September 2020 Free Calendar Download

Where did summer go? I spent most of my summer in Kentucky for work, helping commission a new facility - hence the quick passing of perceived time on my end. Not that extensive travel feels like a good idea during "Covid Summer" - at least my summer experience took me away from the usual activity at the home site. We are all ready for a change in the weather, hopefully keeping the virus at bay.

Personally, my family and I continue to experience good health, keeping ourselves around the house.
 
With the transition in the season, this month's calendar shows fall's full glory.


To download September's calendar, click on this link from Box.com
Link --> September Calendar 2020 - Fall Glory

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July in Kentuckiana - Madison IN Antiques

I spent most of July along the Ohio River, between Kentucky and Indiana. As a Chemical Engineer working in the industry, I know the Ohio River Valley well, having lived close to its banks for most of my career. This region, between Louisville and Cincinnati, sits deep along the water, flanked by picturesque hills and dotted with small communities along the winding scenic Ohio River byway. The larger town of Madison, Indiana, takes advantage of its historic position along the Ohio by developing a commercial Riverfront and quaint Main Street with numerous antique shops, unique restaurants and cafes. 



After a morning hiking in nearby Clifty Falls State Park in the heat and humidity of July, I was ready for sustenance. I found myself walking into the G.H Coffee Shop and Cafe where I enjoyed a nice iced coffee and breakfast sandwhich in their outside seating. From there, I walked up and down Main Street, mainly window shopping since many stores hadn't opened (it was Sunday morning). This caught my eye in one of the window displays:
For Sale?
I fixated on the cat to verify he wasn't a stuffed animal and caught the rise and fall of his breath. Later, when this store opened, I looked again and sure enough, it was time to go to work for this guy: Madison IN

I found the street alleys adorned with murals:
Madison IN

Madison IN
As shops started to to open, I ventured inside, scanning the odd antique collections. I enjoy the nostalgia of "old stuff" but never buy anything - until a thought formed in my head - to see if I could find an antique camera. My strategy - walk into a store, ask the proprietor if they had any cameras. If they answered 'no', I would immediately leave (no point putzing around!). Most stores' offerings were limited to those cheap, plastic, point and shoot automatic film cameras, circa 1980's. Then I came upon a store with a treasure trove of interesting stuff - a Kodak Brownie, a Kodak DuaFlex and this beautiful Canon AE-1 Program body:
Canon AE1 Program - Madison IN Finds
Obviously, I bought the Canon. It is in mint condition and now sports a 50mm lens. I have two rolls of Kodak Ektar coming so a new facet to photography begins for me.


I ended my visit to Madison with a walk along their waterfront and taking photos of interesting postal boxes adorning the historic homes in town.
Madison IN Finds

Madison IN

I enjoyed my afternoon in Madison and would visit again.

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July in Kentuckiana - Clifty Falls State Park

July flew by in a flash and we now find ourselves in an angst-ridden August, faced with the impending start of the school semester. Each day brings new cases of Covid-19, scrapped then re-vamped plans, vacillating between in person and online course instruction. We deal with the changes by going with the flow, being patient and knowing in our hearts things will all work out OK.

Last month we delivered our daughter to her new venture in Dallas. We traveled there during the height of the city's spike in cases but experienced responsible citizens wearing masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines. This weekend we will transport our son back to St Louis and once again have an empty nest.

Other than the short weekend trip to Dallas, I spent July in "Kentuckiana" (Kentucky and Indiana) for work. My company has a greenfield (brand new) facility in Kentucky and I was there to help with the commissioning and start up of the automation systems. Even though the long hours and days morphed together, starting up a brand new facility is a rare opportunity - I learned a lot from the experience.

On my first day off (I think I ended up with a total of 2 days off during my tenure), I ventured to Clifty Falls State Park in Madison Indiana, about a 40 minute drive from my hotel. Along the Ohio River, the park winds through lush greenery, along cliffs and boasts seven little water falls. At the bottom of the 300 foot deep canyon, the Little Clifty creek flows. I spent several hours traversing various hiking trails in complete solitude, a wonderful respite from my harried days at work.

Clifty Falls

Clifty Falls #littlewaterfall #cliftyfallsstatepark #trail7 #seenonmyhike 

Tunnel Falls


Tunnel Falls off Trail 5 #cliftyfallsstatepark #shirleyhikes #seenonmyhike 


I had such a nice time in the park I ended up going back three weeks later and I brought a couple of co workers with me. We hiked different trails on the southern end of the park and ended up in the Little Clifty Creek. The area experienced significant rainfall two days prior, so the creekbed flowed with rushing water.


Kentuckiana In July



I highly recommend visiting Clifty Falls State park. When you are done hiking, head over to the quaint town of Madison IN with its antique shops, restaurants and river walk. I'll share those photos next.

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August Free Calendar Download - Yu Gardens in Shanghai

This month's free calendar download features a pavillion in Shanghai's Yu Garden. This famous walled garden, also known as Yuyuan Garden, covers five acres in the Old City and consistently ranks as a top attraction for tourists to the city.


I entered the Garden upon its opening on a Sunday morning just before 9am. As a result, I was able to explore in relative peace. I've seen photos online where the walkways are packed with people. I believe the garden re-opened to the public in July after being closed due to the SARS-CoV2 pandemic.

To download August's calendar, click on this link from Box.com
Link --> August Calendar 2020 - Yu Garden

In other news, I've been absent here due to craziness at work - I've been in Kentucky, helping to commission a new facility there.  Hopefully I can stay home for a couple of weeks before heading there again.

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Ties That Bind - What Defines Family?

I had been consistently taking photos and blogging, then mid June hit and I lost momentum. I'm not sure what to blame - our area started to open up, we started going back into the office so I got busy with other things. Then I had to travel for work to a location in Kentucky, about 4 hours away by car. I stayed in Kentucky for over a week and will drive back sometime this week or next.

Regardless of that, today I'm sharing photos taken at the end of May - the "family" of Senior Addison. Why the Quotes? Several years ago, the KO family formed by combining two family units. Two sets of parents, two sets of offspring and two sets of dogs. The two families were great friends so they decided to buy a house together and join their distinct clans together. They called it their "great social experiment". The union dissolved due to new job opportunities outside the area. The KO family asked me to take photos of their clan before they parted ways. I love the challenge of new things - this large group with their dogs certainly lived up to that challenge!

O-K Families For the group shots I ended up learning how to "head swap" for an optimal group shot. I only had to do this two times (thank goodness).

Family "O"
O Family

Family "K"
K Family

The Adults still get along even after living together for 3+ years.

The Adults

And to earmark this unique time - pandemic masks.

O-K Families Masked Up

Family - certainly not defined by blood, but by love, respect and friendship.

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To The Class of 2020 - Sam

The last of my High School subjects, Sam and I started in his small-town downtown area before heading to the forest preserve.
One of the parking lots downtown features this great brick wall covered with meandering vines. That's the backdrop for this first photo:
Sam K Class of 2020

And a cool fire escape. I looked around the corner and knew it was a great spot to take photos:
Sam K Class of 2020

But I admit I'm most comfortable taking photos in the woods
Sam K Class of 2020
Another local senior headed to the University of Illinois - Congrats to you Sam (and mom Mary)!
Sam and Mary

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Sunday Morning Hike

Finally getting back out on the trails after six weeks due to plantar faciitis in my right foot. We didn't walk very fast, but covered over 4 miles, the longest distance I've walked continuously since the foot started hurting. The trail looks completely different now, with lush greenery filling in the once empty spaces between branches.
We started early, before road noise and people could interrupt the woodland sounds. I now recognize the pheasant's call from the tall prairie grasses. It's all there if you listen carefully.

Bird house

White Prairie Flowers

Shadows and the MOon

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Finding Calm

I'm at a loss for words given current events. My heart aches, so I retreat to that which brings me solace: Flowers, nature, the outdoors, ambient sounds of gurgling water, the birds and even the buzzing insects.

I met with running friends last weekend at Allerton Park to take photos of the peonies in their full glory. Through our running connection, I learned a few of us also shared a passion for photography. This was the first time we gathered for a photo-centric outing and I suspect we will do this again in the future.

Choosing to hold our outing on Sunday evening meant less crowds, nice evening light, and by chance, no wind...

Sunshine Day

Some Sass

Blushing

Artist's Milieu This is Yahsin - she shoots with film and develops her own photos. This is something I plan to take up once I retire. You can see the expanse of the Peony garden - we are lucky to have this gem a short drive away from town. This was my first visit with the flowers in bloom. I made a visit several years ago, during the summer.

Pink Bomb

We found calm in the presence of beauty, nature and the singing mosquitos.

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June 2020 Free Calendar Download - Chicago Skyline

This month's free calendar download features an iconic Chicago skyline building - the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). Taken from a boat while on an architectural tour of the city last June. I highly recommend these tours - when the pandemic is over, come visit Chicago!




To download June's calendar, click on this link from Box.com
Link --> June Calendar 2020 - Willis Tower

Illinois entered into Phase 3 of re-opening post shelter in place. Retail businesses are allowed to operate, restaurants are allowed to serve patrons in outdoor seating configurations. Limitations still exist with respect to group gatherings which means the gyms and public pools remain closed

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To The Class of 2020 - Addison

I'm about half way through my Class of 2020 Seniors - and here is Addison, the daughter of long time friends / co-workers, fellow runners and Tae Kwon Do family. I've known Addison since she was maybe 5 years old. Her dad, Chris, works with me and inspired me to run a full marathon. He is also a Full IronMan Triathlete, having completed that grueling event three or four times.

The idea for Addison's Senior portraits originated from Luke's mom, who works with Addison's mom, Amber (small-ish town means less than 6 degrees of separation between people). I consider Addison as a low maintenance person, who doesn't conform to cultural norms (like typical senior photos) but her mother wanted them, so she showed up. No outfit changes, just what she was wearing, a total first for me.

In hindsight, one outfit completely worked because I simply focused on Addison - her lovely smile and beautiful blue eyes.

Addison, Class of 2020

We met at a local park that features a sculpture garden, so Addison picked out an edgy, stainless steel sphere to interact with.
Addison, Class of 2020

Addison, Class of 2020

I, of course, am drawn to the beauty of woodlands and other natural areas, so this one is my favorite (and one of the last photos we took that fall evening):
Addison, Class of 2020

Addison completed her High School requirements last December and immediately jump started her higher education journey by taking college classes at the local community college. She will start at Illinois State University in the fall, studying speech pathology. Congratulations Addison!

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Tulips and Aging Gracefully

I seldom pass the opportunity to purchase cut tulips in the store. They beckon me with their teardrop shape and graceful stems. I know I will be rewarded with a week of ever changing blooms as the tulip fully opens and finally withers.

Sping Delight

The Flame

Lean on Me

This bouquet lasted me almost 10 days! On the last morning, even with mostly yellowed leaves and wrinkled petals barely holding on, they still gave me immense enjoyment and caused me to reflect on the prospect of aging. If the tulip can die gracefully, and in each phase of aging retain beauty, giving joy to those around them, then that is how I want to age. (Because let's all be real - each passing year brings new aches, loss of some ability and physical changes that we don't like).
Fade Gracefully

Like the old tulip - open, wrinkled, withered and faded - I aim to open myself up to new ideas, new technologies; to not get bogged down in what used to be, to not close myself off from the world and people. To be flexible and flowing; to open up and show the insides that had been hidden in youth. To embrace the imperfections, the wrinkles, and know those marks still give off your beauty. To give love and joy to those around you - like the fading tulip.

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To the Class of 2020 - Luke

I'm continuing my Class of 2020 recognition. This week is Luke, the son of a good running friend. Luke loves soccer and plans to attend Eastern Illinois University in the fall. Luke's family lives across the street from a beautiful forest preserve that I like to explore by running or hiking. Luke's mother, Michele introduced me to the trails out there and through our weekly summer runs, I no longer get lost in the woods. These photos were taken in the forest preserve.

Luke, Class of 2020

Luke, Class of 2020

Luke, Class of 2020

These soccer photos were taken at the local pitch.
Luke, Class of 2020

Luke, Class of 2020

Congratulations to you, Luke!

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20 Recipes in 2020 - Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Pasta

Because of Social distancing, my friends and I now hold our gatherings via Zoom meetings - like many groups, we have Zoom Book Club, Zoom Happy Hour and Zoom Game Night. To change things up, we started a virtual get-together-and-cook Zoom meetings. The genesis of this came from our "20 Goals for 2020" where I agreed to host at least one cooking demonstration. And so the "Shirley Soufflé Fake Cooking Show" came into existence. When I first announced to my family that I would be holding a cooking demonstration live via Zoom (to warn them of the impending noise and hulabaloo in the kitchen), they dubbed it my "Fake Cooking Show". Hey, if that terminology is good for Jennifer Garner on Instagram, it's good for me! Since then I've added in the moniker of "Shirley Soufflé" to add some fun into all of this - a homage to name created in jest from a housemate who dubbed me "Shirley Soufflé" because I cooked so much.

We've now held two sessions of the "Shirley Soufflé Fake Cooking Show". During the first session, we simply roasted chopped garlic in olive oil (I start easy to ensure success). During last week's session, we used that roasted chopped garlic to prepare Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Pasta.

Here's the Recipe for Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Pasta:
Ingredients:
Lemon shrimp and pasta 1lb shrimp, shell removed, deveined
1/4 - 1/2 C frozen peas or other green vegetable. I like to use asparagus in spring.
One whole lemon
The roasted garlic in olive oil
1/2 lb pasta. I use Bow Ties, but Fettuccine / angel hair would be good too
1/4 C white wine
1/2-1C chicken broth Note - I actually use chicken soup base called Better than Bouillon which is a concentrated gel that I mix with hot water for my broth
1/4 C chopped green onion
1-2 T Butter

Preparation:
Cut asparagus into 1” pieces and blanch or steam / micro cook lightly. Set aside.
Take a whole lemon and zest the rind.
Cut lemon in half and marinate the shrimp with zest and juice from half the lemon and a tablespoon of garlic olive oil.
Get a pot of water for pasta ready and heat it up.
Heat up 2-3 T of the oil and garlic from last week. Cook shrimp until just pink, remove from pan.
Deglaze the pan with chicken broth, wine and lemon juice from the other half of the lemon. Reduce. Taste and adjust seasonings - I tend to like it with more chicken broth.
Meanwhile cook the pasta. When it has a minute left to cook, Add shrimp back to the pan.
Add Hot pasta to the pan, coat with sauce.
Add peas / green vegetable and green onion
Add 1-2 tbsp butter - let it melt in and it will add a nice richness to the sauce.
Can serve with grated Parmesan / freshly grated pepper on top.

Photos from preparation:
Asparagus, looking so fresh and green:


I blanched my asparagus:


Zesting the lemon:


Lemon shown with Roasted garlic in olive oil


Shrimp ready to be cooked:


My Zoom meeting set up with two cameras - one off my laptop to show the stove from the side; the second camera off the iPhone for a mobile view and view of the tops of the pans


Screen shot of the Zoom meeting. All of us cooking together, some simply watching the rest of us cook!


The finished dish


This week, we'll continue to utilize that roasted garlic in Bruschetta Chicken Pasta, a copycat rendition of TGIF's offering with the same name. This is so simple, easy and a favorite in my family.

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