January 2014 Desktop Calendar - Free Download

For 2014's monthly calendars, I decided to do something different.

In past years, I've matched up the month with an appropriately themed photograph. For 2014, I will feature captures from my travels and most months will have two choices (probably because I couldn't decide which image I liked better). In creating this year's collection, it was fun to go back through my archives and relive those travel adventures.

For January, however, I decided to stay closer to home with two snow themed captures.

The first, taken one snowy Saturday morning last January at the University of Illinois' Japan House:

Most cities have lovely public gardens. The best time to visit in the winter is during a snowfall - the falling snow envelops the space with a quiet peace and sense of serenity. You can bet there won't be too many visitors, either.

To download the Japan House Calendar above, click on this link at box.com: Free Download - January 2014 Desktop Calendar - Japan House

This month's second image was taken at the barn where my daughter boards her horse. This isn't her horse, but one of the other magnificent equines who call the barn their home. I just love how furry they get during the winter months.

To download the Horse Calendar above, click on this link at box.com: Free Download - January 2014 Desktop Calendar - Horse

Wishing you a Happy New Year and a Big Welcome to 2014!


Where are You Going?

Where have you been?

In Formation

We get a lot of that sort of question this time of year. Reflect upon the past year. Set goals for the coming year.

As if we can't set goals any other time.

OK, that was kind of harsh ... so maybe you have picked up that I am not a big fan of the end of December / beginning of January resolutions / fresh year, fresh start thing.

For me, each day is a fresh start. Don't wait until January 1 to make whatever change or resolution you think you should make. Do it today.


Leaving you with a video of one of my favorite songs this time of year. December, performed live by Sara Bareilles. The sound quality is a little rough at times, but I still love it.

Lyrics at the bridge:

Distill a whole year down into a day
Act like we all start over with a pristine slate
But to get yourself a new life you've got to give the other one away
And I'm starting to believe in the power of a name
Cause it can't be a mistake if I just call it change

Go, change today. I'll even go and change my blog's header!



Some shots of the hoar frost that formed last week. I knew it was coming the night before as the freezing fog settled in.




All photos taken from a tree in my neighbor's back yard. I'm lucky they don't mind me traipsing around their landscaping...


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

2013Christmas Card

From my family to yours, wishing you peace and happiness this Christmas Season.

Photo taken at Otter Point, Acadia National Park, Maine.


Winter Band Concert

Just in time for the holiday season - the Boy's Winter band concert, featuring my favorite group, the Jazz band.

I love any jazz band, but more so this with this group because my son is playing the first alto sax. These kids practice three times a week at 7am, so you know they have to enjoy it to get up that early!
When I Fall In Love Solo
He had a solo during "When I Fall in Love" - that's the only time to capture a decent photo.

Friend G picked up the Tenor Sax this year, just to join his friends in the band.
Warm ups

Other featured soloists:

At the end of their performance - I think they were pleased with the effort!
Good Job


First Snow Ramblings

Our first snow (maybe two inches) fell over a week ago, but was then overshadowed by last Friday night's big dump of eight inches.

We awoke to this winter wonderland, the view of our backyard:

So Pretty Outside #winterwonderland #snow

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?
J. B. Priestley

My good neighbor, Bob, plowed all the driveways in our cul-de-sac Friday night, around midnight, but come Saturday morning it was as if he hadn't done a thing. Instead of my usual Saturday morning run, I shoveled out the driveway. I know I would have enjoyed a nice run through the softly falling snow more, but eight inches of the fluffy stuff is really hard to get through. Now, if I had a pair of cross country skis, that would have been perfect.

The heavy snow has also given my daughter valuable lessons on how to drive in white stuff - perhaps experiences she would rather not repeat. Somehow, she has managed to find herself off the road in a ditch twice. In both instances, she was pulled out by nice people. I just hope her ditch finding days are over!

Any snow in your neck of the woods?


Free Download - December 2013 Desktop Calendar

Happy December! May your month be filled with the joy of the holiday season!

To download December's free calendar, click on this link at box.com: Free Download - December 2013 Desktop Calendar


Not Invincible

A couple weeks ago, I had the "opportunity" to have some "fun" participating competing in an Adult Spelling Bee Fundraiser.

OK, I'll admit - it was fun - albeit a bit stressful - but for a good cause - the Spelling Bee proceeds went to the School Foundation, an independent, non-profit organization that supports local Public Schools. Over 30 teams competed, with the top three teams winning Funds towards Physical Education or Playground equipment for their school of choice.

Our team - "M.A.A.C. - Mothers Against Auto-Correct"

We all chose spelling related quotes on the backs of our t-shirts, thanks to the wit and creativity of friend / teammate / neighbor Jill.
Spelling Bee Time! #PicFrame

The format of the event loosely followed the Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee rules, where we were required to spell the given word orally and against the 30 second countdown clock. The format - you state the given word, spell it, then repeat the given word. So - if the word you are given is "pizza" (and yes, this was one of the words, just so you get a feel for the complexity we're talking about here!), the speller states "pizza.... p-i-z-z-a .... pizza".

The first round "swarms" were pretty informal and held at separate corners of the facility. The winner of this three team competition advanced to the final round. The final round teams competed head to head on the Main stage, in front of all sorts of spectators, spelling into the microphone.

Well, "M.A.A.C." didn't advance to the big stage with its spotlight and scary microphone. Because I messed up the word "invincible". See, it's a lonnnnggg-ish word and I'm not good remembering what I've stated, and I have to spell things out with my finger as I'm speaking. Or have the word written out in front of me because those nerves can get to you when you are under pressure. I was also fixated on making sure I got the "i-b-l-e" at the end. As a result, I spelled the word as "i-n-v-i-c-i-b-l-e". Too many "n"'s to remember!

With the pressure off, we watched as our friends competed on stage. We were hopeful they would place in the top three, as the teams were dropping like flies (or dead bees). The team that won our first round swarm only made it to their second word before being eliminated. The word - "bouillon" - because who would think to put that "i" before the two "l's"?

Our friends finished in fourth place - watch them spell the name of a certain disease:

I know apple devices don't support flash, so here is the link to the video, taken by friend-teammate, Kellie.

It's tricky - There are two 'h's in "diphtheria" - yes, they didn't get the first "h" and I certainly didn't know that silent 'h' was there! And yes, I had to google it after they were eliminated.

So, we're not Invincible and I humbly admit that I used the spell checker while writing this blog post! Next year, I'll practice more and practice spelling things out loud. Maybe my daughter (who won her 5th grade spelling bee at school) will enter with some friends. I bet a team of high school students would give the adults a run for their money....


Friday Ramblings

Yeah, I haven't been very consistent in this space recently. Perhaps it's due to a bit of apathy, lack of a computer (daughter has been using my laptop for her schoolwork and it is squirreled up in her room most of the time), or the fact that I've discovered HGTV's Property Brothers and The Big Bang Theory. Maybe it's because since the time change, all I want to do after 6pm is go to sleep because it feels like 9pm as soon as it gets dark.

So today, I'm posting a random bunch of photos - some taken recently, some not.

Lined Up

Shadows and Light

Head On

Staying Warm
Yes, it was cold outside!

Ocean Path Scenery
I've been working on a Blurb Photo book featuring our family trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. It's been fun looking back at the photos.

Wishing you a nice Friday!


Frost On the Red Carpet

I couldn't resist the fresh coat of frost on the grass and leaves this morning. The recent rains and wind have stripped the trees of their pretty leaves, but they are almost as lovely on the ground as they are on the branches.

Magic Carpet Ride

The Red Carpet

Even devoid of color, I love the lines and texture.
Lines and Vines

There's even a bit of green still around.

Frost is fleeting - once the sun hits, it's gone.


That Extra Hour

Last Sunday, we "fell back" from Daylight Savings time to Standard Time, gaining an hour.

What did I "do" with that extra hour? My kids slept it away, but I spent part of that hour outside, in my bathrobe, taking photos. Because that's what I do and the neighbors have grown accustomed to it....

I was really into it because of the frost and even broke out the macro lens.



It would be nice to have more "extra hours" every now and then, but I am happy to have it once a year. If only we didn't have to lose it in the spring.....


Halloween Recap

Oh, the single problem with Halloween falling on the last day of October - it feels like a Halloween post on November 4th is just so late. We should be talking about Thanksgiving and Turkey now.

Ahem, NOT that Christmas stuff....

I couldn't believe my eyes as I went to the WalMart to buy Halloween candy on October 30 (yes, I wait until the last minute) and the normal Halloween Candy aisle had been transformed into red and green "winter wonderland". Seriously? And one of the neighbors put up their icicle lights this past weekend!

So I'm going back in time to post some Halloween photos instead.

As usual, my friend, Jill, and her family out did themselves. Due to heavy rains, they didn't transform their front yard into a full cemetery, but made up for that with a Creepy Circus theme.

Here is their house from several years ago:
The Haunted House

This year, the house was lit up similarly, the addition of some scary characters.
Just Sitting on the Porch

Then this guy emerged from the house:
The Clown Emerges

The nine foot tall scary clown who terrorized adults and children alike:
Tall, Scary Guy

Even good friends, M and L were scared to come to the front door.
Not Sure

The creepy clown walked up and down the street, eliciting screams from young and old. I think it was an effective costume and it will be hard to top next year, but I am sure they will come up with something equally entertaining.

Like maybe a cat dressed up as a bunny....
Oh how we torture our pets. Happy Halloween! #costume #siamese #cat
OK, maybe not....



Fall's brilliance finally showed up.

Wander Down



Even as the leaves fall, they land in grace.
Down But Not Out

I took these yesterday - I happened upon each scene by chance. So glad it was one of those Saturdays with no definitive plans. It was a great way to start the month of November.


Free Download - November 2013 Desktop Calendar

I have TWO choices for November's Calendar Download. These are scenes taken from our local neighborhood parks and green spaces. I am grateful for the city's Park District, and we take advantage of the walking / jogging trails they have created.

To download the Foggy Bridge Version above, click on this link at box.com: Free Download - November Bridge 2013 Desktop Calendar

To download the Pond Version above, click on this link at box.com: Free Download - November Pond 2013 Desktop Calendar


Purple Berries

Not very fall-like, but I captured these berries not too long ago. I was totally drawn to the vivid purple color.

Purple Berries

Purple and green is one of my favorite color combinations, and always reminds me of a bathing suit I bought in my early teens. A one piece, with purple and green diagonal stripes, purchased from the Spiegel Catalog through the mail - one of the first mail order purchases for me. I remember feeling quite out of my comfort zone with that color combination - perhaps it was a departure from the style of that time. But so I digress.

The trees here have reached their peak and I need to get out there with my camera before it's all gone!

Edited to add: The plant photographed is a Callicarpa or Beautyberry, a shrub found mainly in the South.


Brotherly Love

These two guys are sons of one of my co-workers.


I shot the youngest when he was an infant and at eight months, and now he's two. Oh, how much he's changed!


They certainly share the love and their curly hair (the curly hair definitely comes from their mother!).

Brotherly Love


A Night in Vienna

I attended a student orchestra concert last week at the high school. While I don't have direct ties to the orchestra program, I still play the violin and enjoy listening to live classical music, especially music created by young artists. I guess it brings me back to my own high school orchestra days.

The program included string players from the 6th grade, whose skills are still quite basic, all the way to the High School orchestra. The wide breadth of musical ability across the performer displayed the years of practice it takes to play an instrument well.

I had this musician picked out as the most technically advanced of the high school students. Sure enough, later on in the program he performed a solo.

I love the rich sound of the cello. I think if I were to pick up another stringed instrument, this would be it.

I noticed her black fingernail polish - something I would never do with mine!

Congrats to all the performers - they did a great job!

Shared with Nancy's Tuesday Muse



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