Friday's Random Post

1. Happy Chinese Lunar New Year! It's now the year of the Horse. And not just any Horse, but the Wood Horse. I was born in the year of the Fire Goat and because the Wood element "nurtures" the Fire element, I am expected to "have a good year". Yeah, we'll see....

2. It's currently snowing. Again. There's a rumor that my area will see a significant snowfall Tuesday night.

3. I'm running a 4 day training session next week for work and have 9 people flying in this weekend to attend. The potential snowfall on Tuesday could make things very interesting.

4. Seahawks or Broncos? We are partial to horses around here (and it IS the year of the Horse), and hubby is a big Peyton Manning fan, so Broncos it is.

5. I'm really just into Superbowl Sunday because of the commercials and fun socializing at my friend's house.

Random Photo to go with today's post:
Glimmer #run #snow #sunrise
Last Saturday morning's run through (you guessed it) fresh snow. The actual scene was prettier than my capture - there's something magical about the golden sun on sparkly snow.

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Recipe Exchange Brunch

Friend and neighbor Jill hosted a Recipe Exchange Brunch for all us Book Club members last Sunday. In other words, it was like a Book Club meeting, except we didn't discuss books (oh, wait, maybe it was like a book club meeting...), and we each brought food and recipes instead. The main purpose of the brunch - to widen our collection of family-friendly recipes.

Jill is the consummate entertainer - she decorated with fresh flowers and colorful place settings. We were handed a crystal flute filled with orange juice and bubbly prosecco upon arriving. Her fruit salad was beautifully presented and we all forgot about the long, cold winter outside.

Brighten Your Day

Tiered

Jewels

I took photos of most of the food - my plan is to gather the recipes and photos and create a cookbook - one that represents our group's friendship over the years. I'll feature one recipe here on the blog each week until I run out. Hopefully, my friends will continue to submit recipes! The collection will start next week.

Until then, I leave you with a photo of the party favors Jill put together - she really knows how to get all the details right.
Party Favors

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Print Out Your Photos - Tonight - or Tomorrow!

I just submitted a batch of photos to my go-to photo finisher, mpix.com. They have a print special going on - 25% off - but this special offer ends tonight. If you happen to have a bunch of digital photos ready to upload, tonight is your night.

Even if you read this after the special offer has expired, I urge you to print out your digital photos. Put them in a simple album. Tape them on your walls. Write on the back of them and send them through snail mail as a postcards to brighten someone's day. As a smart-phone / camera-phone / selfie-taking culture, our digital photos have become ubiquitous, almost throwaway commodities, but they represent our lives. OK, so don't print out every photo you've taken of your breakfast, but maybe print out that photo you took of that special meal you poured your heart into.

Here's a small sample of what I sent to be printed. I'll give some away, some will decorate the walls of my kids' rooms, some will make their way to my office at work. Most importantly, they won't be hidden on my computer's EHD. I'll enjoy them on a daily basis and be reminded of the good things we've encountered in this journey called life.

Frosted

Cold Winter Bright

Look and Ye Shall Find

Come Play with Me

Ornaments

Genuine

Facade

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February 2014 Desktop Calendar - Free Download - Something Warm for a Change

When I selected this photo for February's calendar, I didn't know we would have such a cold, snowy January, and that I would be so ready to escape to warmer climes.



Unfortunately, a physical escape is not on the near horizon, so I'll only get to daydream about sitting on a warm beach while staring at my computer screen.

This month's photo was taken last February when I was fortunate enough to trade in the cold prairie for the warm, sandy beaches of Nassau, Bahamas. Located on New Providence Island, Nassau serves as the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Bahamas. The island is located southeast of Florida, surrounded by crystal clear azure waters. I stayed with a group of girlfriends on the Altantis Resort located on Paradise Island in the northeast section of New Providence Island.

To download February's calendar, click on this link at box.com: Free Download - February 2014 Desktop Calendar - Atlantis Beach

To view more photos from Nassau and the Atlantis Resort, here is the link to my Collection of photos on Flickr, and here are the blog posts from last year's trip.

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The Soundtrack of My Life – Carefree College Years

It’s been too long since my last Soundtrack of My Life Post!

I previously posted about College Party Songs. I'm still on the subject of college and these songs remind me of those carefree years. Those years represent a unique sense of freedom – you are a young adult, but not yet saddled with older adult responsibilities. You learn much, love much, and live without thinking about the consequences (too much). Friendships forged during this time don't fade - those friends become members of your wedding party or perhaps even business partners. It's such an important time in a young adult's life. It's a time to travel by yourself, do thing without the aid of your parents, and to discover more about you.

Once I left home for college, I never went back. I spent my college summers away, in Cambridge or Minnesota. Like many of my peers, I spent my summers working a (relatively) high paying job/internship and found myself with more time and money and the desire to “live for the moment”. My friends and I didn’t mind driving all night and sleeping on the ground if the result was an amazing adventure. These song remind me of those carefree times spent with friends, discovering the world around me.

Father Figure by George Michael.

This song always brings me back to my senior year in college – I'm getting ready for Friday night's happy hour, wearing a denim miniskirt and a tank top. I put the Faith CD on and crank up the volume, drowning out any remnants of the week. Even now I always crank up the volume when this comes on the iPod. I love all the elements of this song - the syncopated bass line, gospel choir backed chorus, the obvious sensual lyrics and of course, George Michael's breathy vocals. It even ends with an exotic pentatonic riff - pure musical genius.

Take My Breath Away by Berlin. Who didn’t want to drop out of school, move to California and try to date a fighter pilot after this love song from the movie, Top Gun? Oh yeah, and wear a leather bomber jacket with jeans? The lush, full chorus, haunting lyrics remind me of the beach at sunset and the salty wind in my hair.



Only You by Yaz off their Upstairs At Eric's CD. In college, you (probably) experience love and subsequent heartbreak - This song reminds me of that experience. The song’s arpeggio backtrack renders it perfectly for an a capella arrangement and the simple lyrics are filled with longing.

Looking from a window above,
It’s like a story of love.
Can you hear me?
Came back only yesterday,
Moving farther away,
Want you near me
All I needed was the love you gave
All I needed for another day
And all I ever knew
Only you



The Finer Things by Steve Winwood – I loved the Back in the High Life album and his previous When You See a Chance single off Arc of a Diver. The memory - it was the summer of 1988, and I had tickets to see Steve Winwood perform in St. Paul, MN, where I was interning at the 3M Company. That summer brought a devastating drought to the area and the rainstorm that quenched it fell right before that concert. I remember standing around in the damp air, waiting, until the announcement that the performance would be postponed until the next day. We came back, and yes, it was a fabulous concert.

The lyrics exemplified everything we were going through at that stage of life
While there is time let's go out and feel everything
If you hold me I will let you into my dreams
For time is a river rolling into nowhere
We must live while we can and we'll drink our cup of laughter
That entire idyllic summer still brings a smile to my face – I had a good job, a great group of fellow intern friends and a great social life. I was dating a fellow MIT student whose family lived in St. Paul and owned a cabin on a nearby lake, where I spent every other weekend learning to water ski, without a care in the world.

I'm going to throw in a link to the When you See A Chance video, too. Not because it fits this category, but because it's a great song. That is all.

The Flame by Cheap Trick – Another song from that summer of 1988. What is it with summers and love anthems? Picture a smoky bar and dance floor – the group dancers clear out and only couples remain when the opening chords start. This is a slow song you actually sway and really MOVE to. And you aren't on the dance floor, lift up your lighter....


The Way it Is – Bruce Hornsby and the Range. This song brings me back to 1988's Spring break, with my friend, Sue, and I on our own adventure driving from San Fransisco down the Pacific Coast Highway to LA.
1988 San Fran Spring Break
For me, it's not the song's lyrics that bring me back, but artist's use of the piano and open chord progression - it's so Americana (think Aaron Copeland), his style is reminiscent of the American West and its open, wide land, begging to be explored. I've always been a fan of Bruce Hornsby's unique and recognizable style, and he is an amazing live performer (caught him in concert in 1991 at SPAC).



Take On Me by Ah-Ha.

This song makes all the "one-hit wonder" and "great video" lists of the 80's. What's not to like? Great synthesizer licks, up beat tempo, catchy pop sounds and a falsetto end. But it's the video that put this song on the charts - featuring a cartoon character who, against all odds, manages to break through the confines of his existing world and transforms himself into the real one. Isn't that the perfect metaphor for one's college experience?

I'll move into the Real World and the 90's in my next installment of The Soundtrack of My Life and hopefully it will get written before the middle of 2014!

Other Soundtrack of My Life Posts:
The Early Years
The Middle School Years,
High School Anthems
Love Songs
a Cappella Songs.
Classical, Jazz and Show Tunes

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Cold, Random Thoughts on this Cold, Cold Friday

1. I normally don’t complain about my personal comfort at work, but earlier this week I had the maintenance manager walk into my office, which was about 10 degrees colder than the hallway. When the wind blows from the south, it passes right through the 50 year old window by my desk and as a result, my office is very cold. My work colleagues literally stand in the hallway to talk to me because they can feel the temperature differential the moment they take a step in.

My actions spawned a flurry of activity – plastic sheeting was placed over the window (only slightly effective, but better than nothing), the HVAC folks were brought in (the air supply damper to my office was essentially closed), measurements taken for a new window, and thermostat control changes were made. Lesson learned - sometimes you just have to ask.

Even so, today, the wind is yet again blowing from the south. My office was 56 degF, even with a portable heater running below the desk, so I relocated to a temporary office across the hall. I can’t even imagine what it will be like next week.

2. The local schools decided to cancel school yesterday due to the cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills. Thing is, it’s just as cold today and yup, they are back in school. I wonder what will happen next week as it is forecasted to be even colder? I bet they won’t cancel school again.

3. My friend, Jill, is hosting a recipe exchange on Sunday. I think I will bring a cheesy bacon-leek pasta dish and (for something completely different) cold marinated tofu.

4. My daughter has declared she wants to pursue Equine Studies in college. While I don’t know what one does with such a degree, I’m glad she has chosen something she has a great passion for and we can get focused on the college search.

5. Last Sunday’s morning run was cold but picturesque – I was able to enjoy a beautiful sunrise, fresh snow covered trails along a babbling stream and two great blue herons. This reminds me of a quote from that Walter Mitty Movie. The photographer, waiting to photograph a snow leopard states “Beautiful things don't ask for attention”. I’ll add my two cents and include “Sometime you have to seek them out.”

Headed out for a Sunday Morning Run #sunrise #clouds #pinkskies
Heading out for a Cold Run

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Back to [Grade] School

You can always go back to the school you attended, but what about going back to your kids' old school? I haven't been back to my kids' elementary school since they promoted up to Middle school. My opinion - if you don't have business to be there, you might just be a creepy adult possibly checking out the little children.

But I got to go back last week - on official business - I was contacted by one of the teachers to take photos of the physical building improvements. Since my kids left three years ago, renovations have transformed parts of the building - so much so, I almost got lost trying to check into the main office area.

What hasn't changed is the learning spirit and creativity of the kids who attend.
The Sink is New and I had to Feature it Somehow

Masks made by third graders
Masked

My favorite little model happened to be in the classroom I was featuring.
She Picked Clifford
Bonus - she picked a Clifford Book - Great choice!

My own kids went through the photos and marveled at the improvements - there are cool computer stations in each classroom. And cool cushy chairs.
Computer Station

Several fifth graders are working on a Rube Goldberg machine and I got to witness some of the construction.
Construction Time

The weirdest thing about going back to a school your kids previously attended - you are no longer referred as "Little Johnny's Mom". Instead I was introduced by my full name and given the title "the Photographer". It felt a bit odd at first, but I guess it was accurate.

I always remembered going back to my elementary school and thinking it seemed smaller than I remembered it. My kids say the same thing now of their old schools. I guess it always feels so much bigger when you are there.
Infinite

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Random Friday

Since it's Friday and I haven't posted anything since last Friday, I think it's time for some Random Fun.

1. My mother celebrated another birthday, but she doesn't look older at all. My sister sent her a red fleece half zip and I sent her red tulips. We did not coordinate this together, so I call it serendipity.

My Mother, a Year Older, but still so Young. Photo by my Dad.
Forever Young, photo taken by my Dad, using his iPad


2. If you are reading this blog because of its (purported) photographic subject matter, you need to catch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty while is it's still showing in the theatres. I now want to travel to Greenland, just because of this movie.
Projection Control #blueroom
The projection server room at the new-fangled cinema in town.


3. I signed up with the local marathon training group. I have not signed up for any race, just the training. We'll see how it goes before I commit to a race.
Morning run in Softly falling snow.
From last week's Saturday run - the snow started to fall as I finished up.

4. I read this article that was shared by a friend on Facebook - The Trouble with Bright Girls. It's worth a read but I won't go into my thoughts on it right now. They would be too deep for a Friday!

5. I learned planes are no longer requiring passengers to turn off their electronic devices during take off and landing. I'm looking forward to my next plane ride so I can take photos out the window using the big camera. No more sneaking my iPhone to take photos like this one:
Arrival in Paradise #plane #shadow #travel
Arrival into Nassau, Bahamas
I guess it's too late for me to go with my friends to the Bahamas in February. Dang, I could use a break from the cold and snow....

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First Week of January's Randomness

It's my first Random Five Friday post - after reading all the random stuff from my blog friends, I thought, eh, what the heck, I'll join in....

1. The pond heater and pump survived the polar vortex. From Monday through Wednesday, I wasn't so sure about it all - the pond was completely frozen, and I wasn't about to go check things out.

2. It's a Spa Day today, with friend, Jill.

3. Even though I took a vacation day from work and could have slept in until past 7, I still hauled myself out of bed this morning at 4:40 to work out. Yes, I have been called insane.

4. The horses weathered Sunday's storm and subsequent bitter cold. I was so concerned about them - sure they were sheltered on 3 sides, but it was SO cold. You can't help but think about the animals in such severe weather.

5. Cats make the best blankets.

Louie on My Lap this Morning, helping Me Work #siamese #louiethelooster #cat

Enjoy your Friday!

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Carved by the Wind

I am always amazed by the way the strong winds of the prairie blow and move snow around here. The snow we received Sunday ranged from a depth of half and inch to three feet tall - of course, the largest drifts were against the front and garage doors.

Get close enough and the drifts look like sand dunes.

Carved

The temperatures outside peaked around 20 degF yesterday and it felt downright balmy. I guess when the mercury hits above freezing, we'll be outside in shorts. That's what we have to look forward to in a few short days - Yay!

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Polar Vortex Activities

It's now Day 3 being house-bound due to blizzard / snow / icy roads and the Polar Vortex which has pushed arctic, sub-zero temperatures into our mid west region of the US. The temperature as I write this has risen above zero (it's 3 degF) and we are rejoicing!

With the sub zero temperatures, you are greeted by the simple crunching sound of snow underfoot when walking out to the mail box (yeah, a fruitless activity since mail service has been halted). The snow doesn't melt and there is no unsightly, dirty slush to step through or look look at. I have to say, the scenery is quite peaceful.

Follow the Leader

The sub zero temperatures have also spawned several new cold weather activities - because it's too cold to go outside and make a snowman.

The first one, Snow Ice Cream - gather a large container of clean snow. Mix together 1 cup of milk, 1/4-1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 tsp of vanilla until the sugar dissolves. Mix in the snow, stirring constantly until the desired consistency.
(We didn't do this activity, but my friends did and it looked like fun).

The second sub-zero temperature activity - make your own snow! Boil a cup of water, transfer it to wide open container with a handle.
Go outside and throw the hot water into the air - away from you or anyone else. If it is windy outside, throw it with the wind. Voila! Watch the water turn to ice / snow / mist:
Boiling Water Experiment
OK, so my son wasn't too excited about the whole thing, but I thought it was pretty cool and I did it three times. Even my daughter thought it was cool.

You can find numerous videos on this activity. Seems as if everyone was doing it yesterday!

Shared with Wednesdays Around the World.


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Popover Recipe

I posted this photo of the popovers I made at Christmastime and friend Tina inquired about it.

With Popovers #yum #christmas

A popover is a delicate, hollow roll made out of an egg-milk-flour-butter batter. I've blogged about popovers before - we first enjoyed them with tea and jam last summer while visiting Jordan Pond in Bar Harbor, Maine. These are the same popovers, except they were served as a savory compliment to our Christmas meal of prime rib. In the savory preparation, they are also called English Yorkshire Pudding [which really doesn't make sense, since when I think of a "pudding", I think of something sweet - oh the weird world we live in!].

Here is the Recipe - it is quite simple and easy. Recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks - a Year of Holidays

Oven at 450 degF
5 eggs
1 Cup half and half
1 Cup Flour
2 tsp salt
drippings from meat (savory) or melted butter (sweet)

Combine the eggs and half and half in a bowl.
Wisk until combined
Wisk in the flour and salt until the batter is smooth
If preparing the savory version, pour a small amount of the meat drippings into each cup of a standard muffin pan - just to coat the bottom of the muffin cup.
If preparing the sweet version, pour a small amount of melted butter into each cup of a standard muffin pan - just to coat the bottom of the muffin cup.
Fill the muffin cup with the egg batter, 1/2 to 2/3 full.
Bake at 450 degF oven for 12-14 minutes. They will POP up in the muffin tins.

Serve with roasted meat (savory) or with melted chocolate and jam (sweet).

Popovers are best enjoyed hot out of the oven, so prepare them last! Enjoy!

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So Cold

Winter Impressions at minus 14 #deepfreeze2014 #frost #outmywindow
Frost on the Sliding Glass Back Door - Winter's Impression

The first major storm of 2014 hit yesterday and we are literally snowed in. With yesterday's snow and high winds, the roads became impassable and all the Interstates, highways, city roads and county roads were closed down last night. Other than the Blizzard of '78 (in Massachusetts), I don't recall any circumstance that has led to the complete closure of "All Roads" in town.

The Polar Funnel has also put us in a deep freeze - it's -15 degF outside and with the winds blowing at 25mph, we are experiencing dangerously low wind chills - down to -45 degF and therein lies the greater threat of getting stranded in a vehicle that's gone off the icy road. Pretty much everything is closed - county offices, libraries, gyms, schools, health clinics, churches, many retail establishments. I haven't left the house in a car since Saturday....

I did, however, manage to get a short run in Sunday morning, just as the snow started to fall in earnest.
The weather wasn't really too bad - in the high 20's, with a light coating of snow on the ground. But I misread the wind and didn't don the proper protective gear and out in the open, running into the wind was simply painful. But nestled within the protection of the trees, the view was quite beautiful.
Crazy Morning Run #snow #wind
Now I wish I had run further, because it might not be until Wednesday before I can get a road run in.

For my local friends - stay warm and safe!

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