Daily Observation - Blue Hour Sky

I took my evening walk late - taken at dusk, with enough light to illuminate and highlight the fast moving shelf of clouds above. Blue hour light brings out the vivid yellows and reds of the remaining leaves on the lone pear tree. A slender crescent moon rises above skeletal branches, coming in and out of view as the veil of clouds roll by.




Daily Observation - Squirrels

I'm back after a short hiatus - I'll fill in the blanks from the past month later, but for now, will tend to some daily observations.


This morning I watch the squirrels scamper around the yard, bounding with their fluffy tails, forming a wave of fluid motion. They navigate their obstacle course of trees, flying from skinny branch to seemingly skinnier branch with effortless grace. They cause me to smile.


Summer 2023 fun


Not today's squirrel, but one from the Morton Arboretum who was keen on posing for me back in August - quite the character! Taken with my iPhone 13 Pro, a case where portrait mode works quite well!


The Daily - October 2-4, 2023 - The Stop Over in NC

I'm taking my first leg of travel to London. First stop, Charlotte NC.


10/2/23 - Monday

Managed a 20 minute bike class, had coffee with Louie on my lap before wrapping up my packing and leaving for the airport. Jill did me a big favor and dropped me off. We talked a little bit about Janice and Joe - Joe is definitely getting better and hopefully able to leave the house soon. His girlfriend Jenna is staying with the family and Janice is adjusting. The cats are adjusting to their little kitten too! Flight to ORD was uneventful - here is the approach into the airport:

Wheels Up!

My flight to CLT was packed and I was seated next to a very large man but it was all ok. Teresa picked me up.


10/3/23 - Tuesday

Swam at the local recreational center - they have 8 lap lanes. Did 30 laps at a decent pace. Enjoyed today’s coffee outside on the garden bench by the koi pond and that was nice. The weather here is cool in the morning, a bit warm in the afternoon (80’s) then cool again as soon as the sun sets.

Extended Layover

Went to visit mom and dad from 10 - 4:30. I took dad on a walk. He’s very slow but still able to shuffle up a decent incline on the walking trail. I retrieved their lunch and we enjoyed time together. Watched the season finale of only murders in the building with Teresa.


10/4/23 - Wednesday

I guess I didn’t sleep that well because I was wide awake at 5am (4am back home). I did a 45 minute strength class followed by a 20 slow flow yoga class outside that nearly killed me in my upper body. Did a final load of laundry. Picked up mom at 4pm and we left shortly afterwards for the airport. We had access to the American lounge which was nice.

With Mom

Boarded the flight around 7:40 - mom’s first time in business class. The flight left on time for Heathrow. I ended up eating the meal (I chose the sea bass) because i just can’t pass it up! I realize how lucky I am to be able to fly business class. It’s really an alternate universe up here, buffered from coach.


The Daily - Into October, 2023 - Starved Rock and Rockford IL

9/30/23 - Saturday

Brenda, My, Yahsin and I pack up Lexi and we depart for Starved Rock state park at 7am. We arrive just as the lodge opens, around 9am. We hatch our hiking plan. We soon learn the canyons are all dry so no “signature” photo ops of wispy waterfalls. No problem, the temperatures are still pleasant, the canopy filters the sunlight and we discover the element that will consume most of our hike - mushrooms!!!

Starved Rock Mushroom Hunting

Starved Rock Mushroom Hunting

Starved Rock

Starved Rock

We spent 5 hours hiking, taking photos and enjoying the trails, canyons, river overlooks and forest. Then we had our post hike picnic - another great spread of food - Chinese bbq pork, meat dumplings, fruit, moon cake, nuts and other treats.

We drive north to Rockford and check into the Airbnb, a cute older home. En route we see signs for Oktoberfests and upon settling in we decide to go to the local Oktoberfest just north of our house. Held in a large community center, we enjoy German food - sausages, roast chicken, schnitzel, sauerkraut and dark beer. There’s a German music band playing and occasional dancing. Affterwards, we did facial masks, took silly pictures and hung out. So much great fun together.


10/1/23 - Sunday

We walk to the Norwegian for breakfast - it is a traditional Norse restaurant about a half mile away. On the way back we walk the street that flanks the river but there are houses blocking the river view. These houses are quite large! Along Harlem street, we spot what looks like chestnut fruits from various trees. We gather several pounds to take home to roast. We would later discover these are not regular chestnuts but rather Horse chestnuts that are poisonous to eat. Oh well, they looked so pretty and tasty!

We check out of the house and drive to the Anderson Japanese garden. The grounds are nice but we are hampered by the bright sunlight at 9:00. The gardens open from 9-5, so no opportunity to catch that golden light. We still enjoyed our meditative exploration of the gardens, taking our time to reflect at each water feature.

Rockford - Anderson Japanese Garden

Rockford - Anderson Japanese Garden

We have a mid afternoon reservation at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House but we finished earlier than planned at the Japanese Gardens, ate our picnic leftovers at the riverside park and drove to the house with hopes of getting on an earlier tour. The tour guides were very nice and let us participate in the 1pm tour. We learned about the Laurents, their relationship with the architect and toured the house built specifically for accessibility - a person in a wheelchair. Closed and private at the front of the dwelling that faces the street, the home opens up in the back with an expanse of curved windows, bringing the feeling of being outside to anyone in the house. I learned that Frank Lloyd Wright designed this house when he was north of 60 years old! He experienced a prolific life and career.

Rockford - Laurent House

After the Laurent house tour, we set off for home. I got home and packed my bag for Monday’s journey to Charlotte.


The Daily - When September Ends

9/25/23 - Monday

Scott and I got our signals crossed and we each fed Charlie breakfast! Oh well, she probably enjoyed the treat. I did a 30 minute bike then took Charlie for a quick walk before going to the Y. I swam 26 laps and spent 15 minutes in the sauna.


Charlie, Hannah and I enjoyed coffee outside then I made my breakfast. Charlie and I went for a long walk around Porter park - so many butterflies out! I did some watercolor detail work to finish off some flower paintings and after dinner Scott and I took Charlie on her third walk of the day. We also threw the ball around the backyard. Scott bought her a “chuck it” big ball that she seems to enjoy.



9/26/23 - Tuesday

45 minute strength class then a medium walk with Charlie around the retention ponds. Coffee outside on the patio.

I did a Photoshoot with friend Julie from the Y and her two boys. I had never met the boys in real life but feel like Ive known them from birth since Julie posts a bit to IG on her stories. No joke this photo shoot was a bit of a challenge since the boys were a little bit antsy but I think I got several decent shots. I also got bitten quite a bit from the mosquitoes. still, it was a fun time.


9/27/23 - Wednesday

30 minutes of bike Boot Camp followed by another 15 minutes on the bike and some follow up yoga. Then Charlie and I went for a long walk around Porter Park. It was damp and gloomy, so we did not do coffee outside. Instead, I did research for the upcoming London trip. We now have a daily itinerary of activities for that trip.


It definitely feels like fall with cooler temperatures and mostly cloudy skies today. The sun came out briefly in the afternoon, Charlie and I went for a walk. I edited several of the photos from yesterday‘s photo shoot. Scott and I took Charlie on her evening walk.

End of September


9/28/23 - Thursday

It rained hard again last night so this morning was cool and misty outside. I did 45 minutes on the bike, then took Charlie for a short walk. Then I went to the Y to swim. After 20 laps and 15 minutes in the sauna I’m back home with the animals and we are now enjoying coffee on the patio Erica is en route home from London. She arrived in time to catch the 4pm train out of union station. I took Charlie to pick her up from the terminal and Charlie is so happy her mom is home.

I take another pass at Julie’s photos - I need to get things wrapped up before the weekend.


9/29/23 - Friday

I dragged myself out of bed at 4:40 to make it to the 5:30 Pilates class. Coffee with Brenda, Michael and Davonne afterwards.

I catch the setting full moon on the Prairie with fog rolling in. I double back, park on the side of the road to capture a photo. Totally worth the extra 5 minutes.

Day journal

I make Erica pasta bake for her trip back to Wisconsin, sew her corset top to fix areas where the boning is poking out of the fabric.

She leaves at noon and I finish up Julie’s family photos and start packing for the weekend trip. I took a walk late in the evening and catch the red sunset west of Porter park. It feels weird not to have Charlie with me!

Day journal

I’m almost home when I see My on a bike heading to the bridge over the slough. She tells me the full moon will rise over the stream so I join her. We wait at the bridge as a small red sliver emerges from the tree line. Of course I only have my iPhone and do the best I can to balance the lack of light with the red moon rising. I could have used my big camera!

Day journal


The Daily - September 19-24, 2023 - Summer into Fall, The Charlie Days

9/19/23 - Tuesday


45 minutes strength workout which included an interesting warm up - get up and down from the floor - get down and lay on stomach then get up. Repeat but get down to different positions - on your right then left side, into plank, your back. Then do it while keeping your right hand glued to your right knee / left hand to left knee / right hand to left knee, etc / hands behind your back! Five minutes of this was tough! It really forces you to move through different positions, increasing mobility. I will incorporate something similar into a daily or every other day routine.

I prepped cauliflower for cauliflower Mac and cheese, tried the low carb shiritake noodles for the first time in a spicy miso broth with broccoli, carrots, mushroom and a poached egg. It was really tasty. I doubt I would eat this type of noodle any other way and I don’t know if I can find this product locally but will look for it in the Asian market.

The weather has been so perfect - I can take a walk without roasting and sweating. I also painted outside.

Erica arrived home late. She will leave tomorrow for London with Lindsay.


9/20/23 - Wednesday


Tough 45 minute bike boot camp. I also took my 600th strength class in an afternoon live class (got a shout out!). Took Erica to the train station - she will take it to Chicago, meet up with Lindsay at her apartment before heading to O’Hare to catch their flight to London!


I made the mushroom low carb ravioli in tomato cream sauce and wow it was delicious. I took Charlie on a walk before Scott arrived home. He ate dinner, Charlie enjoyed a rawhide bone and we all enjoyed an evening walk together.


9/21/23 - Thursday


Erica and Lindsay made it to London and reunited with Amira. Today is Brian’s 24th birthday!


It’s raining this morning - a steady soaking rain. This made it slightly difficult to walk Charlie but we took a very short one after my hard 30 minute bike class. I left her in Erica’s room while I went to the Y to swim. I cut the swim and sauna time short to get back. Now I’m enjoying coffee outside in the front breezeway with Louie on my lap and Charlie next to me on a thick blanket. She seems to miss Erica by sighing.

End of Summer

We took a long walk after coffee heading towards Porter park. Got caught in a pop up shower just as we entered the park but that quickly burned out and we enjoyed the empty park, taking photos here and there.

End of Summer

Another post dinner family walk by the retention ponds and we relaxed the rest of the night.


9/22/23 - Friday


Early morning rain again as I went to Pilates class. I opted to skip coffee with Brenda Michael and Davonne to get back home to Charlie. Even at 6:30am the roads are dark - kind of depressing - and it’s only the first day of Fall.

We took coffee outside on the back patio and I brushed Charlie. I took Charlie to the Pet smart store to buy bones and fish oil. She likes going on these outings especially when the cashier offers her a milk bone.


Then back home and a long walk through the park. I finished up Noelle’s photos, grilled a bunch of meat and took Charlie on a very short walk. Scott arrived home and I left shortly afterwards to attend the Pygmalion festival in town. This was my first time attending the actual performances - at the Rose bowl. Jill spearheaded the outing since there was a comedian performing. This was to make up for the cancelled Colin Jost show.


We had access to performances across two stages and the arts vendor area. It was a perfect night for milling around outside and taking in the bands. We watched 2 bands and the comedian inside the Rose Bowl bar and 2 band outside before calling it a night. I normally wouldn’t attend such an event so I’m glad Jill suggested we go. I can see myself attending in future years.

End of Summer


9/23/23 - Saturday

25 laps and a 45 minute bike class. Swimming has been frustrating - I don’t seem to getting back to my baseline lap times. It was a short session so I could get back home in time for the live Peloton class. That class wasn’t too bad because I had a strenuous workout on Thursday.

Coffee outside with Charlie and Louie. Took Charlie on a walk. Left the house at 1:45 for the 2:30 Illini football game. Scott and I drove separately as I planned to leave at half time to get back to Charlie. The game was fine - the weather was a little warm but with an afternoon game, we get shade half way through the first quarter. The Illini were slow to start but once they found a rhythm got past the Florida team. Scott and I took Charlie on another walk after dinner.


9/24/23 - Sunday

Ah, I got to sleep in! Until 6:30, which is very late for me. I had coffee outside on the patio with all the animals - Charlie by my side, Louie on my lap and Hannah next to Charlie. Scott took a photo and it is funny.

Coffee with the Animals


I met Jill and her mom at lake of the woods for a hike in the woods. It was nice. After lunch I made Honey twist bread for Janice. Her son is home from the hospital now which is great.


We took Charlie on her third walk of the day, played ball with her and settled in for some football.


The Daily - September 18, 2023 - Monday

Another wild dream - I’m in a cabin where I need to change clothes for upcoming travel. A group of people come up to cabin’s open screened window and spray mace inside. Or something like a smoke bomb. I gather my things and go. Then I’m at the airport and the gate is up at some mezzanine level between the first and second floor. I take the special stairs and enter an area that feels like a viewing box at an arena. Then I’m called to the gate and have to climb over people. I discover my ticket is to Germany, not home to Champaign. I’m traveling for Cabot but don’t have any of the phone numbers and I’m trying to figure all of that out. I realize I can make the flight change at the gate with the agent and I wake up. So weird!!!


30 minute bike, 20 laps and 20 minutes in the sauna. It’s chilly outside this morning and I’m now hanging out by the pond wrapped in my swim parka!


I followed up on medical insurance tasks which always makes me anxious - I know it shouldn’t but that’s something I need to work on. I did find out the local Walgreens is part of the prescription network so that is good and I can transfer any existing scripts from the CVS.


I learned a photo I had submitted to Champaign Forest Preserve’s calendar contest was short listed for inclusion in the calendar. The final process allows people to vote on their Facebook page to select the top 14 photos. I submitted two photos and this one made the cut. I took the photo in late July at the Buffalo Trace Prairie. The title is "Surprise Visitor" - can you tell why?

The Visitor


I cooked the pork dumpling meatballs and they were very tasty. I looked in on Janice’s cats. Scott came home and we ate, took a walk then went to the Aldi. I was disappointed with the empty produce shelves but happy with the selection of grass fed steaks at a nice price - we had great rib eye steaks over the weekend - so yummy.


I didn’t sleep great last night so was very tired once the sun set (7pm). We’re trying to keep lights low once the sun goes down - emphasizing that circadian rhythm element to gain better sleep.


The Daily - September 17, 2023 - Sunday Photoshoot

I slept in until 6:30. Had weird dreams - some people dumped three kittens in our driveway. Charlie was here, I confronted the cat dumpers and they apologized, said they would take the kittens back. Then I let them in for a tour of the house. This was not our house! Walk in laundry then an empty salad bar that I claimed we used to house condiments. It looked like something you would see in a restaurant. The family room was furnished with dark rust leather couch with wooden ball feet. Now that I think about it, maybe the couch is similar to what Janice has in her living room. So weird!

Today is a rest day - I did a short core routine and foam rolled. The foam rolling felt great.

I mixed together ground pork dumpling filling and will air fry them tomorrow.

Had a photo shoot with Noelle Ramaly this evening. I hadn’t seen her since she was a little child and here she is, a senior in high school with her small plane pilot’s license!


This session was super fun - she pulled the plane she flies out of the hanger and we took photos of her with it. The only drawback was the bright sun. It had been cloudy all day long until a burst of rain rolled through and then clear skies. Maura was a big help providing some shade with a bedsheet I brought but we were only able to keep that set up for a few photos. Still, I’m happy with several photos. We also went to the Japan house and got many great photos - just a sample here, she deserves her own post.


Noelle, Class of 2024

Noelle, Class of 2024


The Daily - September 16, 2023 - Saturday Games

I didn’t sleep well (because I'm not used to eating and socializing after 7pm) and considered reducing today’s workout but thought how I should focus on the fun I would have / how good I would feel after and that got me out of bed and to the pool.


En route, the sky took my breath away - inky blue cloud layers were tipped with deep red - the start of a vivid sunrise. I can see parts of the sky via the large windows at the pool and watched the sky turn fiery shades of red and pink as I completed each lap. I swam faster than my recent paces which felt great. I’ve been discouraged by my recent swimming performance so this was encouraging.


After 30 laps I went home and knocked out a 60 minute endurance ride followed by a 5 minute cool down and 10 minutes of stretching. No joke, I was very hungry after all of it so I deviated from my normal routine of having coffee first and then preparing my morning meal. Instead I made coffee and a huge breakfast and enjoyed it all at once. We had to leave by 10:30 to get to the Illini football game so I was short of time anyways. It all worked out great.


It was perfect football weather - a little warm to start but with a breeze. By half time clouds tempered the heat of the sun. I wish the Illini offense played better but the game was against strong Penn State, so we didn’t expect a win. We left at the end of the third quarter.

I spent the rest of the day finishing up laundry, checking in on Janice’s cats and watching football. I was super tired and retired to bed around 8:30.


The Daily - September 15, 2023 - Friday, Enjoying Small Things

Up early for 5:30 Pilates class then off to Peoria to get Lexi serviced. It’s a 90 minute drive and I’m not sure it’s really worth it. I will admit the customer service people are very nice and helpful. But I had to wait two hours for a simple tire rotation and inspection. I’ll probably go to the dealer at the more critical mileage milestones like 50, 75 and 100K. I’m sure I can arrange for good service locally.


I was super hungry after getting the car back so I did the easy thing and hit the close by chick fil a. At first glance of the drive through line, I thought I was in for another long wait but that restaurant runs like an oiled machine!


Once back home, I enjoyed my home made chicken strip salad then went to check in on Janice’s cats.


Scott arrived home and enjoyed his unexpected chicken strips. We went for a walk, enjoying the perfect weather - we saw butterflies and the Big Blue Heron in the slough.

Start seeing Butterflies

Nancy texted our group for an impromptu gathering / crappy happy hour. We each brought what we had - dips, cheese, olives, crackers, wine and wow, “food just happened”. We enjoyed a couple hours chatting and unwinding from the day / week. I am so very grateful for my group of friends.


The Daily - September 13-14, 2023 - Uneventful Days, Thoughts on Doing Hard Things

9/13/23 - Wednesday 60 minutes of bike / strength and I’m now outside with my coffee. It’s another blue sky, cool morning.

I haven’t been sleeping great and ended up taking a 2 hour nap this afternoon.

I did laundry, grilled up a bunch of meat, had dinner with Scott and we went for a nice walk.


9/14/23 - Thursday

Great workouts this morning - 45 minute Intervals with Arms class then 30 laps in the pool. Also spent 20 minutes in the sauna.

I enjoyed coffee outside then checked in on Janice’s cats. In the afternoon I spent time painting outside, using a new filbert brush and really liking the results.

After dinner, Scott and I went for a nice walk through Porter park. His working means we spend more time together once he gets back home.


I follow James Clear and subscribe to his weekly newsletter. One of today's newsletter subject touched upon doing Hard things.


“When you're doing something hard, focus on the fun part. Many people make a subtle mistake, which is they emphasize how difficult it is to do something. They tell themselves writing is hard or running is hard or math is hard. And so on. The dominant thought in their mind is that this is hard to do. And it is true these things (and many others in life) can be challenging.


Meanwhile, people who thrive in a given area are often emphasizing a completely different aspect of the experience. They are thinking about how it feels good to move their body rather than telling themselves exercise is hard. Or, perhaps, they aren't really thinking much at all. They may slip into a trance during their run, a meditative rhythm.


But what they are almost certainly not doing is repeating a mental story about how hard it is to do the thing. Their dominant thought is about some element of the experience they enjoy. They are working hard, but with the fun part in mind."

Yes - totally agree! What drives me to work out when I don’t feel like it is knowing how good I’ll feel afterwards. I think about the experience - the things I’ll hear, see, smell and how those experiences are beautiful and precious. Stars in the sky. Sunrise, clouds, sparkles of sunshine. In the pool, there’s the mesmerizing play of light against blue water, the waves, the cool wash of water over one’s skin. Believe me, there are many days when I don’t want to get into that water but I always feel better at the end of the swim. So I don’t dwell on how hard it is or will be, I just go and do.


The Daily - September 12, 2023 - Tuesday - 31 years

It is Scott and my 31 year wedding anniversary. We celebrated with a nice meal from Texas Roadhouse, enjoyed at home. We also took a walk on a perfect late afternoon. It’s these simple things that fill me with joy and contentment.


Castle Tioram and the Silver Walk

I also did strength training and yoga this morning. Prior to yoga I stopped by Janice’s house to look in on her cats to find Mike there and he provided me information on Joe and that situation. As I had hypothesized, the incident happened while the processing unit was being taken out of service for a maintenance outage. These transitional conditions have a higher potential for abnormal conditions. Most safety measures and mitigations focus heavily on steady state - when the unit is operating.


I had my Global entry interview and received approval into the program.


The Daily - September 11, 2023 - Monday - Embrace Life

Scott went back to work today and started a three month contracting stint. I worked out but felt sluggish throughout the bike ride I chose. All of yesterday’s walking (at least 6 miles) had me feeling lethargic. Swimming felt decent although I only had time for 20 laps. I also spent 16 minutes in the sauna.


Arrived home to shocking news - an explosion at ADM - (not so shocking) - but this was a bad one and Janice’s son Joe was injured in the blast. It has taken me two days write this as I was filled with shock then sadness and finally anger. I’ve always been wary of ADM’s manufacturing culture - based on accounts from previous employees who worked there as young engineers out of college. Feedback from tradespeople (contractors in construction, pipe fitters, electricians) was never glowing. No company is perfect, Cabot included, but everyone always preferred our company over ADM. Then there are the two other explosions / fires since April at ADM under OSHA investigation. One in April and another one in August. Red flags abound. The general public doesn’t realize the hazards abound in any processing facility. Flammables, gases, caustics, processing agents in large quantities are used. The work and more importantly, safety culture is critical to keeping all those hazards contained.


The good news is Joe’s prognosis is positive, he is a young, strong man. I worry about the mental impacts a trauma like this experience could have on him, a newly minted college graduate. I know his family is rooted in faith which will help.


Janice and walked together Sunday afternoon right before everything changed. She talked about how Joe and his girlfriend had recently adopted a kitten. Life can change in an instant - we must all embrace it fully and not take it for granted.


The Daily - September 10, 2023 - Sunday Hike Day

Left the house at 7 with My and Yahsin for our “Charlie hike” at Allerton. Brenda signed up for yoga in the Meadow there so she drove separately. Charlie knows when my friends show up, she’s going out into the forest for a long hike - she loves it!


Sunday morning Hike


We hiked for 2 hours - we saw some deer, late summer yellow woodland flowers and some little mushrooms.


Sunday morning Hike


Sunday morning Hike


As expected, our post hike spread did not disappoint. I didn’t make anything but brought charcuterie meats and cheeses along with a wooden board - voila, another elegant spread! My baked plum cake, Yahsin brought hard boiled eggs, fruit and nuts. The weather was absolutely perfect for our Al fresco meal. We are certainly spoiled!


Sunday morning Hike


I spent the rest of the day relaxing outside with Charlie - we played ball and took another long walk with Nancy and Janice. Finally, Erica arrived back from her travels and Charlie was quite happy to have her mom at her side.


The Daily - September 9, 2023 - Saturday

Went swimming - 30 laps, then 40 minutes on the bike and a 30 minute yoga class. It’s a bit chilly and I’m wearing a long sleeve shirt outside for morning coffee.


Scott took Charlie on her morning walk, returning to find our next door neighbor starting a roof replacement. So more unusual activity in our cul de sac!


Scott and Charlie also spent time in the garage fashioning up a replacement attic access panel the solar installers broke yesterday.


I took Charlie on a walk after lunch - we went to Porter park. I watched a butterfly gathering nectar in the prairie flowers. The sun came out so we took a short break half way through the walk and rested in the shade.


End of Summer


End of Summer


After our evening walk, we spent time playing ball and meandered to Jill’s backyard to chat with her. Hannah and Louie joined in. Jill’s two kittens stared at us from the confines of the house. Charlie got up and greeted them at the sliding door (with a screen between) which elicited a big cat arch / hair on end response from Luna. Lucy was quite chill during this encounter.


The Daily - September 8, 2023 - Friday

Up early to go to Pilates class, coffee with Brenda, Michael and Davonne after.


Erica left around 8 in Lexi. The Titan solar installers came at 8:15 and started working on our solar power system.


I took Charlie on a walk to Porter park. Scott took her around the ponds and I did the same after her dinner. By that time the solar panel installation had finished so we had a chance to play ball outside.


With all the weird activity yesterday (I only got 5 hours of sleep) and today I was super tired and went to bed early. I stayed with Charlie in Erica’s room.




The Daily - September 7, 2023 - Thursday

I awoke this morning vaguely recalling the dream I was having. If I dwell on it, I start to recall bits and pieces until it all comes into clear view. I was dreaming Scott and I were swimming in a pool. I didn’t recognize the location (this is on par for my dreams).


Thursday is a swim day, so maybe the reason for the dream. Who knows. I biked for 50 minutes before heading to the pool where I swam 25 laps. 20 minutes in the sauna afterwards. I’ve been getting up 20 minutes later than “normal”, probably due to the darker mornings - morning’s first glimmer of light doesn’t creep in until after 6am now.


While preparing this morning’s coffee, I got distracted by prepping eggplant slices in the oven. I had 3 eggplants to cook - the fruits of my container garden. This time I used the big oven and decided to try out the oven setting called “Fast Convection” and it did not disappoint! I found it similar to our toaster oven sized air fryer. I coated the eggplant slices with olive oil and baked for 25 minutes. I grated parmesan cheese on the roasted veggies and baked another 5 minutes. The end result was very tasty. Then I made the Boursin / tomato creamy sauce for noodles and ate it with my low carb noodles - delish!


Went to see Colin Jost, a comedian performing at a local venue. Jill and I arrived early to walk around campus before meeting up with the rest of our party. We settled into our seat and waited. And waited. 40 minutes past start time, an announcement was made - the performance is “postponed” for tonight due to “weather impacting the performers ability to travel”. What??? We couldn’t find any bad weather on the North American map…. Oh well, we went to Sun Singer and enjoyed time with our friends - Jill, Marjorie, Janelle and Gayle.


Erica arrived home while I was out so I was greeted by her and Charlie. She will be driving to OK for a wedding this weekend.


The Daily - September 6, 2023 - Wednesday

We got rain as storms passed through during the very early hours - the froggie rain gauge measured 2”. We’ve received just the right amount of rain at the right time - the grass hasn’t gone dormant this year. (we refuse to water it).


I did a 30 minute bike boot camp workout followed by some additional biking and a short yoga class focused on the deep squatting pose, Malasana. I’ve been working to improve my deep squat to keep the hips mobile. Scott and I went on a walk but didn’t see any water fowl.


I had my hip pre op appointment with my local physician and she cleared me for the procedure. Things are moving along as planned.


I cooked up the zucchini pasta sauce and while it was good, it wasn’t “mind blowing”. Honestly it was a lot of work to prep the zucchini slices so the work to what you get ratio is a bit high.


I enjoyed another afternoon walk through Porter park and I spent some time walking backwards. My lower back pain has improved these last several days. I also did my water color painting standing up today, something I’ve been avoiding (the standing up part).


Louie and I closed out the last minutes of daylight outside watching the sun go down. Its golden rays cast halos on the flowers and leaves in the garden - very ethereal. It’s dark at 7:30 now, a bit foreboding since I tend to go into hibernation mode once the dark hits.


The Daily - September 5, 2023 - Tuesday

Or, Tuesday that kind of feels like a Monday


Even though I’m not working, my schedule still follows a Monday- Friday rhythm especially around my daily workouts. Yesterday’s Y closure threw off that schedule. So two strength classes and swimming today. I would normally go to a yoga class but know I’ll be too tired from the swimming.


Instead of yoga, Scott and I grocery shopped and now I’m outside having a late morning coffee. Clouds have rolled in and there’s a chance of rain. While it is temperate and comfortable, the little midges are finding me and those little suckers bite hard. In an attempt to thwart them I put on a rash guard top and moved to a breezy spot on the patio - at the pond’s edge. I can watch the bees and other pollinators move from flower to flower. This is not a bad way to enjoy the late summer.


I went for my noon walk around Porter park and the breezes transformed the long prairie flowers into a sea of golden water. It was super beautiful. I can feel small changes as we start to transition into fall and that inspired a haiku.


Lithe winds swirl, sweeping

Across a golden prairie

Precipice of fall


Faint twinges of red

Subtle signs of season’s change

Murmur through the trees

Like water


KK stopped by to deliver goodies from St. Louis. She was there this weekend visiting Vivek and Brian. Brian brought them to IKEA, the Missouri baking company and Trader Joe’s so he bought our favorites from those store. Vivek just moved there and lives close to Brian so they are hanging out together and planning on working out / going to the gym together. I think this is wonderful as having friends to socialize with is so important for one’s happiness. Brian already has local friends so an additional one he can lean on for accountability is great.


The Daily - September 4, 2023 - Monday - Watercolor milestone

It’s Labor Day so the Y is closed and I chose to do a 60 minute endurance ride. I plan to swim tomorrow instead. It is still summer and the heat and humidity is back so I wrestled up some iced coffee for my morning post workout snack.


Today marks my one year anniversary of my first dabble in watercolor painting. I remember buying a 14 color paint set, two brushes and a pad of paper. My first watercolor swatches and flowers are dated a year ago. I really enjoy this art form - I’ve filled up three sketchbooks, own numerous brushes and think I’ve improved over the year. This creative process keeps me learning, observing and growing. I’m thankful for it and the many resources available on YouTube to help me learn.


To commemorate my watercolor milestone, I added another rose to an existing piece and painted another bouquet of blue - purple flowers. I recently figured out how to make more realistic serrated leaf shape and applied those techniques. Sometimes when I paint I get a bit stressed, but not today.


One year painting party


I cooked slices of zucchini in preparation to recreate the viral best pasta per Stanley Tucci. I guess it is called Spaghetti alla Nerano. I caught a blurb of this on YouTube. You need to let the fried zucchini sit overnight.




The Daily - September 2, 2023 - Saturday - Football Opener

Slept great last night, woke up at 5:10, did my warm up routine before heading to the pool. The water was on the cold side - those first 2 laps felt brisk! But after a few more laps it all felt nice. Then 50 minutes on the bike. The weather is pleasant this morning. Heat and humidity moved for the afternoon and evening.


We went to the evening opening Illini football game - we were impressed by the attendance - Memorial stadium was almost full. This bodes well for the inconsistent football program. The game started with a quick Illinois touchdown but then descended into the opposing team flexing its strengths and Illinois unable to respond. By halftime we thought the game had been lost. But the tides turned and the Illini pulled out a dramatic win with a last minute field goal.


Summer 2023


Call me old but I’m bringing ear plugs to the next game. There were a group of young boys behind us screaming the entire last half of the game. If the scoreboard prompted the crowd to “make some noise”, these spirited fans obliged at 200% effort. While I don’t mind a fun, rowdy crowd, the high pitched screams got old and grated on my nerves. Overall it was a fun experience and we are looking forward to future games


The Daily - September 1, 2023 - Friday

Boom, it’s September! August passed in a blur and I had so many fun moments. I’m looking forward to college football games and hosting Charlie while Erica travels this month.


Did the 45 minute Pilates class followed by coffee with Brenda and Michael.


I grilled fish, made cole slaw and Scott grilled several huge burgers that we enjoyed for lunch. I also spent time outside painting.


We met up with Bruce and Mary at Tryptich. I don’t remember the last time I saw them - it’s been almost two years. Now I remember - we met at an illinois football tailgate in 2021 - I had just decided to get my hip resurfaced and I recall telling him about it. Too much time has passed.


Several runners came out to visit - Nikita, Sandeep, Brenda, Ed, Debra, husband Luke, My, Minh and Yahsin. Another fun gathering!


I also received my lab work results and everything looks normal. Even my fasting glucose was under 100. My A1c was still in the pre-diabetic range but did not experience a large increase.




The Daily - August 31, 2023 - Thursday

After several nights not sleeping well, I got a great sleep last night. Again, some weird dreams - I’m shopping at some close out store with Brenda. Prior to gaining access to the store, we had to board a special bus. But I had intended for drive my car and “someway” I would be able to load my car (Lexi) on the bus. I left the bus queue to get my car but when I arrived where I had parked it, it was gone - taken home by my husband. Problem averted, and I went back to the bus by now we were last in line to enter the store. The store has very little left, but I managed to find some French style perfumes and soaps. Brenda showed me the bed frame her daughter bought previously. It was all so weird! I also picked up a suction cup jumping trinket that I think was shaped in a Sesame Street character like Cookie Monster or Grover. I tested its jumping ability against other similar items. Again, weird stuff.


I worked out - a fun DJ driven bike class. The music was great and I managed to sing along a little. Then 30 laps in the pool and 15 minutes in the sauna.


I got home and sucked down 2 large glasses of water and headed to the lab for bloodwork. The nice phlebotomist started with my right arm but the blood stopped flowing so she had to stick me again in the left. She was very nice and in the end she got all the required samples.


I attended a live watercolor zoom session with the artist I subscribe to on Patreon. The artist, Harriet de Winton, just launched her 3rd watercolor book and held a special live session where we painted a bird’s nest. It was a lot of fun. Here is what I painted - with several bonus North American Robin eggs:


Summer 2023


I went for several walks today - the weather doesn’t get any better - so pleasant.


The Daily - August 30, 2023 - Wednesday

Did a 30 minute bike boot camp workout (arms focus) then added on 15 minutes of biking and 10 minutes of stretching. I went back to the clinic for lab work only to find the orders have still not been processed. Oh well, I will continue to wait. It’s cool and breezy outside drinking coffee on the patio with Louie on my lap. It feels like fall.


The doctor’s office got the lab order into the system around 1pm and I went to get my X-ray completed. Feels good to be on track with these preparations. Since I have to be fasting for the other tests, I’ll go tomorrow morning.


I took an evening walk and bumped into running friend Chris D who is married to Sandy L. We shared trials of getting old and the ailments stemming from it. He’s not able to run right now due to an unexplained condition that has him scared (his words). Not being able to run is “killing him” (again, his words). He’s working with a doctor to figure it out and I appreciated his candor with me. Heck, I don’t remember the last time I saw Chris yet the connection between hardcore distance runners runs deep. I empathize with his situation. I invited Chris to our Friday runners gathering and hope to see him there.


Photo from our last runner's gathering in mid August. Hoping to get these going on a regular basis.


Runners Unite!


The Daily Raw - August 29, 2023 - Tuesday

8/29/23 - Tuesday


Nice and cool this morning - low 50’s! Even the cats think it is cool - they refuse to step out on the grass in the morning, opting to stay on the warmer patio concrete.


I completed a 45 full strength workout and it was a good challenge. My lower back is more or less fine - but it is stiff after prolonged periods of rest / lazing around, especially if I try to reach for the ground. I will head to yoga in a few minutes and hit the sauna afterwards.


Yoga was good and the sauna was operating normally so got my sweat on. Once I got home from the Y, I started to cook lunch - sautéd cubed eggplant, ground beef stuffed into roasted eggplant shells, topped with mozzarella cheese and broiled. Very tasty!


Another annoyance worked itself out today. I nabbed local Global entry interview appointment - the local airport announced last week they were hosting a pop up for Global entry appointments. I followed the application process but by the time my application had been processed and accepted, I couldn’t find any appointments available anywhere close. I had resigned myself to completing the process in October after I return from London.


Upon researching further, I came upon a recommendation to check the US Customs scheduling system on a daily basis. Upon checking this afternoon, the local airport showed up with available appointments which i promptly scheduled. It will be nice to have all of that taken care of before my overseas trip.


Today flew by - I took an afternoon walk right before some storms rolled through. I happened to be out walking the local prairie right before the rains came. I got home just in time.


Late Summer 2023


Scott and I watched the next episode of Only Murders in the Building.


The Daily Raw - August 28, 2023 - Monday

Back to our regular programming....


The Y reopened this morning after being closed for deep cleaning ast week. After a quick bike class I went and swam 25 laps and it felt ok. Unfortunately the sauna was not working properly, so did not get my heat therapy in. May try tomorrow instead.


Since my hip procedure Pre op appointment is scheduled next week, I went to have labs done today. There were no tests in the system so I had to call the doctor office, point them to the paperwork I had sent and now they will work on getting the proper tests ordered. I feel the doctors and their staff are stretched thin and don’t look at the details when it comes to non standard situations. But it’s all working out fine.


I’m enjoying my morning coffee on the patio, watching a visitor - a monarch butterfly - eating from our orange milkweed. Even Hannah noticed his wings open and close - she went over to check him out. It is a gorgeous late summer morning.


Late Summer 2023


I enjoyed the rest of the day - working a little in the garden, editing photos and taking walks in the sunshine.


The Daily Raw - August 27, 2023 - Sunday

We stayed overnight at a Hampton Inn in Madison. Due to cost we opted not to stay at the hotel close to UW campus. While we love that campus Hampton, it was more than double the price of the place on the east side of the city.


In the morning we found the nearest Starbucks where Scott enjoyed his first Pumpkin Spice Latte. I couldn’t believe he had never had one. I guess he normally drinks Dunkin coffee and has had their pumpkin spice coffee but not the original Starbucks one. He found its vernacular, “PSL”, funny too, again having never heard it before.


We walked with Erica and Charlie to a restaurant close to her apartment for brunch. There I also ordered a matcha latte. So plenty of caffeine for the day!


We finished our visit and drove back to illinois. The weather was perfect - high 70’s, low humidity with nice breezes. My afternoon walk took me through Porter park.


Some horsey photos I took with my big camera:


Tail Swish


Up and Over




The Daily Raw - August 26, 2023 - Saturday - Trip to Madison

We hit the road at 7am to visit Erica in Madison. I loaded the Blueberry bike in the back of Lexi to deliver to her.

We drove directly to the horse barn where we were greeted effusively by Charlie. We met Erica’s horse, Cookie and plied her with small horse treats. Erica worked Cookie in the outdoor arena while we watched. I took several photos. College friend / fellow horsey rider Mette stopped by to ride her horse, Raven.


The expansive property includes large indoor and outdoor arenas, smaller circular pens, fenced turn out areas and a huge grazing field with apple trees and ponds. We picked some apples and ate them too. The horses have a good life here.


After three hours at the barn we headed to Erica’s apartment, had a snack then took Charlie on a long walk through Maple Bluff. An actual town, this neighborhood flanks Lake Mendota. We enjoyed the water’s edge on this cool afternoon - post heat wave.


Dinner in Middleton and then to Memorial Union on the UW Campus. We parked a half mile away and walked by Bascom Hill to the lake’s promenade up to the Union Terrace. We enjoyed the famous UW creamery ice cream.


A full day enjoyed with family - humans and animals!


Some photos from the day:

Visiting Erica in WI


Visiting Erica in WI


The Daily Raw - August 25, 2023 - Friday

I was wrong thinking the heat would be gone today. The heat advisory lasts until tonight so this morning is still very warm.


I normally take a Pilates class on Friday but the Y is closed this week so I took a bike class instead and followed that up with a Peloton Pilates session. I’ve decided I don’t care for the Pilates content available on the peloton app - I’ll do my own workout in the future.


I have 3 eggplants ready to harvest! They are very nice to eat - sautéed in olive oil. I watched a cooking video last night that uses fried zucchini as a pasta sauce base. I plan to try that in the coming weeks.


I ended up making baba ganoush with the eggplants - very tasty.


I went to see the movie, Gran Turismo with Jill - based on true events about Nissan Corporation sponsoring the GT academy, plucking racing video gamers and putting them in real race cars. Our protagonist loves race cars and races them within the realm of the video game. He gets access to the GT academy, wins the grueling race and enters the pro race circuit.


I’m not a racing fan and the whole concept of driving a performance vehicle at super high speeds around a winding course terrifies me. But I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The characters were well developed and well acted. I appreciated the great cinematography - sweeping views of the race track coupled with drivers’ view of the experience. Elements of video game notifications displayed on the screen, melding reality with the gamer’s experience. Some viewers might give criticism to the formulaic plot (lots of Karate Kid feels) but it is a feel good, over coming adversary, getting redemption, overcoming the odds to reach your dreams.


The official Trailer to the movie. The soundtrack is pretty kick ass, too.



The Daily Raw - August 24, 2023 - Thursday

The heat is expected to break tonight so it is still very warm and humid. I’ve been able to spend my mornings outside on the back patio which has been nice.


This morning I completed several workouts - power endurance ride, core strength and yoga. The rest of the day was similar to yesterday - try to avoid the heat, take a walk, sweat, water plants, paint a bit.


While Scott was gone golfing, I played Maggie Rogers’ song Falling Water and sang along in the kitchen - that was super fun and something I need to do more of. Without my morning commute, I no longer have a time when I can sing at full blast.


The concert meme caused me to list all the concerts (rock / jazz, not classical) I’ve attended and when I realized my memory has gotten fuzzy, I pulled out the box filled with my daily planners I used to record daily events / journal entries (much like an analog version of this). I have calendars back to 1982! I realized last night, sitting on the floor of the guest room (aka civil war room) that I’ve always been a journalist of my life. I’m a historian, collector and teller of stories. So it’s sad to come to this revelation at 56, when I’ve been doing it for 40 years, but I guess when you’re in it, you don’t see it.


With this new information, I need to channel more time into the blog or something similar. I have projects I know I need to complete - photo books, etc but I haven’t done anything to start. Probably because the task feels daunting. I need to start with something small and easy.


I considered using these daily entries as inputs to the blog. That might work as an easy start to get a daily rhythm going. I really enjoy capturing these daily moments - in the morning, outside on the patio with my coffee. I can see doing this even in winter - I’ll simply bundle up more.


So there is the genesis of something new. Let’s see where it takes me.


Here is the video of Maggie performing Falling Water on SNL in 2018. This video inspired me to sing it - she is amazing




Class of 2023 Part 1 - Claire and Hannah

Graduation season peaked while I was in France, but I took several portraits of the Class of 2023 this year and feature the first batch here. All of my subjects are children of personal friends, so I've known them since they were small kiddos and I've taken their photos over the years. These are my favorite subjects - the ones I've watched grow up to become adults.


First up, Claire. Claire's family moved to Indiana right before the pandemic hit. Even though they now live 2.5 hours away, they drove back for a photo session last fall.


Claire, Class of 2023


Claire, Class of 2023


For fun, here is Claire from 2014, age 9:




Next, Hannah, graduating from Butler University. Ahead of the curve, she completed all her graduation requirements in December but participated in graduation ceremonies in May. Hannah will attend medical school in the fall.


Hannah, Class of 2023


Hannah, Class of 2023


I also took Hannah's high school senior photos in 2019


Hannah, Class of 2019


And her first year playing baseball little league in 2008. Her dad was the coach of the team and our son was also on the team. This was the start of our families long and cherished friendship.


Hannah - 2008 Baseball


It brings me much joy to see the changes in these young adults - the future generation, full of potential and drive. Congrats to Claire and Hannah!




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