Happy New Year - January 2015 Desktop Calendar

It's New Year's Eve and I am ready for 2015, whatever it may bring.

To start off the New Year, I have January's calendar available for download:



We haven't seen any appreciable snow this season, quite the contrast from this time last year. I kind of miss that white fluffy stuff, and I'll have to settle for a virtual snow scene on my desktop instead. If you want to try your hand at creating your own photo calendar, check out this tutorial.

To Download this month's free desktop calendar, click on this link at Box.com:
Free January 2015 Calendar

Have a safe New Year's Eve and we'll catch you in 2015!

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2015 Photo Calendar Preview and How To Create Your Own

Since 2009, I have been creating photo calendars to give away as gifts. Truthfully, I considered giving up the practice last year because I felt I didn't have sufficient material. But each December rolls around and my sister inevitably queries me on "when her new calendar would be arriving", which prompts me to open up my catalog of photos. The creative juices start flowing and within two hours, I've culled through, picked and created the upcoming year's calendar.

The process is very simple and I wrote up this Tutorial a couple years ago: How to Create a 4x6 Photo Calendar

The upcoming year's Calendar Templates can be found at Photoshop Elements Techniques, which is a great resource for all things PSE, including free brushes, textures and of course, 2015's Calendar Templates

Once I create the calendar files, I have a "proof" set printed at the local Walgreen's, where I make sure there are no spelling errors, that the dates aren't cut off (yes, that has happened) and the photos look good. Final adjustments are made before I upload to my normal photo finisher, MPIX.com.

Here is a sneak peak of 2015's calendar - January will be posted later this week for you to download and use on your computer desktop.

2015 Photo Calendar Sneak Peak

I hope everyone had a great Christmas - we had a great one here and are looking forward to the coming New Year.

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Last Minute Gift Ideas - Shop Local, Shop Handmade

I admit to being a procrastinator, especially when it comes to the busy holidays. For example, I only last weekend (that would be a mere two weeks before Christmas) designed and ordered this year's Holiday card. So folks, don't expect an on time card from our family!

So, for those last minute shoppers who don't want to brave the mall this weekend, I'm suggesting you get out to a local market place for some unique, handmade gifts. Small artisan shops and vendors can be found even our small midwestern town - you might have to use social media or contact consignment shops to find them.

Some handmade treasures I've come across locally:

Beaded Wrap Bracelets
Today's Arm Candy #handmade
A friend of mine makes these and they can be found through etsy stores. The bracelet is flexible and wraps around the wrist four times for an instant layered look. The mixture of stones and crystals compliments casual and formal attire - I even wear mine to yoga practice.

Personalized charm necklaces
For A Special Friend
I found these simple necklaces at the local farmer's market. I'm not a "chunky" jewelry wearer (I rarely accessorize to begin with) and I love that the charms are small, interchangeable and personalized to the wearer. I gave the necklace above to a friend who moved away, bought a horse charmed one for my daughter and this one for me:
Capture Life

Handmade Soap, Specialty Syrup and Vintage Stuff
Made Fest Finds
I love handmade soap - they come in all sorts of fragrances from earthy to floral and are a great luxury to use. Real.Soaps are handmade in Chicago and also available via etsy. Your local natural store may also carry handmade soaps.

Sages Specialty Syrups are made in Indiana and the business owners frequent local farmer's markets. The syrup jazzes up the standard cocktail (mango ginger martini anyone?) or sparkling water or tea. I bought some spiced pumpkin syrup to mix into my fall coffee. You can find similar specialty syrups at your local foodie store.

Vintage camera - perfect for that sentimental photographer. I now own three vintage cameras - two of them, including the Kodak Duaflex pictured above still take film and one of these days I'm going to try make it work. For now, it's a nice conversation piece, along with my Brownie Hawkeye.

Local Designer Clothing - Chicago designer Kate VanAsten makes beautiful clothing at Wulfka. I found her at a local artisan fair and bought the beautiful Isis Dress. She also has skirts and shrugs available.
Dress

We're in the final stretch before Christmas, so good luck with the final days of shopping!

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Begin Again

I willfully sat down last Saturday (maybe two Saturday's ago - I've lost track) and actually watched a full length movie at home. (those who know me realize this is quite a feat - I don't sit down for long periods of time at home, unless I'm napping) The movie that successfully captured my attention - Begin Again, a music centric story of a washed up, mid-life crisis record executive who reclaims his life while helping an indie singer-songwriter record music in the streets of New York.

Begin Again stars Keira Knightley as the singer, and yes, she actually sings in the movie. She plays Gretta, a songwriter who comes to New York with her singer boyfriend, who is on the cusp of commercial stardom. She finds herself on the outside as her partner (played by Adam Levine) is swept away by the music industry machine. Mark Ruffalo plays the record executive, a drunkard louse, who sees potential in Gretta's stripped down, acoustic songs.

I thoroughly enjoy the movie, bought the soundtrack and now share some of it with you. I love the melodies and lyrics, but mostly the simplicity of the performances - there's real joy seen here.



Lost Stars, performed by Keira Knightley

Please, don't see
Just a girl caught up in dreams
And fantasies

Please, see me
Reaching out for someone
I can't see

Take my hand
Let's see where we wake up tomorrow
Best laid plans
Sometimes are just a one night stand

I'll be damned
Cupid's demanding back it's arrow
So let's get drunk on our tears

And God, tell us the reason
Youth is wasted on the young
It's hunting season
And the lambs are on the run

Searching for meaning
But are we all lost stars
Trying to light up the dark

What does it take to Begin Again? Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom, other times you need to take a chance. Most importantly, you have to know yourself and "to thine self, be true".



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Along My Run | 10 - November Contrasts

November is a month of contrasts - the leaves have peaked and by the end of the month, fall's glory is but a memory, replaced by a barren, skeletal landscape. We experienced a cornucopia of weather conditions - typical fall temperatures in the mid-30's, then a preview of winter with bitter temperatures, complete with single digit wind chills and a sprinkling of snow. To round out the month, the last day of November felt like Spring - a balmy 55 degrees.

Like I said, a month of contrasts.

November Runs - Contrasts
1. A year later and the way I run has changed me. Thank you for finding me that morning , 2. Peaking Canopy. Most of the Leaves are gone , 3. Passing Through, 4. Morning Haze. Even When It's Cloudy, a Rrun Makes Things Better, 5. Standing Still, before the Winds Picked up. Noted on my run - the Flock of geese overhead, in perfect V formation, the Hawk that flew by, the 20mph westerly wind between miles 7 and 9. Things that make you feel alive. , 6. Fading Away - I haven't run on this street in over two months, and it looks completely different now., 7. A Bit of Craziness -single digits. I even saw two other runners out there, so I'm not alone in my craziness. Wind was a killer., 8. Confessions of a Cold Weather Runner. Not shown - the double tights and long sleeve shirt I'm wearing., 9. Reaching Out For Someone I Can't See, 10. Brisk , 11. Take My Hand, Let's See Where We Wake Up Tomorrow , 12. November Blues -A warm and balmy morning - feels like spring! I'll take it - enjoyed my run in shorts and a tee shirt!

From a running standpoint, November served as a low-key, take things easy, run whatever feels good month. I cut back from running 4 days per week to 3 days, took more full rest days, added in more spinning classes and started a program with a personal trainer. I signed up with the personal trainer to address the strength imbalances I have between my left (weaker) and right sides, with the goal of preventing future injuries. I'm happy to report the Plantar fasciitis in my left foot is gone - I'm no longer running with tape or any arch support device.

November's Stats: 115 miles, 9:07 minute / mile average pace
Longest distance run: 13.2 miles one Saturday, even though we had originally planned to run 10 miles. We called it our virtual Half Marathon for November.

Hopefully, December won't pose too many foul weather challenges so I can finish up 2014 in good shape for 2015.

This month's running quotes, courtesy of great women runners:
I don't feel like myself unless I run. It's how I deal with sadness and happiness. I need it. It's like therapy.
– Kara Goucher

(I can totally relate)

A goal is just an awesome way to force growth on yourself.
– Deena Kastor


Running is not who I am; it's something I do; it's something I love.
– Lauren Fleshman


Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of.
– PattiSue Plummer


The things we love, have passion for, help us grow. What's your passion, what have you learned about yourself through that passion? My passions include running, photography and music. Embrace your passions each day - you won't regret it.

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December 2014 Desktop Calendar - Free Download - Acadia Sunrise

If you ever visit Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine, the sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain is a must-do "bucket list" activity. This location is purportedly the first place in the US to see the sunrise.



Adventurers, nostalgics and romantics make the cold, often snowy pilgrimage here on New Year's Day (hmmm, maybe a new "bucket list" item for me). I figured it would be fitting to have this close out 2014.

To Download this month's free desktop calendar, click on this link at Box.com:
December 2014 Calendar - Acadia - Cadillac Mountain Sunrise

To read more about Acadia National Park and my family's adventures there, head over to these links:
Long Pond Hike
Acadia Panoramics
Acadia Ocean Path
Afternoon Tea on Jordan Pond
Ocean Path to Thunder Hole
Biking the Carriage Trails at Acadia
4th of July Sunrise from the Top of Cadillac Mountain - Acadia National Park

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Friday Five - Gratitude

Well, I sort of dropped off the face of blog-land these past two weeks.

We received less than optimal news related to my hubby’s job and I’m feeling very unmotivated and lazy to write anything or take photos. In reality, our situation is manageable and not cataclysmic – there are many worse situations within my circle of friends, so I can’t complain. We’ll get through just fine.

We are looking forward to Thanksgiving, so in the celebration of the season, I am listing five things I am grateful for this November:

  1. Great Health – something we tend to take for granted.
  2. College tests, applications and acceptances – my daughter has been accepted at Michigan State and is still applying to other colleges.
  3. Good friends – whether near or far, web-based or not (I don’t want to use the term virtual friend, as they are as real as it gets), the support of friends conquers all.
  4. Ample resources – in the US, we have access to so much.
  5. Warm, cozy socks. I’m partial to Smart Wool socks. Unfortunately, my kids love them too and my daughter takes mine all the time, leaving me with cold, cotton socks. Fortunately, I recently received a coupon for a 20% discount. I hear they make great stocking stuffers....

And a photo to share - a kaleidoscope of colors, one of the first photos taken with my new iPhone 6!

Kaleidoscope in Flight #color #art

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

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Girls On The Run

Our neighborhood hosted a unique community event yesterday - the Girls On the Run 5K run passed through our sub-division. For a change, I was a spectator instead of a race participant and it was great fun. OK, I wasn't just a spectator, I also played the part of "race photographer".

Girls on the Run 5K

From the Girls on the Run Website, the program is aimed at 3rd-5th grade girls:
"Our mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running."

The local Girls on the Run Council has partnered with the YMCA and set up training sites at numerous elementary schools. The after school program meets twice a week with coaches, culminating in yesterday's 5K running event.

"The 20-lesson Girls on the Run curriculum combines training for a 5K (3.1 miles) running event with lessons that inspire girls to become independent thinkers, enhance their problem solving skills and make healthy decisions. All of this is accomplished through an active collaboration with girls and their parents, schools, volunteers, staff, and the community."

How awesome is that? From personal experience, I attest that running has given me more confidence, strength, stamina and most importantly, joy. The process of setting a goal, taking steps forward through discipline and training, then seeing that goal through provides an immense sense of accomplishment. I got to see those happy smiles of accomplishment on the runners today - and not just girls, but boys, mothers, fathers and teachers.

Girls on the Run 5K

Girls on the Run 5K

One of the runners was Ms J - a former 5th grade teacher to both my kids - and a friend. Ms J has transformed herself through weight loss and exercise and ran her first 5K today. I knew I had to cheer her on and give her a special high five as she passed by.

Girls on the Run 5K

It brightened my day to see and be a part of a great event from an organization with a positive mission.

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Senior Photos - The Best Friend

A is one of my daughter's best friends. They've attended the same schools since the first grade and became great friends in middle school.

Morning in London
Visiting London, June 2013

These two young ladies traveled to France and London together, even attended Lollapolooza last summer - they've shared so many adventures together, and I loved taking her Senior photos.

Senior AB

Senior AB

We got really lucky with the weather - our original plan was to take photos on Sunday, but with a predicted high of 50 degF and high winds, we postponed for a day. Monday turned out to be just perfect - mid 60's with autumn's golden afternoon sun.

Senior AB

I won't post the outtakes, but I will describe one of my posing fails - I instructed her to swing her head around in an attempt to create motion with her hair (you know, like those shampoo commercials for "full-bodied hair"). Never again.

The static pose is simpler.
Senior AB

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Along My Run | 9 - October Marathon and Beyond

October culminated in the running of the Chicago marathon and my subsequent recovery period. After the Illinois marathon in April, I dipped into a bit of a post-race depression, but this time I didn't let it happen. I think the shorter days and dark mornings made it easier to let go of the expectation to get up and run. I simply decided to relax more and gave myself permission to take it easy.

I also didn't run any long distances the two weeks leading up to the Chicago Marathon, due to plantar fasciitis in my left foot. As a result, I don't have many running photos from October (so I included the photos from the start of November - I needed two more photos to make it an even 10).
Captured While Running - October Runs
1. Flip on the Lights , 2. This is the Day You Have Made. I will Rejoice and Be Glad in It, 3. It's a Perfect Day to Run Chicago, 4. Golden Days - 3 easy miles today , 5. First Movement , 6. Enjoying Fall , 7. Beautiful Morning for a Trail Run , 8. Looks Can be Deceiving - Steep Hill Ahead, 9. Cold but Golden , 10. Contrasts

Two weeks after the Chicago race, I ran a 6-mile trail race, held at Allerton Park. It was the perfect way to follow up my marathon - running something completely opposite - a trail race vs a road race, through a forest preserve instead of the city and a very small pool of participants (although it felt very crowded, especially at the start).

It was a perfect autumn day for a trail run.
Meander If You Please

Bursting Through

Melange

I love running in the fall - the temperatures are ideal, the air crisp and the leaves crunch underneath. I experienced something new running Sunday morning - watching, hearing and feeling the leaves gently rain down from the canopy above as I passed underneath. Just another reason to lace up and run outside.

Some other things to note - everyone seems to be commenting on my pink running shoes (on Instagram and Facebook)! I bought new shoes to add to my rotation - these are Hoka Cliftons, a highly cushioned yet lightweight shoe. The heel to toe offset is still low (5mm) and similar to the Brooks PureCadence, which I consider to be my main running shoe. I decided to try the Hoka brand, since they appear to help with plantar fasciitis. I have a fairly new pair of Saucony Kinvara5 which I am still getting used to (they are a bit on the stiff side). My last pair of shoes are pretty specialized - Goretex lined Inov8 Roclite Trail shoes that I wore during last week's trail race. They are waterproof, great in the rain and snow and of course, on a muddy trail. Can a runner have too many shoes? I guess not!

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The Scarecrow

The cold. The wind. The moon peeking from behind the clouds.

The scarecrow.....

Is It Real?

He's real, he's 12 feet tall and he stands so still, you think he's just a prop. Then you walk by and he starts to follow you.

You run away, screaming.

The scene is courtesy of my good friend and neighbor, Jill, and her husband, Buck. Last Halloween, he was the creepy, 12 foot clown. I wondered how they would top that, but they did this year with the Scarecrow.

Still scary in Black and White
Beware the Scarecrow

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November 2014 Desktop Calendar - Free Download - Fountains at the Bellagio

November is upon us, the weather has definitively turned cooler and Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend.

It's a time to visit warm Vegas!

If you can't get there in person, you can visit virtually - and enjoy the Fountains at the Bellagio.



To Download this month's free desktop calendar, click on this link at Box.com:
November 2014 Calendar - Fountains at the Bellagio

We did visit Vegas in November, about four years ago, an adults only trip to celebrate the 40th birthday of my good friend, Jill. It is a great time to visit - not too hot but still warm.

Some of our trip's highlights:

The Hoover Dam - a great half day or full day trip.
Vegas at Night.
Scenes along the Vegas Strip
Some Chihuly and an Oldenburg - Art in Vegas

Enjoy your extra hour this weekend!


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Curried Squash - Sweet Potato Soup

I really didn't fall off the face of the earth - I just wasn't in the mood to post anything last week. Maybe my lethargy is a remnant of the post-marathon slump, coupled with the shortened daylight hours.

I've also been busy most evenings traversing town, taking my son to and from Driver's Ed class. Oh, wait, I'm not doing the driving - I'm being driven around town by my newly minted, driver's permitted Boy. So maybe I'm just too stressed to do anything but sit on the couch afterwards.

OK, he's not that bad a driver, I'm just super high strung when I think he's going to hit another car (that's not happened)....or spin out the back end of the car when taking a turn too fast (yes, that has happened).

Deep cleansing breath....

Enough of my random blabbering - the real purpose of this post is a recipe for this luscious soup I conjured up.

Rustic Lunch - Curried Winter Squash Soup, Crusty Sourdough #foodie #yum

Butternut squash and Sweet potatoes - two of my favorite foods - melded together.

(I got in the habit of consuming one entire butternut squash and one-two sweet potatoes each week last winter while in marathon training mode - they are great sources of carbohydrates, fiber and of course, that orange beta carotene)

This recipe is my own, but I was inspired by Panera Bread's current menu offering of Autumn Squash Soup and a recipe for Curried Sweet Potato Soup in Runner's World Magazine.

Ingredients:
One Butternut Squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1" pieces
One medium Sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
One medium onion, roughly diced
Two cloves of garlic, smashed
One half apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1" pieces (I used a Honeycrisp because we love them)
3 - 4 C chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 C White wine (optional)
1 T Curry powder
1/2 C half and half

Preparation:
Add the squash, potato, onion, garlic, apple, 3 C of broth, white wine and curry powder to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil then simmer, covered for about 40-50 minutes, or until the veggies are soft and mushy. Blend the soup in batches if using a blender (I use an immersion blender - right in the pot) until nice and smooth.

Stir in the Half and Half and simmer until heated through, adding more broth / water if needed. (I like my soup on the thick side, so add more liquid to suit your taste)

I serve the soup topped with crumbled goat cheese and pumpkin seeds, and a side of crusty bread. I bet if you sprinkled on dried cranberries, that would be super pretty and tasty, too!

Since I'm the only one in the house that remotely likes butternut squash, sweet potatoes or any orange colored vegetable, I had plenty of leftovers. The soup keeps wonderfully, the flavors developing more fully after sitting overnight. I'm guessing it will freeze well, too, so make a big double batch and freeze the remaining portion for a quick and easy future meal.

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Black and White Days - Sun Salutation

Sunday morning's mixture of sun and fog made for an ethereal drive across town.

Disclosure - I was driving to the grocery store, but even the mundane tasks of life can be filled with beauty.

Sun Salutation #enjoyillinois #blackandwhite #fog

Taken with my iPhone 4s camera and converted to black and white via Instagram.

[I plan to upgrade my 3 year old iPhone next week - I am mostly excited about the new phone's camera!]

Happy Monday!

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While I Was in Chicago - Homecoming Happened

I'm interrupting the Black and White Days to post a couple photos of my kids and their high school's Homecoming. The Homecoming Dance happened to fall the night before the Chicago Marathon, so I got to witness things from afar. Thankfully, I have really great friends who serve as second parents to my kids - I don't worry when I have to be away.

And as a bonus, I get real time scoop via text:
Homecoming

Can you spot the big trend amongst boys right now? It's the bow tie! My son was very specific when we shopped for his Homecoming outfit - there had to be a bow tie. Now he owns two of them and even managed to tie it himself (YouTube saves the day again).

Then there is the sibling selfie, taken after I incessantly texted both the girl and the boy, requesting photos.
Matching Siblings

I hadn't seen my daughter's dress prior to this photo and without even trying, sister and brother are perfectly matched! How serendipitous! And their expressions are, well, just classic.

They had a great time at the dance and didn't burn the house down. We might survive this school year, yet.

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Black and White Days - The Diner

I like repetition. Repetition is just so darn orderly. Seemingly in control.

...start of Random Interlude - I admit to having control issues. Constantly working on it (let go, that is). end of Random Interlude...

So I snapped this because I liked the light fixtures above the booths. Yeah, that's probably not too apparent - I did the best I could given my short stature.
At Merry Ann's

Photo taken at a local downtown diner. Every college town requires a 24 hour diner - where else can you get chili cheese fries at 2am after the bars close?

Not that I would know!

wink

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Black and White Days

I was challenged by my friend (who happens to be a runner / photographer / creative soul like me), Kyla to a five day Black and White Challenge. So we're going black and white for the next five days.

Here's a classic horse shot, from my daughter's last show of the season:
Classic Profile

The great thing about black and white conversions - it takes away all those distracting colored items in the background (in this case, the porta potty is less obvious). Good to know, right?

I still find it hard to determine which shots look good in black and white. I think this one works because it's a simple photo to begin with. Caesar is a great horse to convert to black and white due to his variegated coloring.

More black and white to come!

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My Chicago Marathon Experience

Confession time - I never intended to run the Chicago Marathon.

I had an impression of this race – running in a sea of people where you really have to pay attention to the people around you to prevent getting stomped on (or stomping on someone), and it felt stressful. Reading the course description (run along the lake, through Lincoln Park, through the ethnic communities, ending in Grant Park), sounded wonderful, but would I be able to enjoy it, or would I be fixated on the back of the person in front of me?

I was totally wrong.

With the exception of miles 19 - 23, where cramps in my right calf forced me to alternate between walking and running, I had a great run. I never felt crowded in, even at the start, and the course wound beautifully through Chicago, showcasing its eclectic architecture, waterways, parks, neighborhoods and most importantly, the infectious spirit of the people who make up the city.

The crowds exuded energy that resulted in an inexplicable electric in the air. That energy has the power to carry you through the depths of nothingness - perfect for those hard miles towards the end of a marathon.

Scott and I arrived Saturday afternoon and navigated the labyrinth of the race Expo before heading to our hotel. Of course the traffic was terrible - with 45,000 runners and their families / friend descending upon the already crowded city, we needed to be patient and plan for numerous delays.

I opted to book the Chicago Hilton on Michigan Ave, right across from Grant Park and the Start / Finish Line. Because the last thing I wanted was additional stress on race day. I made the right decision and will stay there again the next time I run this race (yes, I will come back).

As a bonus, our room overlooked Michigan Ave and the park! We could see the Chicago skyscrapers to the north and Field Museum / Soldier Field to the south.

Chi Town View #shirleyruns #chimarathon
Outside Our Window - Grant Park and Chicago Skyline

After dinner (room service, because I wanted to keep off my feet), we walked north along Michigan Avenue to find Starting Gate 2, my assigned gate. I timed how long it would take so I could better plan for the next morning. I planned to leave the hotel as late as possible to minimize "standing around" time and to avoid having to use a porta potty at the start (super long lines).

We watched the lights of the city turn on
Flip on the Lights #chicago #enjoyillinois #shirleyruns
North on Michigan Ave

The marathon gates open up at 5:30 on race day. As I watched the sun come up, the streets below buzzed with people streaming towards the start line. I was able to stay in the room until 7:20 before heading out to my start corral. The weather couldn't be more perfect - 52degF at the start, clear, with a slight wind from the south.
This is the Day You Have Made. I will Rejoice and Be Glad in It #chimarathon #shirleyruns
A Perfect Day for Running
The start corrals were well organized and spacious. I never felt crowded in and found a spot on the curb where I could sit before we started moving towards the start line. Our corral was scheduled to start at 8:00 and I crossed the start line at 8:03. Again, I never felt crushed in, even at the start - I could run unfettered immediately at a comfortable pace. I have participated in several races where this was not the case, so I was pleasantly surprised.
It's a Perfect Day to #Run #chimarathon #shirleyruns
Waiting to Start
Highlights of the race course - running under the big skyscrapers of Chicago's "Loop", traversing the numerous Loop Bridges, running through Lincoln Park and the tree lined streets of the Historic Old Town. I was hurting when I ran through the tail end of the ethnic neighborhoods and the people there really buoyed my spirits.

Between miles 19 and 20, I started to experience cramps that required me to alternate between running and walking. I walked / ran miles 19-23, and connected with another runner, Jeff, who was experiencing the same plight. He implored me not to stop and stretch - doing so might tear the muscles (I was starting to cramp in my thigh, too). By walking it out and taking extra gatorade at two aid stations, I was able to start running again before mile 24.

My official time - 4:28:42. I was hoping for a PR - my left foot's plantar fasciitis was not a factor during the run - but I think my lack of activity these last two weeks set me back a little. I also underestimated the amount of sports drink / electrolytes I needed - the weather was perfect and I never outwardly got sweaty, wasn't really thirsty and didn't take gatorade at each aid station. Lessons learned for next time.

Race Splits

When Scott and I arrived back home, we were greeted by several congratulatory banners hung around the house:
Banner Love
Banner Love

This was such a great experience, all made possible by my friends and family.

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My Chicago Marathon Decision

Despite a [waning] case of plantar fasciitis, I have decided to run in Sunday's Chicago Marathon! I made the "good to go" decision after Wednesday's pain-free run.

My foot feels better, thanks to all the advice/good thoughts/prayers people have bestowed upon me - from internet / blog friends to Facebook friends, from the knowledgeable runners at the local sports / running store, from my local running friends to my PT friend who scraped me down and taped me up. I am humbled and blessed by my support system - you all keep me going in a positive way.

I am, however, mentally prepared to stop mid race if the red flags of pain flare up. I've set aside my pride and am willing to take a DNF (did not finish) next to my name, because the last thing I want to do is injure myself for the long term.

So let the pre-race excitement begin! Gotta get my bag packed and ready to go!

For those of you interested, I've been assigned to Start Corral "F" which is estimated to start at 8am. There is live participant tracking available at this link: Chicago Marathon Runner Tracking.

I'll leave you with a photo of my run-26.2 necklace. I wear it to remind myself that every run is a gift.

Inspiration

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Along My Run | 8 - September Transition

September runs vacillate between hot and cold, as remnants of summer fold away to crisp, cool days of autumn. I even broke out my pair of transition tights when we experienced a cold snap, mid month. I watched several amazing sunrises, ran through some eerie fog that left its sparkling mark on all thing wispy as it burned away, and watched as the combines started their ritual of reaping a well earned harvest.

September Runs - Transition
1. Slice of Americana , 2. Magical Morning , 3. The Clock Struck One, I got my 20 miles in, Hickory Dickory Dock., 4. That's My Post 20 Mile Smile , 5. Perfect Morning for a Run, Feels Like Fall!, 6. Transition, 7. Take a Seat, Bask in the Sun. Had to break out the cold running gear this morning! 42 degF with a wind chill of 36! But I loved it!, 8. View From the Top. Ran several parking decks around town this morning. , 9. Layer Cake, 10. Golden Waves, 11. Harvest Time , 12. I Wasn't Planning to Run Today, but the perfect fall weather beckoned. And the run was great. , 13. Profile.. So dark now, but on the bright side, saw a shooting star this morning., 14. Once Again, I'm Chasing the Sun, 15. What Happened Ten Minutes Later , 16. Headed Through the Country


September was another great running month. I completed two - 20+ mile runs, capping off my marathon training program. I broke the 1000 mile mark for total miles in 2014. I was on track to match or surpass my max monthly mileage total of 136, falling shy at 126 miles. My average pace was 9:14 minutes / mile, consistent with August.

This month's collection of quotes - throughout the month, I earmark running quotes that "speak to me".

That's the beauty of starting lines: Until you begin a new venture, you never know what awaits you.
– Amby Burfoot

The battles that count aren't the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself-the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us-that's where it's at.

– Jesse Owens

I have cried once or twice when I crossed the finish line, out of a fullness of feeling that can't be expressed in words.
– Larry Smith

Hmm, they are all race related. I guess it comes as no surprise, I've been fixated on this upcoming race. As I write this, I'm still sidelined by the Plantar Facsiitis in my left foot and I'm still not sure what I should do about the Chicago Marathon (a mere five days away). The foot is better - I ran two miles Saturday morning with no pain, but there is a dull ache in my arch, constantly speaking to me in hushed tones, saying "I'm not happy with you right now". I just wish I had some clarity to it all.



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October 2014 Desktop Calendar - Free Download - Holland, Michigan

Holland, Michigan - along the banks of Lake Michigan, an idyllic summertime getaway where cool, lake breezes make you forget about the hot city (only 2.5 hours from Chicago), and the corn filled prairie (because outside Chicago-land, it's just that - corn and bean fields).

The images for this month's Free desktop calendar were taken in Holland, yes, in October. Even in October, Holland is a great weekend getaway. My friend, Anne, was so gracious to host a group of us at her family's lakeside property. We had to visit Holland State Park on our last evening to watch the sunset along the beach.

There's something about being at the beach during off season - it's still beautiful, but melancholy at the same time, longing for warmer climes.

To download this image, click on this link at Box.com: The Beach at Holland State Park, Holland, MI

The Big Red Lighthouse, one of Michigan's most photogenic structures, anchors the pier at the park.

To download the Lighthouse Calendar, click on this link at Box.com:
Big Red Lighthouse - Holland State Park, Holland, MI

Some posts from that weekend getaway in Holland, MI:
The Weekend Retreat
The Gurgle Fish
My Solitary Photo Walk Weekend

Holland, MI photos on my flickr stream: Lake Michigan Retreat

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Two Weeks Until the Chicago Marathon - And I Get Plantar Fasciitis

More accurately, it's less than two weeks until the Chicago Marathon and the Plantar Fasciitis came out of nowhere and has taken up residence in my left foot. Great.

From the Mayo Clinic:

Plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis) is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.

Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position.

Plantar fasciitis is particularly common in runners. In addition, people who are overweight and those who wear shoes with inadequate support are at risk of plantar fasciitis.

My pain started last Thursday after what I categorized as a "fabulous run". So fabulous that I sprinted the last two miles because I was feeling great and wanted to see this:
What Happens Ten Minutes Later #shirleyruns #postrun #itgetsbetter #sunrise

I stayed long enough to watch the sky morph into a swirl of pastels [so I was late getting back home] and I probably didn't stretch properly afterwards [ie, I didn't stretch at all]. Walking into work, I noticed some pain emanating from my left heel.

Uh Oh.

I had 12 miles scheduled for Saturday, but instead I "ran" 3 miles on the elliptical machine, swam 20 laps in the pool and finished off with 25 minutes of pool running. The foot was feeling good - not "too" achy.

So I ran 10 miles on Sunday. Yes, probably not the best thing to do, but my foot "didn't hurt too badly" and I wanted to see how much it would hurt. Yes, it hurt to run, and it is possible I won't be able to complete the Chicago Marathon in 12 days.

Pretty much sucks.

I will, however, look at the positive - thank goodness I'm in the Taper phase of training. I don't have to run these last two weeks - I can swim, pool run and maybe hit a Spin class this week. Then really rest up next week.

What I am doing to try and heal up my foot over the next two weeks (based on information gleaned from websites and talking with other runners):
  • Massage my affected foot - alternating between a tennis ball, golf ball and frozen water bottle
  • Foam roll and stretch my calf muscle - I've come to the conclusion that I have tight calves, despite being very flexible. Keeping the calves and Achilles stretched will place less tension on the plantar fascia.
  • Perform strengthening exercises for the foot.

I'll make a final assessment next week on my marathon status. Not the way I want it to be, but nevertheless what I got. Life will still go on.....

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Senior Photos - A Girl and Her Horse

A few "keepers" from this evening's photo shoot at the barn with my daughter.

We got there late, just as the sun was setting, so the light isn't the best. We should have arrived 30 minutes earlier, but some of these turned out OK - thank goodness for high ISO!

A Girl and Her Horse
I must have snapped 20 photos of her on Caesar, but this one was the only one remotely "decent". The moon and stars need to align perfectly - those who have horses know what we were up against in this field full of grass.

A Girl and Her Horse

A Girl and Her Horse

Then there are the outtakes.
I Like to Pant Sometimes

I've convinced her to have another session - this one will be in the early morning, so at least we won't be fighting the clock for light and I hope to get some nice golden morning light. Stay tuned!

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The Friday Five - Summer Review

Bright Lights and Cityscapes
Summer Lights Up the Boston Skyline

With the official start of Autumn this past Tuesday, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the past summer.

  1. The weather - Again, I'm fixated on the weather. This summer's cooler than normal temperatures, coupled with ample rain was simply perfect. For the first summer ever, I didn't have to water the lawn!
  2. We moved our daughter's horse, Caesar, to a new barn, a great place that is much closer to our house (10 minutes away vs 30 minutes).
  3. I took my son and one of his friends to Boston and had a great time. I visited my parents, staying in their Plymouth home, probably for the last time (they plan to sell the house soon).
  4. I participated in a month long on-line yoga challenge, focusing on arm balances. I don't often mention my yoga pursuits here, and this challenge was just that - very challenging, but I a learned a ton. If you care to see the poses, head over to this set on my Flickr Stream.
  5. Even with the good, there was some sadness this summer. My good friend, Kellie, moved away, my violin teacher decided to stop teaching and I lost a running partner. But with each change, we grow and adapt. I am blessed by so much, regardless of the season.
Did you have a great summer?

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Sky Full of Stars - Photographing Star Trails

I took advantage of the clear, moonless skies last night and made my first attempt at photographing star trails.

Sky Full of Stars

It's not a perfect capture, but I'll take it. I learned many things in the process.

  • I made 20 exposures using my 24-70mm lens, my camera mounted on a tripod. Some of the exposure details:
  • 24mm, f/8, ISO 3200, 20 seconds
  • I also used a remote shutter release in an attempt to reduce camera shake, but as you can tell, there is still some blur going on. I enabled the Long Exposure Noise reduction processing on my camera, which sounded like the right thing to do, but resulted in a 30 second delay between exposures. This causes gaps in the stars trails.
  • For Post processing, I combined 19 exposures (I removed one exposure due to an airplane flying low through the sky) in PSE and for each layer, set the blending mode to "Lighten", which allows the brightest parts of each exposure to be seen.
  • I also found software that will stack and process everything for you - StarStaX, making things very easy.
For my next try (possibly soon as the weather cooperates), I will make the following changes:
  • Exposure setting changes - 24mm, f/2.8, 20 seconds and whatever ISO gives me a proper exposure (I'll have to play around with it). The aperture change here is to see if I can get brighter star trails.
  • Turn off the in camera Long Exposure Noise Reduction.
  • Use the interval timer, which will automatically make consecutive images.
  • If possible, I will try for a different time at night to shoot - while it is dark enough at 8pm now, I found there to be a lot of "other stuff going on in the sky" - planes, etc, that interfere with the concentric trails.
Capturing star trails has always been on my "photography bucket list", but I was recently inspired to finally get it done. I found that inspiration in a song. It's all over the popular music airwaves, so maybe you've heard it.


Of course, it's Coldplay's Sky Full of Stars.
'Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars
I'm gonna give you my heart
'Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars
'Cause you light up the path

I don't care, go on and tear me apart
I don't care if you do, ooh
'Cause in a sky, 'cause in a sky full of stars
I think I saw you

The song evokes the vastness of the sky and reminds me that we are all connected by the stars. I am looking at the same stars as friends far, far away. We can be so far apart, but still feel a glimmer of closeness. Who do I look for when I stare up at the stars? Family, friends, loved ones. I also feel wonderment and remember that darkness is needed in order for the stars to shine.

I hope you take time tonight to check out your night sky - hopefully it will be clear and full of the same stars I'll be watching.

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Fifteen Years Young

Yesterday was the boy's fifteenth birthday. Oh, how fast the years pass!

From this little tyke (at seven days old!):
A Week Old

To this big guy:
Why Isn't He Playing?

The ideal birthday? Sleep in until noon, head over to your friends' house and play Minecraft for an hour, then head home for a round of golf with your Dad. After golf, play football with more friends, then go to dinner with friends.

Birthday Celebration #teenagelife
It's a tough life, isn't it?

My personal highlight of the day - unabashedly singing duets with him in the car after dropping off the last of his friends. It's one of our "mother - son" activities - we cue up the Glee Version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" and belt it out. He doesn't quite sing on key, and he doesn't care.

And neither do I.

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