April 2014 Desktop Calendar - Free Download - Scenes from London

I've had the great fortune to visit London several times - it helps that my sister and her family live there and they've always been such gracious hosts. I always experience something unique during each visit.

So this month's free desktop calendar features two options - from my travels in the UK.

Option one - taken in June, 2010, after my sister's first baby was born [Of course, I had to visit to meet my new nephew]. The photo was taken along the River Thames, in West London, just past the Hammersmith Bridge. I found the garden houseboat to be so unusual.


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

This second photo was taken last year, also in June, and although it may not look like the UK, the subject matter is The Grand Pagoda, one of the main attractions of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. I experienced Kew for the first time last year and wish I had visited on a previous trip - it is officially one of my favorites.


To download the Kew Gardens Calendar above, click on this link at box.com: Free Download - April 2014 Desktop Calendar - Kew Gardens Pagoda



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End of March Randomness - Like a Lion

The winds are howling tonight as we enter the last days of March. I think it came in like a Lion and will leave that way, too, hopefully ushering in warmer days. It's been a long winter and a cold start to Spring. I know I sound like a broken record when I say I am tired of the cold and the snow.

Here's the Random Start of my weekend:
1. It's Friday and I'm taking a day off from work to head to Chicago with friends. We plan to visit the Art Institute, maybe experience the glass ledge at the Skydeck, and of course do a little shopping.

2. I'm presently reading two books. I've been making my way slowly through the epic "Shantaram" by Gregory David Roberts. It is so complex and lush, I find I can only read it in spurts, so I added in some lighter reading as a counterbalance. The lighter book is "Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run" by Kristen Armstrong. Both books are thoroughly enjoyable in completely different ways.

3. My son and I caught the movie, "Divergent" in the theatre last weekend. I thought it was better than the book (which I found so predictable, I merely skimmed the 2nd half).

4. I finally ordered replacement blinds for two of our bedrooms. The guest bedroom's blinds have never worked properly - when guests visit (usually my mother in law), I hang a bed sheet over the window. Yeah, we're classy.... I imagine she won't know what to say the next time she visits!

5. Sugar free cake mix is nasty. We bought it by mistake. Next time I'll read the label more carefully.

This week's random photo - Since my friend was so happy to see his photo from Costa Rica in my Spring Break post, I'm featuring another one he took
The River bed

Have a great weekend!



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The Pursuit of One's Passion

Ever since my daughter received her driver's license, my exposure to her riding exploits has decreased dramatically. The last time I went out to the barn, there was green grass on the ground - I know - eons ago. While I miss the serenity of being out in the country, I don't really miss the mud, the wind, the damp and cold that accompanies barn life in the winter.

Nothing deters my daughter from getting out to the barn - she's driven out there in a blizzard (and got stuck in the snow three times), in sub-zero temperatures, wind and rain. If the country roads are icy, she'll (in my AWD vehicle) take the longer route that turns a 25 minute drive into a 45 minute one. She'll go out to make sure Caesar has the proper blanket on for the forecasted weather, to make sure his water isn't frozen over (it's happened this winter) and to let him out in the pasture for 30 minutes. She'll take an hour out of her day to spend 20 minutes with her horse - that's love and dedication.

This spring, she decided not to try out for her school's soccer team. Instead, she's focusing on riding and starting to compete in horse shows. Truthfully, I wasn't sure of her decision - I guess the not knowing what we would be getting ourselves (the horse competitions) vs High school soccer (looks great on college applications, we know exactly what to expect) was the driver. But I know I need to let my daughter make decisions for herself, so here we are, getting ready for her first horse show.

She participated in a Riding Clinic last Sunday and I played the part of proud mom. A Riding Clinic for an equestrian is much like a Master Class for a musician [OK, I bet that didn't clarify anything to most of you out there, sorry] - a skilled teacher travels to a barn and holds private coaching sessions. It's a great way for a rider to gain exposure to other trainers in the field, and of course, receive specialized instruction.

During the course of their lesson, others in the barn watched as my daughter maneuvered her horse around the arena, into a "posting trot", then into a cantor and finally over some jumps. The owners of the hosting barn started asking me questions about Caesar - "How old is he?", "Does she take him on trail rides?" and then the unexpected "Is the horse for sale?". Wow, really? [and I mutter there's NO WAY she's ever going to sell that horse]. The girl and her horse had made a positive impression - deservedly so. I watched as they moved in one fluid motion and realized she had made the correct decision to drop the soccer and pursue her passion.

I took many other photos that day, but this one is my favorite.
Well Done #horse
Taken after a series of jumps - both are a bit winded, but exhilarated and satisfied.

That's my wish for each day of life - to pursue one's passion and get winded, but to be left exhilarated and satisfied.

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My So Called Spring Break Life

It's no different from any other week in my So Called Life, except that all my friends have left town...

OK, I guess there are other differences - the kids are off from school, which means mornings before work have less "edge" to them - there are no kids to wrangle / beg / threaten out of bed, no mad dashes out the door, through traffic, bridge closures and alternate routes to school. No breakfasts to hurry through - there's just me, leisurely preparing for a day of work.

So subsequently, I've arrived late to work this entire week. With nothing to propel me towards a deadline, I lollygag while preparing the coffee or tea, I play with the cat, I read my email, I edit the photos I've taken on my morning run and lose track of time.

My running friends have been emailing me photos of their Spring Break adventures, filled with green and tropical scenery.

Costa Rica

OK, so one of them is visiting New Jersey, which is no greener than the mid west, but at least he got out of town.
Lake Carnegie

Speaking of leaving town, my daughter left this morning for a two day ski / snowboarding adventure.

So it's just me, my son, and the cats holding down the home fort. There's a fresh coat of snow on the brown grass this morning. If we're lucky, it might get above freezing today.

I did have a nice run in yesterday and caught the most amazing sunrise. I was sprinting when the red clouds caught the corner of my eye and I stopped immediately (much to the chagrin of my legs). Because such scenes are too fleeting not to stop for.
Stopped Me Dead in My Tracks #seenonmyrun #sunrise #red
Yeah, it was 100 times better in real life.

Friend Jill gets back tonight, and we've planned a day trip to Chicago later in the week. So while my Spring Break hasn't been warm or tropical, it will be a break from the normal routine.

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The Calendar Claims Spring Has Sprung

Yesterday, in fact heralded in the coldest start of Spring I can recall since moving to the mid west.
Of course, that's not saying much, as I can hardly remember what I did yesterday.

Even with the cold mornings, I can feel Spring's emergence - somehow, the air feels different - not as cold and biting. There's a bit of warmth permeating its way in.

It's Friday and time for some random stuff from my week:

1. March Madness has started - and change can be difficult for those entering the office pool (which I run). I sent out an email detailing the change that the bracket deadline had moved up from the normal, Thursday tip off time of 11:00 CST to midnight, 11 hours earlier. I've learned who the procrastinators are in the office, and yes, they are all managers. They also don't read their email messages thoroughly....

2. It was a good week for Hubby - he executed a successful meeting on Wednesday with our company's CEO during our annual Safety Day Event.

3. Spring Break has started and the mass exodus from town has started. Most of my friends are escaping to warmer climes. Lucky me, I get to stay in town...

4. The song, The Call, by Regina Spektor is stuck in my head.

It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder
'Til it was a battle cry
I'll come back when you call me
No need to say goodbye
The best part of this song comes after the second verse - with french horns leading the way, the orchestra builds and replaces the traditional bridge.

5. I found a great collection of Running Quotes. Some of my favorites:
The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other,… but to be with each other. -Christopher McDougall
I run because it’s so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can’t. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought. -Arthur Blank

Another pair of "bookend" iPhone photos taken yesterday. I call them bookend photos as one was taken at sunrise and the other at sunset.
On The Cusp #morning #alongmyrun #sunrise #water #reflection #blurryonpurpose
Along Thursday's Run, at mile 5. No wind means a rare reflection on the waters.
Chasing the #Sun #sunset #prairie  #clouds #sky #road #spring
At sunset, the biggest ball of fire sunk slowly into the earth. I happened to be driving directly into it.

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Like Christmas in March

Fortunately, the title of this post is NOT referring to snow on the ground [in fact, all of the snow is gone - and I hope it stays that way]. Two of the three amaryllis buds have finally bloomed. The flowers' velvet petals and rich color remind me of Christmas - which is the normal bloom time for this bulb.

Christmas in March

In Bloom

Outside, I haven't seen any evidence of Spring Flowers - I'm sure that will change over the next weeks, but for now, a Christmas flower will have to do.

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Back At It After a Week Off

After a week off from any major physical activity, I resumed my marathon training schedule.

My previous workout was Friday, March 7 - a mere 40 minute BodyFlow yoga class. That afternoon, I left work early (I arrived early, so I left early), went home and took a 2 hour nap. Something was wrong, because I NEVER take naps - just ask Scott. By 7pm, I knew something was wrong and that I wouldn't be able to run my scheduled 18 mile run on Saturday.

I spent the next three days in bed, sleeping, or hacking and coughing, completely exhausted from the virus that overtook my body. I had a constant headache and by Sunday I couldn't breathe through my nose, even after taking copious amounts of Pseudophed - sure sign of a sinus problem. Normally after a day or two of rest, I start to feel significantly better. Not with this cold. I even called in sick from work on Monday. I don't recall the last time I did that.

Tuesday, I dragged myself into work - I had a meeting to run and other stuff to finish. The first two hours were not pretty, but then I started to perk up. I'm still hacking and coughing - folks down the hall stopped by to make sure I was OK. I'm taking decongestant meds every 4 hours, sucking down water, lemon-ginger-honey tea, soup, giving myself nasal rinses and wondering if I would ever feel "normal" again. Or more importantly, when would I be well enough to resume my running?

Finally, on Wednesday, I could tell I was starting to recover. My head is still plugged, but the coughing has subsided a bit (my co workers might beg to differ, but the coughing was no longer waking me up and night and stealing my sleep).

Wednesday night I make the decision that I'm going to run on Thursday. The catch - Thursday morning's projected temperature of 10 degF. Dan sent me an email stating he would start at 5:15 (ouch) if I wanted to join him and Naresh. Then I received an email from Naresh stating that he was flying out to Oregon and he would most likely forgo the morning run in favor of one at his destination. 10 degF in the frozen Champaign tundra vs. 60 degF in green Portland - I knew Portland was going to win out. I also knew that 10 degF would not be good for my mucus filled lungs, even with Dan's company.

Saving grace - Andy offered up a treadmill option at the Y. We met up at 5:45 for a quick 35 minute run. While I hate, hate, hate the "dreadmill", it was the right option that morning. I had company and didn't have to keep up with Andy's tempo pace (of 7 minute miles). My last previous run had come exactly a week before. The 35 minute, 3.5 mile run was nothing for the record books, but I ran the entire thing and didn't experience any coughing fits. Progress.

Miso Soup I ate while I was sick. This stuff is great when you're not feeling well.

Sick Day Cure #miso#soup #tofu #ginger #dontknockituntilyoutryit

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What's Going On

I've not been around lately - I came down with a cold that knocked me down for almost a week. Normally when I'm sick, I take some drugs, take things a little easy and pretty much continue with the normal course of life. Not with this cold - I spent three days in bed sleeping. I didn't go out, I didn't go to church, I didn't go to work - a surreal experience. I'm pretty much back to "normal" now, with the exception of continued head congestion and a bit of a cough.

Of course, the weather turned spring-like while I was sleeping my days and nights away. And now that I have rejoined the land of the living, the weather has reverted back to winter.

There's an upside to it all - days are longer, there's a pink and blue sunset right outside my window and I managed to take some photos while I was sick (so maybe I didn't spend each waking hour in bed - it just felt that way). Spring is on its way.

I bought a second bouquet of tulips right before I got sick. These flowers lasted over a week....
Curvature

On the Straight and Narrow

The Calm

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year
.

From A Prayer in Spring by Robert Frost

The amaryllis is starting to bloom. I know it's not a traditional spring flower, but I cannot resist its lush, velvet petals. I'm glad I didn't kill it this year....

Pod

Ruffles

Here's to warmer days ahead.

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Chasing Cars

I'm not sure why, but this song came on the radio as I drove to work and I can't get it out of my mind.

We'll do it all
Everything
On our own

We don't need
Anything
Or anyone

Cloud Cover #latergram #sky #clouds #prairie Taken yesterday, before the big thaw

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

I don't quite know
How to say
How I feel

Those three words
Are said too much
They're not enough

Out Over the Horizon #sunset #prairie #road #clouds #sky
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we're told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that's bursting into life

Let's waste time
Chasing cars
Around our heads

I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own

Pre-run #sunrise #snow #prairie
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that's bursting into life

All that I am
All that I ever was
Is here in your perfect eyes, they're all I can see

I don't know where
Confused about how as well
Just know that these things will never change for us at all

Bookend. I was fortunate to view today's sunrise and #sunset.
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Spun in the Sky

Chasing Cars By Snow Patrol

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My Random Friday

1. I finally upgraded my Lightroom software from Version 4 to Version 5 and applied all the subsequent V5 patches. I was reluctant to upgrade due to speed / performance issues with my current PC. I am happy to report the upgraded version runs faster than the old one. Of course, I expect Adobe to announce Version 6 any day now.

2. I have a serious problem buying new workout clothes and gear. Granted, I am running in all sorts of terrible conditions (that's my excuse on the running purchases - there's no excuse for the new yoga stuff I've bought!) but I really need to curb the purchases. Of course, warmer weather is right around the corner....

3. I am officially registered to run the local marathon. Just six months ago, I resigned myself that I might not ever achieve this goal and was at peace with that - after all, there is so much more to life than just a race. Of course, now that is six weeks away, I will be unhappy if it slips out of my grasp.

4. I put it all into perspective and I realize I am extremely blessed. A co-worker's wife was recently diagnosed with a wide spread cancer. This radiant, 40 year young mother of two beautiful girls is starting the fight of her life - and she is fighting with such a positive outlook, you can't help but admire her strength. If you would pray or send good thoughts to Erika K, I know she will feel them.

5. Today's foggy start was perfect for my early commute to work. Next week, we'll see the sunrise one hour later and I'll miss that view during the morning's run, but it will come again in time.

Today's Random Photo - Today's foggy sunrise - with this photo I discovered one of my photo editing apps has a watermark function - a serendipitous find!
Shrouded #fog #goodmorning #squaready #road #sunrise


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Ironwood Book Club Recipes - Sesame Kale Salad

Here's a very tasty, super simple and great looking salad featuring the uber trendy vegetable, kale:

Green Goddess #kale

Ingredients
8 oz. Harvest Sensations Kale Salad (or buy some kale, remove the stems and tear up the leaves, add some shredded carrot and cabbage)
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C rice wine vinegar
1 T sesame Oil (or less if you prefer, I did 1 t)
2T sugar or honey
2T toasted sesame seeds
1/2 t each salt and pepper (to taste)

Preparation

  • Mix dressing ingredients and toss together with the kale.
  • Let stand at least 30 minutes. Keep extra for 2 days or can also serve warm.

I have a funny story to accompany this recipe - friend Jill prepared this salad for her family and here's what happened (post from her Facebook feed):
"So, got a great new recipe and thought I'd jump on the kale bandwagon and make a wonderful salad for dinner - much to the horror of the boys (she has three teen/tweens). They couldn't get over the weird leaves and complained and gagged their way through dinner even though it was delicious. No sooner was the table cleared when the youngest boy pops open a can of cooked scorpions (from his 2nd grade teacher) and the others excitedly say "ooh, I want one!". All three boys proceeded to munch on the scorpions raving at how tasty they were! Guess I'm putting scorpions on their kale the next time!"

I personally would stick with the plain kale....

For more Book Club Recipes, click here: Ironwood Book Club Recipes

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March 2014 Desktop Calendar - Free Download - Midwestern Barn

I have a bit of a "thing" for barns. After living in the midwest for over a decade, I've come to appreciate their contribution to the prairie landscape. I've learned there is no such thing as a "typical barn" whether it be size, shape or color.

I hope you enjoy this month's desktop calendar - a bit of my back yard.


To download March's calendar, click on this link at box.com: Free Download - March 2014 Desktop Calendar - Logan County Barn

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