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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The Soundtrack Of My Life - Welcome to the Real World

Many of my FB friends are posting the 10 albums that impacted their lives and most of them center around their late teen years into college. Seeing the music of those free spirited days bring me back to the Soundtrack of my Life series that I haven’t added to in many years. I blame the home quarantine orders, the work from home, cancel everything, going a little stir crazy situation nagging me to continue with my music ramblings and nostalgia.

My last soundtrack post left me on the high of those Carefree College years. It’s no wonder I stopped - the reality of graduation, post college jobs, aka the Real World, smacks you in the face. I feel I had a good transition into the workforce yet I would be lying if I didn’t second guess myself, experienced doubt, uncertainty, loss and anxiety during that time. Sounds like the present day only things weren’t bad at all (there's that perspective for you).

I graduated with a job, took the summer off, traveled to Europe with friends before starting my “real life” as an engineer working for General Electric. I entered their two year rotational program, where I would have 4 - 6 month assignments across two business locations. It was an ideal start for someone who didn’t want to commit to something “permanent” because that was too scary for the 22 year old me. I spent my first year in Cleveland OH. A major city felt right coming from 4 years in Boston. There were other young engineers on the same rotational program - promise of cohorts and community. Here’s the music I associate with my entry into the Real World:

End of the Innocence by Don Henley

The lyrics and serious tone resonated the "how can I really be an adult" me. The addition of Bruce Hornsby’s piano chords on this track adds to wistfulness, melancholy and longing for a bygone, simpler time.

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath the deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin' by
.....
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence
I still remember discovering Cleveland, driving the curves of I-90 with my new life in front of me, these song providing the backdrop. The album is filled with serious themes - transitions from youth to adulthood, and the onset of responsibility; fitting for that season of my life.



We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel


This list song references pop culture icons, political issues and emotionally charged events. Spanning 40 years of "headline events", this digest of the world’s events remind us that the world will continue to churn with good things and bad.
"Wheel of Fortune", Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law
Rock and roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore
We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
I was fortunate to catch billy Joel in concert (twice) in Cleveland.


Hold On (For One More Day) by Wilson Phillips.

Who didn’t need a peppy song like that when the days felt awful and you needed a pick me up.

Some day somebody's gonna make you want to turn around and say goodbye.
'Til then, baby, are you gonna let them hold you down and make you cry?

Don't you know?
Things'll change,
Things'll go your way,
If you hold on for one more day.
Can you hold on for one more day?
Things'll go your way
(Things are gonna go your way)
Hold on for one more day
The entire album, with its tight harmonies has many gems including Release Me and You’re In Love. Wilson Phillips may have been the first female group I felt drawn to for their pure musicality. (I just realized my Soundtrack artists lean towards male dominated artists - that changes as I get older with higher prevalence of female artists)


Blame it on the Rain by Milli Vanilli

I'm admittedly embarrassed this is on my list, but it conjures up vivid memories for me working on the computer with my fellow program engineers. We would sing the chorus while plugging away at our assignments. Yes, completely fluffy, (lip synced) and fun.


Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins -
Phil Collins had uncanny ability to put out songs that mirrored your present life - new love, break up, fun times, bad time and this one served as a reminder that I certainly couldn’t whine and complain about my situation - that others suffered more.

Oh think twice, it's another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, 'cause it's just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, think about it

Much like present day - my life, my kids’ lives, while inconvenienced by the pandemic’s impact, remains stable and comfortable. We're simply in another transition to a different stage of life. Or a different Way of Life....

And so I’ll end this edition of the soundtrack of my life with a current song to remember this tumultuous time, Orpheus by Sara Bareilles.


I know you miss the world, the one you knew
The one where everything made sense
Because you didn't know the truth, that's how it works
...
Don't stop trying to find me here amidst the chaos
Though I know it's blinding, there's a way out
Say out loud
We will not give up on love now
No fear, don't you turn like Orpheus, just stay here
Hold me in the dark, and when the day appears
We'll say
We did not give up on love today

Performed live in Madison Square Garden, this includes opening comments prior to the song and even though the performance was six months ago, the sentiments still ring true now.


I hope you’re hanging in there during these stressful times. Get outside, enjoy the rebirth of spring and spread positivity and love. The Real World needs it now.


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
College Party Songs
Carefree College Life
My First Marathon - The Playlist
More Running Playlist Songs

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To the Class of 2020 - Charlotte

I really feel for the graduating class of 2020. They've seen their senior year upended as they remain cloistered at home, unable to savor those last events of high school or college. I know they are resilient and will make the best out of this tumultuous time, using their creativity to celebrate these significant milestones. Over the month of May, I'll highlight photos I've taken of the Class of 2020.

As photography serves as a creative outlet for me, I only hold portrait sessions for friends. This year I photographed four high school seniors starting with Charlotte, the youngest daughter of my friend, Heather. Heather led our neighborhood Book / Wine club until she and her family moved to Michigan. Even with the distance between us, we all remain good friends - Heather still visits once or twice a year, and she invites us yearly to a weekend retreat at their lake house. The photos from this shoot were taken at the lake house in July 2019.

I also took photos of their family prior to the move in 2013. So I went through my photo history and found this photo of little Charlotte, maybe 11 or 12 years old.

Charlotte

How much they change in a few short years (but the smile is still the same):
Charlotte

This one is a favorite of mine.
Charlotte

The slouchy, casual, happy go lucky Charlotte
Charlotte

Of course there needs to be a serious, pouty look.
Charlotte

Charlotte plans to attend Michigan State University in the fall. We congratulate her on her accomplishments in high school and wish her the best in college!

For more of Charlotte, a small sampling of her session here:
Charlotte, Class of 2020

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May 2020 Free Calendar Download - Serene Lake Wuhai

For May's calendar download, I feature the serene Lake Wuhai, from my travels to China last spring.



To download May's calendar, click on this link from Box.com
Link --> May Calendar 2020 - Lake Wuhai

Spring is really blooming here in central Illinois. I hope all is well with you, that you holding steady during this weird 2020.

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