Tasseled Sky

Just a couple of quick shots off my phone from last night. I was in the cornfields waiting for my daughter to finish her horse ride and the weather was so perfect, the skies so calm with a little wisp of clouds.

I took pictures with my big camera too, but I haven't had any time to download them. The kids' homework has started in earnest now, and last night was a little crazy.

Tassled Sky

Field's Edge

Wishing you a wonderful Wednesday.

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Another Runner in the Family?

My son has joined his middle school's Cross Country team. A case of positive peer pressure, he started going to practices because friends George and Brady were going. I thought he would complain about how hard the running was, how boring things were. Kudos to the coaches who make running interesting - heaven knows I wouldn't be able to - I would just tell them to go out and run!

I didn't realize there were so many Cross Country meets - they average two per week, with practices every day after school. That's a lot of running!

OK, they only run one or two miles, but for a 12 year old, that's a long distance (translation - when I was 12, I doubt I could run a half mile).

Saturday morning was the first meet I was able to attend.
Warm Up

Unfortunately, I had to leave to take Erica to a horse riding lesson before it was the 6th grade boys' heat. But I watched the boys goof off and cheer on their teammates.

Passing Time

I hope the boys stick with it. Running is a fabulous way to stay fit and strong. Being a part of a team while maintaining some autonomy has its benefits, too.

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Muddy but Fun - the CarX Crazy K

How to describe the fun CarX Crazy K race yesterday? Yes, it was fun. Yes, it was a bit challenging. Yes, I fell during the obstacles. Yes, I fell into a big hole of muddy water. Yes, it was hot, hot, hot.

Did I mention it was crazy? I remember thinking exactly that as I ran through the course and its obstacles.

The race proceeds go to local charities, and it's an event sure to be repeated in future years.

The details - a 5K course that wound through the county fairgrounds - mainly through grassy fields, across creeks, up and down hilly terrain, with the last half mile on the grandstand's track. The obstacles (and my experience):

  1. Sprinkler alley - refreshing until I almost lost a contact lens while being sprayed directly the face
  2. Plank Walk - walk across logs over a big pit of water. I chose the skinniest log and almost fell off.
  3. CarX Wall - A 4 foot high wall. I strained my left leg going over this thing.
  4. Tirade - a sea of tires. I planned to run these, but I didn't step carefully into the first tire and fell down. Scott said he would have burst out laughing if he wasn't "so focused" on the race.
  5. Hurdles - 10 - 2 foot high hurdles. After my tire episode, I knew I had to walk over these. It was a good time to drink some water.
  6. Tunnels - crawl through 3 foot high tunnels. I have a scraped back because I refused to crawl through on my hands and knees.
  7. Muddy Hill Climb - at mile 2.6, this was slippery and steep. I almost fell several times. Caked with mud, my shoes were now 5 pounds heavier.
  8. Hay Maker - Climb over large hay bales. I am way short for this sort of obstacle, but managed to get over it.
  9. Slip-N-Slide Car Wash - This was the most fun - a slip and slide covered with foam. Sure, you landed in a big puddle on the bottom, but it was fun.
  10. Muddy Crawl - The last obstacle - a watery, muddy pit, about 2 feet deep. I slipped at the edge and fell in. I sloshed through and up over the muddy bank and ran to the finish line, shoes full of rocks, water and mud.

Our team - the couples we visited Vegas with last November (proving we are a motley crew) and another couple, Dave and Anne. I'm waiting on a copy of the group picture a non-running friend took, but here are several of our team walking towards the starting gate:
Heading Into the Arena

Scott finishing the race:
Scott Finishes

Amy and Anne coming out of the Muddy Pit:
Spray Off the Mud

Jeff and Lisa, so cute as they end the race holding hands:
Finishing Hand in Hand

And the ladies from our team - proving we are a strong group to complete the race:
The Ladies Rock

Oh yeah, I wore a costume - an old cave girl costume I've had since college. I've put it out for sale at the garage sale for the past 5 years. I guess it's never sold because I was destined to wear it again. Maybe this is a new tradition for me - run the future Crazy 5K wearing the same outfit.....

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Carbo Loading

Tomorrow, along with Scott and eight other friends, I am running the CarX Crazy 5K race.

The race is a 5K with obstacles stations. The obstacles include tunnels, sprinklers, tires, hurdles and of course, mud, hay and foam. It is going to be so much fun!

So, what to do the night before? Carbo load, of course.

That includes cookies:
090619DSC_9315_4x6

Or the banana bread my friend, Anne, baked:
Yummy Gift from Anne

I might even try something on the healthy side - new apples from the orchard:
First of the Season

I'll be back tomorrow with some fun pictures from the event. Until then, happy carbo loading!

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Years May Go By

Last night's post made me remember this song, by Rickie Lee Jones. And while I always thought the song title was Years May Go By, the correct title is Saturday Afternoons in 1963.



I remember when the song "Chuck E's in Love" hit the charts in 1979 - I guess I was just hitting my teenage years - and my parents bought her eponymous album. While most of the album was unappreciated by me (we only bought it for Chuck E's In Love), I loved the simple melody of the album's second song.

The lyrics below:

The most as you'll ever go
Is back where you used to know
If grown-ups could laugh this slow
Where as you watch the hour snow
Years may go by

So hold on to your special friend
Here, you'll need something to keep her in :
"Now you stay inside this foolish grin ... "
Though any day your secrets end
Then again
Years may go by

You saved your own special friend
'Cuz here you need something to hide her in
And you stay inside that foolish grin
When everyday now secrets end
Oh and then again
Years may go by

I'm not sure what the lyrics mean, but the song always waxes nostalgia for me. I hope you take a listen.

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A Day of Firsts

How fast does the time fly? In August, with the start of school, I realize the time flies faster each year.

From years gone past:
Sara, Riley and Erica - First Day of Kindergarten
First day of Kindergarten, 2002, with friends Sara and Riley

To the Present:
High Schooler
First day of High School.

Even my little boy is growing up too fast:
First Day of Kindergarten, 2005
2005, Another First day of Kindergarten

As he starts Middle school:
Thumbs Up For School

The milestones of youth and growing up.
First Day of School Pictures

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I Heart Faces - Pets

It's pets week at I Heart Faces and we have plenty of options to choose from in our house. But Sam, our Siamese, was the most willing yesterday to peek through the bars of the chair he was sitting on - I think he was scoping out the scraps of chicken from dinner. He loves chicken, but could care less about fish. Go figure.

Got My Eye On You Siamese cat

Go to I Heart Faces for more fun pet and animal pictures!




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Seeing Red

After 18 months of Netflix happiness, we decided to branch out to that "other red logo media company", aka, RedBox.

First Red Box Experience

We've been loyal to Netflix - we have the DVD in the mail service and the streaming service. We have five devices at home set up with Netflix streaming - two TVs, one iPad, one iPhone and iTouch. We bought Netflix stock after we realized how much we loved the service and it has done very well.

We were OK with the one dollar rate increase last year. But when the company announced the separation of streaming and DVD services and a total increase from $10 to $16 per month for both services, well, not so much.

We are in the "explore our other options" phase - and RedBox looks to be the most viable solution. There are two RedBox locations within 1.5 miles from our house - one is at the grocery store where I shop and the other is at the Walgreens where I spend too much money for little things like gum, shampoo and cotton balls (all because it's so convenient to pop into the Walgreens to buy the stuff I forgot to buy while in the WalMart - but I digress).

I went online and reserved the DVD my daughter requested for her sleepover - it was available at the grocery store - no problem. I found the website a little cumbersome and confusing, but I guess I'll get used to it. I picked up the DVD after grocery shopping - very convenient! The next day, my son wanted another DVD, and it wasn't available at the grocery store, but it was available at the Walgreen's. Then I learned that I could return the DVD we had to any Redbox location. Bonus. Return and pick up at the same time. Another positive experience.

So it looks like we will cancel our DVD service with Netflix in a week and continue with the streaming service only. We'll get our DVDs from Redbox and see how things pan out.

Oh, and the DVD my daughter picked out:
The Kids Will Sleep With the Lights On Tonight

I heard lots of screams from the basement that night. I hear it's a scary movie, so I didn't dare watch.

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SOOC Saturday - Red, White and Blue

Jill made this fabulous desert last night for our monthly Book Club discussion. It's a fitting tribute to summer. And yummy, too.

Book Club Desert

How I shot this - Jill's kitchen is a little dark, with incandescent lighting. I set my aperture to f2.8 (wide open on the lens I was using). Because I can't hand hold anything slower than 1/60sec, I had to increase my ISO all the way up to 2500 in order to get my shutter speed to an acceptable level. I also know that at this high ISO level, my camera tends to over expose, so I set my exposure compensation to -2/3EV.

I also added stability to the camera by placing my elbows on the counter while shooting. This helps further reduce camera blur.

Exposure 0.013 sec (1/80)
Aperture f/2.8
Focal Length 48 mm
ISO Speed 2500
Exposure Bias -2/3 EV

I'm linking up to SOOC Saturday at Marvelous Mommy. Have a great rest of your weekend!

SOOC Saturday

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For Today - August 19, 2011

FOR TODAY:
Outside my window….the heat and humidity are back and I’m not happy about that. We desperately need rain and I need some cooler temperatures.

I am thinking… about the start of school on Monday and how that will change my morning routine. The kids’ school drop off times changed and we need to figure things out…

I am thankful for…the stability my family enjoys due to our jobs and other blessings in our life. Even with the recent stock market downturn and economic fears, we are in good shape.

From the kitchen…there are lots of leftovers, but the kids have requested pizza for dinner. Since it’s Friday, I’ll probably give in… and eat a salad myself….

I am wearing… blue jeans and a lavender tee shirt. I’m longing to wear a sweater, though.

I am creating … nothing at this time. I need to finish my friend, Nancy’s baby’s pictures and then start on another photo book.

I am going…to buy new running shoes soon. My current pair is showing a lot of wear as they have probably exceeded the 500 mile mark.

I am reading…nothing right now, but hope to acquire Cutting for Stone from the library. It’s our book club’s current reading selection.

I am hoping… Caesar’s eye continues to heal. It’s looking so much better now, but has relapsed before. I am also hoping for some rain – the cornfields could really use it.

I am listening to … Gustav Holst’s Jupiter – such a wonderful, moving piece.

Around the house… the weeds have taken over the garden. We really need to put down mulch next spring (notice I’m not advocating we do anything this year…that’s what we do best – procrastinate!)

One of my favorite things…new photography iPhone apps that I have been playing with – mainly apps that combine several pictures into a diptych, triptych or mosaic.

A few plans for the rest of the week…our Book Club meeting tonight (always a fun time), and a long run tomorrow morning (hoping for 8 miles). I also need to purchase tickets to see Sara Bareilles at a local club – so excited she’s coming back. Of course, we’ll head out to the stable to visit Caesar and then there is all that normal weekend stuff to do around the house. We’ll be busy Sunday night, gearing up for the first day of school on Monday. It’s the end of summer!

A picture to share:
August Sky

The prairie sky about a week ago – pretty typical this time of year. I think we are lucky to be surrounded by such beauty.
I wish you a wonderful Friday.

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The Love of Music

We interrupt the normal photo-centric nature of this blog with a music video, which was linked by one of my old friends on Facebook. It's a performance of Gustav Holst's Jupiter, from his Planets Suite.

Jupiter by Gustav Holst, performed by the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Eiji Oue.


Unfortunately, I can't embed the video - but the link will bring you to this powerful performance. My favorite part - starting at 3:10 on the video, through 5:00. It will send shivers up your spine.

It brings back so many memories - in high school, I was fortunate enough to be a member of the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the same Eiji Oue in the video. This was the last piece we performed during our finale concert of a tour in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. I vividly recall that emotional last performance - I was a senior and it would be the last time I performed in an orchestra. Eiji's love of music hasn't ebbed over the years - he was as animated 25 years ago as he is now [and he hasn't aged, either].

I urge you to go and watch, listen and be moved.

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Season of Change

It's that time of year when the days are growing noticeably shorter, the angle of light changes and we prepare for the change of season - school, harvest, fall.

The little insects are hard at work - gathering for the change of season.

Filament

The kids start school next week - both starting new schools - and they are enjoying their last week of summer vacation.

Oh, written in the stars
A million miles away
A message to the main
Oh Seasons come and go
But I will never change
And I'm on my way

Do you know the song above? It's one of the songs from this year by Tinie Tempah - the kids listen to it all the time. I think it's fitting for the transition my kids are about to experience.




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The Blue Eyes Have It

I posted little L's blue eyes on Monday and here are pictures of his big sister, M:

Peeking Out

They share such lovely blue eyes.
Smiling Girl

But this one is my favorite:
The Details

We love having them as neighbors and friends. They took care of the cats while we were on vacation and they love Sam and Hannah (but especially Sam - I think it's the blue eye connection).

Mr. Blue Eyes

Shared on Sweet Shot Tuesday

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iHeartFaces - Beautiful Eyes

The eyes have it at iHeartFaces this week, and I was lucky to have these baby blues staring up at me last night.

Blue Eyed Boy




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Mosaic Monday - Sunday Stroll

Today's weather could be summed up in one word - perfect.

After weeks and weeks of unrelenting heat and humidity, we welcomed today's cool breezes. It even felt a touch fall-ish, which I love.

The girls took advantage of the lovely weather and rode their horses along the corn - a nice Sunday Stroll.

Easy Like a Sunday Morning

Linked to Mary's Little Red House and Mosaic Monday. I hope your Sunday was as enjoyable as mine was.

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Anatony of a Photo Shoot - The Impact of Light

So we finally got some rain yesterday - right around dinner time (fortunately, we ate a little early, or I would have been grilling the chicken during a downpour). The storms were discrete cells that blew through quickly - pretty typical of this area.

As the storm approaches, you can see the dark clouds in the distance, even though the sky above is bright blue with puffy clouds. And once the storm passes, we often experience clear skies again, sun showers and rainbows.

No rainbows tonight, but I thought I'd share some of the pictures I shot right after the storm passed - to give you an idea of how the light creates impact.

I could see the sun light glistening off the leaves of the maple in the backyard. It was that beautiful, golden light of evening. I put my macro lens on and walked out to the tree and snapped this first:
After the Rain - 1
The sun is directly behind me. I know this is what I was taught when I took an introductory class to photography (in 4th grade) - always have the sun behind you so your subject is appropriately illuminated.
Sure, the subject is illuminated. And boring.

So I move 180 degrees and I am facing the sun and the leaves are backlit by the sun's rays. My eyes can make out a pleasant view of the backlit leaves, but that didn't translate so well to my camera's sensor.
After the Rain - 2
Just another "meh" result. I want to capture the rain drops glistening in the sun.

So I move again, still facing the sun, but this time isolating a single leaf and positioning myself so that I can see the light through the leaf.
After the Rain - 3
I really like this capture, although it would be better if I hadn't cropped off the bottom tip of the leaf.

I went on to shoot some more of the leaf, using vertical orientation, but none were as nice as the shot above. I did crop one of the photos really tight - to get really see the detail of the leaf.
After the Rain - 4 - Details

One more thing to note about this photo shoot - it lasted all of five minutes. Because within that time, more clouds rolled through and the golden sunlight was no more. Once the sun was gone, I stopped shooting - without the light, I wouldn't be able to capture what I wanted.

By moving around, taking advantage of the light and getting closer to my subject, I was able to capture what brought me outside after the rain - the glistening leaves after a much needed rain.

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Skill Set

My kids are growing up all too fast and taking on more responsibility. On the one hand, I'm grateful for the extra hands. On the other hand, I need to let go of my perception of "how things should be done" and let them do the job without my micromanagement.

Both kids possess basic cooking skills - case in point, my son making "Grandma Eggs" for a snack.

Grandma's Eggs

"Grandma Eggs" are my mother's version of scrambled eggs. Instead of mixing the eggs while they are cooking, you pour them out into a thin layer, let them set, then flip. I guess it's similar to an omelet without the filling. We make them with green onion sometimes.

The latest - getting trained on mowing the lawn:
Instruction Time
It's a Dad - Son teaching moment - because I don't mow the lawn (we're kind of traditional in this area - I don't get involved with the lawn).

Brian managed to maneuver around the mailbox just fine.
Manuvers

Now, if I could get the kids to clean up the kitchen....

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Scenes from the Road

We're back at home now, after logging 2,000 miles on the Tahoe. I find when we're on the road, I prefer taking pictures with my iPhone. Especially when we are going places we've been to before - like our trip last week, back East to visit family.

There's always interesting things to shoot while "on the road" and I thought I'd share some today.

Some of the Upstate NY country side:
Countryside Twin Tower

At a toll booth on the NY Thruway. This poodle was just too cute not to capture.
Catching Some Rays

The end of a downpour in Ohio, south of Akron:
Clear Skies Ahead

Dessert at the Cheesecake Factory (thank goodness there isn't one of these in our town - I think I gained a pound just checking out the assortment of cheesecakes):
Dessert Later On

A retro looking bike for sale at this bike shop called "roll:". I wonder if any of our cats would ride in that basket.
Old Fashioned Ride

Games in the Car - the ever popular "hand slap" game never gets old.
Hand Slap Game

The best thing about a road trip? When you've made it back home....

Shared on Sweet Shot Tuesday
Sweet Shot Day

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Wheeling and Dealing

Monopoly - a game taking risks, making the deal you think will profit you the most, and getting a little lucky.
Uncle Jeff is visiting, and when he visits, we play Monopoly. Last year, it was Grandma and Scott who won big, with their golden hotels on Park Place and The Boardwalk. This year, Brian crushed us all with the unlikely acquisition of the Railroads and Utilities.
Monopoly Time
I guess you can't go wrong with basic infrastructure...

Uncle Jeff
The wheeling and dealing wasn't limited to the game board - the kids spent some time wheeling around Grandma's yard in the riding mower.

Steering

Where's the Gas Pedal?

Ready to Drive
After the riding break, more Monopoly and another win for Brian. He should have quit while he was ahead, as later that night, he finally lost to Grandma. Just like life - you win some, lose some.

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