Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Word

The end of the year brings out all sorts of lists: Best of...., Worst of...., Favorite this and that...., Goals and Resolutions for the coming year, etc, etc. I'm not one to make resolutions, but goals and "forward looking" aspirations are fine, and I was happy to find a fun, yet thoughtful spin on making more of oneself in 2009 on Sheri's blog - One Word for 2009. The concept of One Word originates from Ali Edward's Blog:

Can you identify a single word that sums up what you want for yourself in 2009?

It can be something tangible or intangible. It could be a thought or a feeling or an emotion. It can be singular or plural. The key is to find something that has personal meaning for you. This is not your mother's word or your spouse's word or your child's word - this is YOUR word.

I didn't have to think very long or hard about what My Word should be, probably because it's been My Word for a very long time. The Word? Balance. Something I have strived for over my life as a daughter, sister, friend, student, musician, employee, wife, and mother. Something I continue to work at. Balance between work and play. Balance of my finances, my home, my hobbies, myself. In a world of extremes, Balance keeps it from teetering over the edge into the abyss.

What's your Word going to be? My hope is that Your Word is not just for 2009, but becomes a part of You.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sunrise, Sunset

I was lucky enough to view both the sunrise and the sunset today - the sunrise on the way to work and the sunset after I got home. I had time to follow the sun descending into the horizon, but wasn't able to get an unobstructed view until after it was below the horizon. Still, it was worth the mile walk:


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Family Joy - Illini Basketball!

Scott bought tickets for all of us to see the Illini basketball team play Eastern Michigan this afternoon at Assembly Hall. We were in Section C, but it was a fun game and best of all, the Illini won! Last year, the beloved Orange had a rough season, but so far this year, their record is 12-1. Hopefully, we'll be able to attend more games (and I'll be able to take a real picture).


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Joy - Grandma's Arrival

After 2 days in the Detroit Airport, Scott's mother, Fay, finally arrived today at noon. Fay endured 2 flight cancellations, 3 flight re-bookings, 2 nights in the Best Western and countless hours waiting. She explored every nook and cranny in the Detroit Airport (except for the men's bathrooms, as pointed out by Brian) and almost finished the book she brought to read "during lulls in the day". Oh, and she didn't have her checked luggage. In fact, it arrived yesterday and was waiting patiently at the Champaign airport.

She shared several stories from her travel escapade. First, what happens when a flight is canceled and the traveler needs to get on another flight - instead of rebooking with a live person, the traveler is herded over to a cluster of phones which are patched into the airline's 1-800-reservation service. Isn't that personal....

The kicker - many of the phones didn't work, or the 1-800-reservation system was so clogged with calls that it was hard to get through. Fay's travel anecdotes reinforced the reason why we choose not to travel during the holidays, especially to-from snow-prone areas.

But Grandma has arrived and that in itself is this year's best Christmas present!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Family Joy - Christmas Eve Activities

The ice storm from last night tapered into continuous rain this morning and finally moved to the east, leaving us with a skating rink for a driveway, and still no Grandma.

Scott's mother, Fay, who has spent Christmas with us over the past 6 years ran into major travel delays - she spent last night in Detroit and was scheduled to arrive this morning. But, alas, more flight cancellations and flight issues has resulted in more delays and another night in Detroit. Hopefully, she'll arrive tomorrow morning - things look clear now on the weather front.

We seem to be in a funk with our Christmas activities without Grandma, but the kids still decorated the gingerbread house:

Erica concentrates as she adds a silver bead to the top of her snowman:

And adds gumdrops to the rooftop:

While Erica was amenable to my picture taking, Brian wasn't as nice and copped an attitude every time I brought up the camera. I captured his attitude anyways:

There's still a scowl on his face, even though it is a picture of his hands:

Brian's completed side:

Another Christmas Eve activity is the opening of one selected gift. I managed to "bribe" a nice picture out of the kids just prior to the big present reveal:

Which was Mario Kart for the Wii:

And all three kids are playing....


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Today's Joy - Fun and Games with the Kids

Today I took some time away from blogging, cooking, cleaning, baking to have some fun - playing the Wii with the kids. I haven't played since June, and it showed. My Mii was on page 3 of the list of Mii's, and I had a hard time remembering the basics of the Wii-Mote.

I played tennis against Brian and promptly realized how bad I was! He whupped my tushie. I didn't fare much better against Erica in Baseball. I slightly redeemed myself in boxing by orchestrating a brilliant KO win against Erica.

We had lots of fun and wore ourselves out - boxing can be quite strenuous!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Joyful Find - Pandora Radio

About a month ago, I was given the link to Pandora Radio from a fellow scrapbooker at ScrapShare. I just now took the time to navigate to the site and set up a custom radio station, based on Sara Bareilles' music style. I have been itching to discover some new artists and music, as I have tired a bit of the 15GB of music currently stored on my iPod (I know what you are thinking - sheesh - what is she complaining about?).

So far, I have decided to check out these artists and their albums
Missy Higgins - On a Clear Night
Rachael Yamagata - Happenstance
Jack Jackson - In Between Dreams


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Joy to the World - Beaker Style

Something to warm you all up this frigid first day of Winter.
The mercury dipped down to 0 degrees F this morning and hasn't increased by much during the day - the temperature is now a whopping 2 degrees F and the wind is whipping out on the prairie at 25mph.

My college friend, Armando posted this on his Facebook account, and I found it on YouTube. It reminds me of another college friend, Chris (we called him Beaker).


Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday's Joy

These are as pretty as they are tasty. Pomegranates - tart-sweet and juicy. Not a fruit you get to eat every day, but I have been enjoying them since they showed up in the stores this fall. Somehow, I feel "healthier" after eating the juicy arils (that's the ruby red seed-like nodules).

That was part one of today's joy. Part two is the news I received from my friend Mark, announcing the arrival of his new bundle joy, Priti, baby girl, born on Wednesday. Priti (pronounced "preethee") is the first baby for Mark and his wife, Anita. What a joyous event, even more special during the holiday season.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ice Storm Joy?

This week's Joy theme is "Glitter and Shine". I think these picture qualify:

Now, if only I could weave these pictures into some sort of Joy post! Ice storms don't normally sound very joyous and yesterday's drive home with the Defrost cranked all the way up, barely keeping the windshield from icing over certainly does not qualify as an exception. Then there was the accident on the highway which resulted in a motor boat in the median - off its trailer and splayed on the grass. But I didn't read about any serious injuries in the paper, and the ice glittering in the sun this morning was beautiful.

I did receive our annual Kringle from my boss, John, who makes these buttery, tender pastries every Christmas season. He gives away one for each of his direct reports. As the Tech Manager at our plant, he is making a LOT of Kringles!


Back with Some Joy - Cookie Give aways

I have been so busy these past days I haven't had any time to blog. But I have been thinking about Joy, and I have been taking pictures, so I will try to catch up.

Sunday - I finished off the cookies.
First, I made the sandwich cookies:
1. My original standby - Raspberry and Chocolate. (shown below)
2. New this year - mint chocolate - melted Nestle semi-sweet morsels with mint extract. Wow, these were to die for.

Then my ribbon cookies (aka my signature cookies). Here are the ribbon cookies before I dipped them melted chocolate and then chopped pecans.

Finally, the lemon cookies were finished with a drizzle of lemon icing.

A picture of the fruits of my labor:

The best part? Packing up these up into tins and giving them to our friends. I also sent two containers out to my parents, as my sisters' families will be spending the holidays with them.

Yeah, we keep enough for us to enjoy. I think the troops would mutiny if I gave them ALL away!


Saturday, December 13, 2008

12 on December 12

I'm late posting this because of the activities I've been caught up in these past few days. Presents to be wrapped, cookies to be baked, music concerts, choir rehearsals, just a sampling of the past few days.

Friday morning started with hot chocolate and waffles for the kids' breakfast. It was lightly snowing outside - nothing major, just enough make things pretty in the air.

I had to get gas, and the prices have held steady around the $1.65 / gallon mark. No complaints here!

Some holiday displays around the house - our collection of past and present Holiday cards, set upon the piano. It shares this space with the Nativity set.

Also displayed on the Dining room table - various Ruldolph characters.

Outside, some remnants of this morning's snow, swept on the patio bricks.

After dinner, I started this weekend's major project - baking of cookies. As I write this on Saturday night, I have made over 240 cookies. The common basis for the cookies - these three ingredients - butter (has to be Land-O-Lakes Unsalted), confectioners sugar and flours.

This cookie extravaganza is only possible because of my Kitchen Aid Mixer (a wedding gift from several of my MIT friends). Having creamed butter with sugar and flour by hand, I know what a great tool this thing is.

Tonight's accomplishment - a layer each of almond and chocolate dough, which then are placed on top of one another and rolled together for pin wheel cookies.

While I make the cookie dough, Erica helps out by washing the dishes - she was a big help!

Another task that I need to get on - addressing and sending out the Christmas Cards!

Finally, we have been nibbling on these treats over the past week - the colors are so Christmassy, and they taste great, too.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Frosty Leaves

Last night's frost combined with early morning sun provided a glittery, golden landscape for this morning's commute to work. As an added bonus, the sun burning off the frost caused a hazy mist of fog above the prairie. Really beautiful. But alas, I did not bring my camera with me (still working on that!), so I only get to describe it to you.

When I got home in the afternoon, I found some still-frosty patches of grass in our back yard. I searched and found what I was looking for - frosty leaves. The ice crystals look cool if you zoom in on them.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Joy - Packages Under the Tree

I received a surprise this afternoon when I got home - Erica announcing that she had dragged in the big package that had been delivered to our house. It was the Christmas present I had purchased for Scott (no reveals - you'll have to wait for Christmas!). I was surprised because I had been given an estimated delivery date of 12/23, and because the package was HUGE. Erica and I had a fun time wrapping the monster - we used an entire roll of wrapping paper on it and then tucked it under the tree.

That's today's Joy that falls into the Red Category AND today's Picture of the Day.

Hope you have a joyous evening!


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas Cactus Blooms

Scott bought this Christmas Cactus in 1993 from a HS girl selling them for her volleyball fundraiser. It was our first Christmas in our first house (back in West Virginia). It was in a little 4" pot, with lots of flower buds developing. He didn't realize that these plants are very sensitive to changes in their environment, and after we had the plant for a couple of days.....whump.... all of the buds fell off.

15 years later, what started as a little plant is now almost 4' wide, with fabulous blooms each Christmas (sometimes it blooms around Thanksgiving). Nothing nicer than some pretty flowers this time of year (now, if only my Amaryllis would start to do something!)


Joy - Our Family, Elf Style

These have been making the rounds not only in the blog world, but at work. Scott wanted me to make ours and he specifically requested that I add one of our cats, Hannah.

We were rolling on the floor laughing.

Send your own ElfYourself eCards


Monday, December 08, 2008

Bonus Joy - Jingle All the Way

Scott and Erica are enjoying tonight's ABC Family feature, Jingle All the Way. Watching Arnold Schwarzenegger run around, getting pummeled as he tries to procure a Turbo Man Doll has both of them laughing hysterically. Scott does a good Arnold impersonation as well.

Just too funny and joyful that I had to share.


Joy - Icy Roads Manuvered Safely

Not an actual picture of this morning's icy roads, but pretty indicative. But in our case, you couldn't see the white ice on the roads - it was all clear, due to a system of freezing rain that passed through before daylight. Of course, none of the streets had been salted before we headed out to school and work. It was literally an ice rink in our subdivision. I also learned the hard way that the Corolla does not have anti-lock brakes, as I almost skidded into a major roadway. Even 5 mph seems fast when you have no control and are staring at cars coming at you. Fortunately, I hit a non-ice patch, which stopped the car sideways.

So, where's the joy? Well, I got the kids to school and myself to work safely. A little late, but still in one piece. And with temperatures climbing into the 40s this afternoon, there was no ice on the way home.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

All Cut Up

Today's picture of the day is courtesy of the Pampered Chef and their Julienne Cutter. This was my first attempt at using the tool, and I have to say, it was a success. Perfect strips of carrot, effortlessly formed and ready for Pad Thai.

I also used my photo editing software to adjust the exposure (I purposely under exposed because I didn't have enough light) and colors.


Joy - Found in Singing - Join Me?

Most of you who read my blog know I love music and singing.
Today is Sunday, and most Sunday mornings I get a nice fill of singing at church. Today was a little different - I am singing in a small ensemble at church and instead of being in service, I attended a rehearsal. Still got to sing though, and I always feel joy when I sing.

Today, you also get an opportunity to sing, as I have embedded a karaoke version of one of my favorite artists' song, Bottle it Up, by Sara Bareilles. It serves two purposes - it follows the "Love" theme for the first week of the Choose Joy and maybe you will find some joy in singing along.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Bridge

The new walking bridge in our neighborhood that spans the slough and connects the North-South walking trails with the East-West ones.


Finding Joy - Running in the Snow

We woke this morning to find a fresh layer of snow on the ground. Not very much, maybe an inch, but with the cloudy skies and air temperatures right around freezing, one could feel more snow was on its way. I debated skipping my normal Saturday morning run, but remembered how much I ate at last night's Holiday party, so I laced up my running shoes.

Running in the snow forces you to slow down, to take care in your footing. You notice the other tracks in the snow alongside your footprints - the other crazy joggers (yes, I will admit, it was a little crazy for me to go out in this weather), the dog owners walking/running their dogs and the bunny and squirrel tracks.

After two miles, I ran onto a street nestled amongst large trees, which blocked much of the prairie wind. The snow started to come down, in big flakes that you can catch on your tongue. An amazing peaceful scene that I had the privilege to run through, all by myself. That's the joy I found today.

[which, unfortunately, was short lived. As I emerged from the protection of the trees, the softly falling snow suddenly became a whirling blizzard of sharp, icy snow, carried by the gusting wind. I cut my run short and headed home, which required running directly into the blowing snow. This is when I realized that I was crazy and the cars passing me on the streets certainly thought the same of me. I obviously survived and got home safely, although a little windblown and snow covered.]


Finding Joy - The Elvis Band (Blue Suede Crew)

No, I don't profess to be an Elvis fan, but these guys truly enjoy performing and have an infectious joy for music.

They were the band at last night's work-sponsored Holiday party, and while I did find the Elvis bit annoying (he's just too flamboyant for me), I found joy in watching the musicians, especially the guitarist.

They performed several Johnny Cash and Stevie Ray Vaughn blues numbers which I enjoyed - good blues always puts a smile on my face.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Joy - Awesome Christmas Cards

This is the second year I have created custom Christmas / Holiday cards to send to our friends and family. Ever since 1999, when Brian was born, I have taken a family picture, had reprints made, bought photo greeting cards, etc, etc. At some point, I added a update letter to the mix.

With the advent of digital cameras, one could add pictures to various templates provided by the on-line developer. I did that one year with Kodak Gallery. But after I learned the basics of Photoshop, I was free to create our own custom card.

Last Sunday, I spent several hours putting together the front, back and body of the cards. I uploaded the card design to I was surprised to receive a package today containing the printed cards - a 4 day turnaround - rather impressive.

Wow, they turned out great. Last year, I had them printed on Linen Paper. This year I chose their Stock Paper, with Gloss. So far, Scott wants one for his office, Erica wants to keep one, and I always keep one to display every Christmas. Here is the jpg version of the card's front:

Receiving the cards made my day - and now I need to get them mailed out!


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Light Post, Impressionist Style

I'm still staying with my light theme.
I had a violin lesson tonight, and this is the picture I took afterwards. Taken from the inside of my car, out the window to the street light.
It was snowing, hence the haze / water steaks on the wind shield.
I didn't do a thing with the image - converted it straight to JPEG.

I hope it really looks like a street light to the casual observer.


Fabulous? Who - Moi?

Adding a twist to a famous quote by Coco Chanel, "A Blog should be two things - Classy and Fabulous".

Jayne has bestowed upon me the Fabulous Blog Award! I think of this like the SAG awards - get your peers to nominate you for the work you all do together.

Here are the rules for this Award.
#1 - You have to pass it on to 5 other fabulous blogs in a post.
#2 - You have to list 5 of your fabulous addictions in the post.
#3 - On your post of receiving this award, make sure you include the person that gave you the award and link it back to them.

My 5 Fabulous Addictions:
#1 - I am addicted to Photography and photography gear. My family refers to me as the "camera Nazi" - I think that says it all!
#2 - I am addicted to Starbucks coffee. The really strong stuff. European coffee is a close second, only because I can't get it here.
#3 - I am addicted to Scrapbooking because you have to create something with those pictures and I am particularly addicted to paper - gorgeous printed paper.
#4 - I am addicted to music - I am always on the lookout for new artists, generally female, because I love to sing their songs.
#5 - I am addicted to cashmere sweaters. So soft and cozy. Too bad they are so expensive.
#6 - A Bonus addiction - the internet! Where else can one communicate with the outside world, make great friends, keep in touch with old friends and play games.

Now for the nomination of my peer Bloggers (who made this award possible in the first place):
#1 - Lisa - Looney Lisa's Lines
#2 - Heidi - Coffee, Country Music and the Corporate World
#3 - Andrea - Sy, Ty & Levi
#4 - Martha - Ride Along with the Chang Gang
#5 - Char - The Chronicles of Char


Joy of the Season

Today marks the start of December's Joy Challenge, and today I choose to find joy in this holiday season - really, an easy thing, with all the festive lights, snow and Christmas music surrounding us.

Scott wrapped the first presents and placed them under the tree last night, which caused Brian all sorts of excitement this morning. When Brian heard the news, he snapped out of his morning grogginess and ran downstairs to check things out.

I took this picture of Erica and Hannah this afternoon - I even dragged out the tripod. I love Hannah's expression.


Copyright Notice

All images on this blog (unless stated) are the intellectual property and copyright of SLPhotography and shirley319 (© 2009, 2010). Do not steal, borrow or pirate the images here.

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code. and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) prohibits the use of digital property to be used without the consent of its owner.

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