marathons.

Meet Sara:
Marathon Sara
OK, if you've read my blog for a while, you've already met Sara, because her daughter and my daughter are friends. Sara's daughter managed to get Erica involved with soccer, something we never thought Erica would take a liking to, and now Erica is an avid soccer player.
Two years ago, Sara and her husband, Al, found themselves stuck in traffic one Saturday morning. Not a normal occurrence in our small town. After seeing the large crowd of runners in the street, they realized they were stopped because of the marathon. They also noticed that these marathon runners were not typical "Marathoners", ie, Kenyans, or even the super fit athletes portrayed on TV and in commercials - these runners were normal looking people, much like themselves. I don't know how it all came down, but after that experience, Sara and Al decided to take up running.

I recall they ran their first 5K race on the 4th of July that year and then again in October. They trained for the 1/2 marathon in 2010. Sara ran another 1/2 marathon in November of 2010. Then she decided to train for this marathon. My excuse for not training is the time commitment due to my kids' activities. Well, Sara also has two kids, the same age as mine. She works longer hours than me. And because of a [well deserved] promotion, she's currently in the process of moving her family to Michigan. Sara trained for this race all by herself. As a solo runner myself, I know how hard that is and I know it takes sheer determination (and probably some stubbornness).

Meet Chris:
Marathon Chris
Chris and his wife, Amber, cheered on the 2009 Marathon runners, as one of their family members was running the 1/2 marathon. At the time, both of them were involved in a "Biggest Loser" competition at Amber's work and Chris went on to win the contest. I'm not sure when Chris started to run 5K races, but I know he was running them in the Fall of 2009. In 2010, he ran the 1/2 Marathon. With a combination of the running, TaeKwonDo and diet, Chris has lost approximately 1/3 of his body weight (I'm not quite sure how much he's lost - I think he's shrunk at least that much, if not more).
In November, he ran the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon in a blistering 1 hour, 40 minutes time. That's a 7:40 minute mile pace. For 13 miles.
For the Illinois Marathon, he trained in 9 degree weather, ran an entire 13 miles on a treadmill (without falling off) and endured ailments like pneumonia. His time in last week's marathon - 3 hours and 38 minutes.

So these two are my marathon inspirations. They represent the epitome of those sayings - "Anyone can do it", "You're Never Too Old to Start Running" and "Just Do It". I hope I can be as successful next year as they were last week. My hat is off to both of you, Sara and Chris!

Well Earned


Spring on the Prairie

After what seemed like endless rains, the rain clouds have departed, the winds have picked up and those cotton ball clouds of spring now dot the skies.

White Puffy Clouds

My favorite barns - I pass by them each weekday, as I drive to and from work.

It's Friday and we're headed out to see Caesar. The horses are loving the nice weather - it means they get to spend their days out in the pasture, eating the grass.
Looking for Something to Eat
[Unfortunately for me, that means more horse poop to pick up. I am the designated poop scooper. Caesar must have pooped 5 times while we were in the arena today. Sorry if that's TMI - just trying to record our daily lives here....]

Cody still doesn't like having the camera pointed at him. He's always watching me. At least Ricky doesn't care.


Happy Mother's Day

Wishing all the Moms out there a Happy Mother's Day.

White Bells



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