Saturday, January 31, 2009

Beautiful Amaryllis

All four flowers are now in bloom, and another bud is coming up! It was so beautiful to look at in the sunlight. I love having flowers in the middle of winter.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #109

1. I'd really like for the economy to improve right now, but fear it may take a couple more months. I’ll keep thinking – This, too, Shall Soon Pass.

2. “Ouch!” is the word you'd most often hear me say if I stubbed my toe, along with lots of hopping around on my other foot and perhaps some cussing under my breath.

3. Possession is 9 /10’s of the law, right?

4. My son loves to imitate Captain Jack Sparrow. He dressed up as him once for Halloween.

5. Marshmallows and fire go together like a young cheese and time. (Applying fire to a marshmallow transforms the marshmallow. Over time, a cheese becomes more flavorful and robust.)

6. No matter what the day will bring us, we need to remember that our lives will continue on and on and we should make the most of it.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to putting together the new kitchen table, tomorrow my plans include planning / shopping for the Superbowl and Sunday, I want to enjoy good times with our friends during our Superbowl party!


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Easier than the 25 Random Things

A new meme going around on Facebook.

1. What time did you get up this morning?
4:50 - it was a "workout" morning.

2. Diamonds or pearls

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
The Tale of Despereaux. I thought it was kind of slow.

4. What is your favourite TV show?
I don't really watch TV, but when I do, it is House Hunters on HGTV - I like trying to guess which place they end up buying - usually, I get it right

5. What do you usually have for breakfast?
Coffee, then a snack around 10am - a bagel or cereal / oatmeal.

6. What is your middle name(s)?
Given middle name was Ann, I changed it to Chang when I got married.

7. What food do you dislike
Overcooked vegetables, most organ meats (a little bit of pate is OK now and then). Super sweet deserts.

8. What is your favorite CD at moment?
Still Sara Bareilles' music.

9. What kind of car do you drive?
I toggle between the Toyota Corolla and the Chevy Tahoe.

10. Favorite sandwich?
Anything from the Panini Press, but it has to have cheese in it!

11. What characteristic do you despise?
Inconsiderate, un-friendly, self-absorbed people.

12. Favorite item of clothing?
Any of my cashmere sweaters

13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?

14. Favorite brand of clothing?
I'm not that brand conscious. I buy what's on sale....

15. Where would you retire to?
I hear great things about Roanoke, VA. I would love to have a summer home in the Berkshires and a winter home in Florida. Probably not going to happen, though.

16. What was your most recent memorable birthday?
For my 40th birthday, Scott arranged for a limousine to take us around town to dinner and wherever else we wanted to go. The kids had the best time in that thing - they hung out the windows as it cruised around the neighborhood.

17. Favorite sport to watch?
Football on TV, or Illini basketball.

18. Furthest place you are sending this?
Into cyberspace!

19. Person you expect to send it back first?
Don't know.

20. When is your birthday?
May 26

21. Are you a morning person or a night person?
Morning person

22. What is your shoe size?

23. Pets?
Our 15 year old cat, Rascal and frisky 2 year old cat, Hannah.

24. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us?
Nothing is really exciting around here - that's good in a lot of ways.

25. What did you want to be when you were little
A Teacher or a Baker.

26. How are you today?
A little strung out - my workplace laid off 15 people today. Some stressful times.

27. What is your favourite candy?
Cadbury Fruit and Nut Milk Chocolate.

28. What is your favourite flower?
Just one? Tulips, Orchids, Lavender, Iris, Lilacs, just to name a few.....

29. What is a day on the calendar you are looking forward to?
August - we plan to travel to Colorado.

31. What are you listening to right now?
My daughter as she sings the latest Taylor Swift songs.

32. What was the last thing you ate?
An apple

33. Do you wish on stars?

34. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
I took a blog thing test and the result I got was purple.

35. How is the weather right now?
Cold, but today's 34 degF felt rather warm after the past week with a daily high of 16 degF.

36. The first person you spoke to on the phone today?
I didn't use the phone today.

37. Favourite soft drink?
Diet Coke

38. Favourite restaurant?
Radio Maria

39. Real hair color?
Dark Brown / Black

40. What was your favourite toy as a child?
My Holly Hobbie dolls.

41. Summer or winter?

42. Hugs or kisses

43. Chocolate or Vanilla?

44. Coffee or tea?

45.Do you want your friends to answer and post?

46. When was the last time you cried?
Scott was describing the premise of the movie "The Bucket List" last night. I though about being terminally ill, and that teared me up.

47. What is under your bed?

48. What did you do last night?
Blogged, hung out with the kids and went to bed.

49. What are you afraid of ?
Not being able to care for my kids.

50. Salty or sweet?

51. How many keys on your key ring?
Depends on the key ring I am using - I have one for each vehicle, which eliminates the single key ring with a thousand keys on it (like my mother's - ha, ha!)

52. How many years at your current job?
6 years with my current company.

53. Favourite day of the week?
Probably Saturday.

54. How many towns have you lived in?
8: Washington, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, New York, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois.

55. Do you make friends easily?
I think so.

56. How many people will you send this to?
Whoever sees / reads this on my blog.

57. How many will respond?
I think most of them already have!


Monday, January 26, 2009

25 Random Things

This is going around on Facebook, but I thought I would post here, too. I'm not going to tag anyone because I think everyone I know has already been tagged. (case in point - I was tagged 3 times, just today)

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you.

Since today is Chinese New Year, I’ll start off with some random Chinese facts about me:
1. I was born in the Year of the Ram. Here are some of the Ram’s characteristics:
Righteous, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, artistic, creative, gentle, compassionate, understanding, mothering, determined, peaceful, generous, seeks security. Can be moody, indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer, wise.

2. My daughter was born in the year of the Ox. So was my father and sister.

3. My Chinese given name is pronounced “Show-Yi” and I am told it means “Little Spring”. And the name Shirley is derived from it.

4. Although “Chang” is quite common, my Chinese surname character is not a typical last name:

5. I learned to speak Mandarin as a little child, before English. Sadly, I’ve lost most of my ability now.

6. Growing up, I attended Chinese school every Saturday morning.

7. I’ve visited Taiwan once, in third grade.

8. I’ve visited China once, in 2006.

9. I played violin from 3rd grade through freshman year of college. I picked it back up last year.

10. I also played piano. I had the piano I played as a child shipped out from Massachusetts a couple years ago when my parents moved to a smaller home.

11. I met my husband at a work seminar and my first impression about him was “gosh, this guy is a dork”. I guess I was wrong.

12. Just out of college, I went a year without a TV. Dating Scott was my downfall.

13. Scott taught me how to play golf and drive a stick shift. While we were dating. He is one patient man.

14. I love to sing and was in a mixed a capella group in college. I have a CD to prove it.

15. With all my musical background, it shouldn’t be surprising that I didn’t participate in sports during High school. I was a “band geek” (and not even in band!).

16. I once planted over 200 tulip bulbs in my garden. The spring show was absolutely worth all that work. I love plants and growing things, but with other “stuff” going on with my life, it has taken a backseat.

17. My first car was a gold Chevy Station Wagon. The first car I bought myself still resides in our garage - a red Capri Convertible, purchased in 1990.

18. I grew up in Massachusetts and went to college in Cambridge, so I consider Boston to be my home city. But I would never choose to live in that area now. Too much traffic and congestion. We still get to visit and enjoy all that New England has to offer.

19. I have always been a photo buff and photo organizer. I have very organized photo albums starting in high school - all labeled, documented and in chronological order.

20. I started scrapbooking in 1997, after the birth of my daughter, Erica.

21. My love for photography really took off when I bought my first D-SLR in 2004 - my Nikon D70. It is still my main camera, but I plan to upgrade soon.

22. I don’t watch any regular TV series. I don’t have the time with all of this Facebook / Blog / Photography / Music stuff going on.

23. I have very poor eyesight - one eye is negative 7.0 diopters and the other is negative 7.5. Can’t see a thing on that eye chart!

24. I am double jointed in the arms and fingers. I passed this trait on to both kids. They love to freak out their friends by hyper extending their arms.

25. My favorite floral scent is lavender - so soothing.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chinese New Year Dumplings

Today's all-day project, with very tasty results:

The Recipe is out of the veritable Bible of Chinese cooking:

My mother used the same cookbook when I was growing up, and I received my own copy when I graduated from college. The recipes are the same after all these years, still delicious.

Normally, homemade dumplings are reserved for extended family gatherings when you have several sets of hands to help with the dough making / rolling / wrapping / cooking. I still remember making dumplings with my Aunties, Uncles and cousins whenever we visited them in New York. It is a tradition we maintain with my sisters and parents - whenever we all get together, we set aside an afternoon to make dumplings.

It has been several years since I made dumplings by myself, but now that the kids are older, they expressed interest in helping, so I bought the ingredients yesterday and made the filling last night. Erica's horse riding was canceled today, so I had a willing helper all afternoon.

We started by making the dough for the wrappers - mix boiling water with flour until it forms a soft dough:

Then knead away. Brian and Erica did all the kneading this year:

After letting the dough rest (rest time for us, too!), I divided it into 4 pieces, then took one piece, formed a snake and broke off 10 pieces of dough. These pieces are formed into little rounds:

Roll the rounds out into flat circles. [yes, those are my wrinkly looking hands - picture taken by Erica]

Fill the wrapper with meat filling and crimp. Erica was a big help here. I rolled out the wrappers while she filled them:

Pan fry (sorry, the picture I took didn't come out very nice).

Enjoy with dipping sauce of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, green onion and sesame oil.

I really enjoyed making today's dumplings - first, I wasn't in any sort of rush (I had no plans to leave the house, and with the snow and the cold outside, we just stayed in). I enjoyed watching the kids immerse themselves into the process - they commented how smooth the dough felt, how the filling smelled so good. The ultimate comment - when they declared that "homemade dumplings are the best".

Happy Chinese New Year!


Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins

1. Oh, I am so not looking forward to more cold after yesterday's glorious day!

2. I'm trying to do my part to make changes, big and little.

3. During Chinese New Year, I celebrate by making noodles and dumplings. Chinese New Year is on Monday - so make sure you eat some noodles for long life!

4. Our last power bill was more than $400; are you kidding me??? And my kids complain that the house is too cold - they need to put on more clothes!

5. Right now I'd like to be somewhere tropical and warm.

6. My iPod is my favorite gadget, even if it is almost 4 years old. I don't plan to replace it until it dies (really!).

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to hosting our Ladies Book Club (we probably won't talk that much about the book we read - A Separate Peace, it was a little boring), tomorrow my plans include taking Brian to Soccer and Sunday, I want to chill out!


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Scott's New Work Computer

complete with Webcam!

Mary, our IT Specialist was showing Scott how the Webcam worked and he snapped a photo. Of course, he was so pleased with himself, he had to email it to me!

I won't receive my new computer for another month or so (I passed on receiving one this month because there were others with greater need), but I can tell these will be fun features to play with. And for the record, we didn't specify the Webcams - they just happen to come standard now with the model we have been using. If you choose to have them removed, the laptop costs more!

Maybe this weekend we'll play with the Webcam to shoot a little video!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Beautiful Winter

As cold as this winter has been, I still enjoy the beautiful winter scenes each morning as I drive to work. On cloudless days, the rising sun casts a golden glow on the snow, causing brilliant sparkles.

There is a highway Rest Area along my route to work and yesterday, I pulled into its parking area to take pictures of the glittering prairie.

The scene was just "OK" to me. It was cold (5degF) and I had to walk through the snow to get closer to the prairie preservation area. I decided to leave and as I trudged back to the car, I walked under a pine tree and discovered some lovely pine cones above my head:

So you never know where you might find something beautiful to take a picture of - it might be right above your head!


Monday, January 19, 2009

Sleeping Beauty

I took these pictures by chance, after being chastised by Erica for taking her picture earlier. Erica insisted that I delete the picture of her (I did), but then I needed another picture for today.

Brian wasn't very helpful, either. Fortunately, I found a willing and oh so cute subject:

You can't help but feel relaxed when watching a cat sleep.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

A High Five for Erica

Erica's Report Card - way to go, hon!

(The blanks indicates that class was not taken this quarter - the students are only required to take one quarter of Health and World Language classes)

It shouldn't, but I am always amazed with her abilities - it all just seems to "click" upstairs. Hopefully, it will remain this way!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

How Cold is it?

Yes, that is a little minus sign next to the 12. Minus 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Really cold.

Somewhere along my drive to work this morning, it registered as low as minus 15 degrees. School was canceled today (kids waiting outside for the buses was the concern) and is also canceled for tomorrow.

At the plant, this frigid weather causes all sorts of problems. The hydrogen production plant next door tripped out and was venting steam. In the bitter cold, the plumes of steam are highly visible:

No worries, it will warm up in a couple of days, but for now, we'll bundle up and try to stay warm!


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Scan your computer!

I wasn't able to post yesterday because I realized we had "something" on our computer that was preventing the Windows Updater to accept updates. Microsoft deployed their first 2009 Windows update and we received an error that the Updater was disabled. I attempted to manually accept the update without success - one of the Windows Services would not allow me to manually start it. After some web surfing, I had that "sinking suspicion" that we had a virus or a Trojan on the computer.

I downloaded Malwarebytes Anti-Malware program and proceeded to scan the entire hard drive and the external hard drive, with these results:

Fortunately, the Anti-Malware program also cleaned up the files, and I was able to restart the Windows service that had been giving me issues, and update the computer. The program from Malwarebytes was free and effective, so I suggest you give it a whirl, especially if (like me), don't use an Anti-virus on your PC (yeah, yeah, I'm in IT and I don't use an Anti-virus ...tsk, tsk - well, neither do the other IT folks I work with!).


Monday, January 12, 2009

The First 12 on 12 for 2009

Monday morning in January - we are due for snow and bitterly cold weather this week. To start the week in a warm way, I made biscuits and enjoyed Christmas Blend coffee:

My French press coffee maker:

At work, I had to get out the drawings for a part of the chemical process I am working on. This is called a Process and Instrumentation Drawing, P&ID for short. These drawings are like blue prints for the manufacture of our product. I had to blur out some of the details.

I haven't taken a picture of my violin music in a while. This is the first page of Bach's Partita 3 in E Major - I have been having issues getting the bowing in this section, but it I'm close - it sounds better every day.

A light snow blanketed the backyard patio.

Today's photography lesson - using the White Balance Preset on my camera. I even read the manual for the instructions on how to do this. I used White / Black / Grey / RAW Grey Card I had (taken out of my How - To - PSE 4.0 book by Scott Kelby).

Picture of the card, using Auto White Balance. Ugg - This has never been the D70's strong suite. Yeah, it is supposed to be white, black, grey and light grey.

Still using AWB, a picture of my CK magazine that arrived in the mail:

Then, I set the White Balance Preset, using the RAW White Balance section (a really light grey), then took the pictures again, with far better results:

See, the colors are right!

Now, setting the WB preset can take time and sometimes you just don't have time. This is why I shoot in RAW and adjust the WB in my Post processing step. In fact, I had to adjust many of the other pictures. I'm pretty sure the AWB has improved on the latest Nikon cameras. I'm still saving up for that D300....

OK, back to normal life - I'm checking out my Photo blog.

Brian is playing Lego Batman game on the Wii. I had to bribe him to take his picture....

Also in the mail - a New Year's card from our dear friends in Indiana - it was so great to get their card and update! We can't believe how big their two girls have grown.

Our after dinner desert - Scott toasted some marshmallows, proving you don't need a campfire to enjoy these treats!

That's all for today - hope yours was great!


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Erica and her baby - Today's Beauty

I know the picture is not the sharpest and there are several blown out areas, but I couldn't pass up taking Erica and Hannah's picture last night:

I know I'm not an impartial observer here, but I think they are beautiful!


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Jet Pens Order

Scribed directly from my pocket Moleskine I have been using since the beginning of the year to record those "little things".

Received my order from Jet Pens - so fast - I ordered on Wednesday! In the order:
  • The coveted White Uni Ball Signo pen - three of them.
  • Blue-Black ink cartridge refills for my LAMY fountain pen.
  • Ink converter for my LAMY Pen.
  • Bottle of Noodler's ink - yes - for my LAMY fountain pen. Forest Green ink, which I promptly used to fill converter and into the pen.

Check it out:

I ordered the LAMY pen through Amazon around the holidays. It is a Safari AL-STAR with an extra-fine nib. It writes wonderfully and at $36, is a steal. I'm thinking about buying a Vista pen, which is the same pen, except for a clear plastic body (and even cheaper at $25).


Friday, January 09, 2009

ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes ....

(turn and face the strain)
Dont want to be a richer man
(turn and face the strain)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I cant trace time
-David Bowie

Scott acted upon one of those marketing fliers from Direct TV and converted us from Cable to Satellite TV. The main driver was the cost savings over Cable, at least for the first year - but there was some give and take:
  • We gained HD in the kitchen and family room TVs. That will be nice for the upcoming Super Bowl.
  • We lost viewing capability in the Master Bedroom. Not a big deal for me, but the kids already expressed their displeasure. We can still watch DVDs, though.
  • We lost our special local Weather channel. I guess we can check the internet if we want to know the exact temperature and wind speed outside.

I don't watch much TV anyways, so this doesn't impact me much. I just hope I learn how to maneuver the remote before we switch to something else.


Friday Fill-Ins

I haven't participated in this fun meme in a while.

1. It's January; Time to get back to work!

2. A strong, long run is what I crave most right now.

3. Cork and wine go together like Stilton and a Glass of Red Zin.

4. A hug and a kiss given in love is so nourishing to the soul.

5. Let us dare to live life to the fullest.

6. _We have new HD-Dish service in my home. I still don't know how to navigate the channels!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to hanging out at home with the family, tomorrow my plans include getting a long overdue haircut and Sunday, I want to relax, but I probably won't be able to!


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

More Joy, Beauty and Gratitude

Some beautiful water lilies

After increasing my post frequency in November and December, I feel compelled to post every day. A bit of an OCD reaction, I am sure, which may or may not pass as time goes on. Or it could be that magical 28 day thing - you know, it takes 28 days to solidify an task into a habit, so the habit of blogging every day is now formed in the recesses of my brain.

Enough rambling - I did have a purpose today - to share the Joy, Beauty and Gratefulness I have experienced over the past several days.

Joy - snuggling with my kids right before bedtime - a ritual we started when they moved to their big kid beds. Erica doesn't allow me to snuggle with her every night, so every chance I get is so nice.

Beauty - The sunrise across the winter prairie - I've got to find a time / place to capture this on my camera. The best views are along the highway into work, but it's not that safe to stop, even in the breakdown lane.

Gratefulness - The days are getting longer - I didn't have to drive Erica to Horse riding in the dark!


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Guest photographer - My sister, Michele

My sister Michele has a great eye for photography. She and her husband live across the pond in Europe, splitting their time between Copenhagen and London. They visited my parents in Florida this Christmas season, and she just posted the pictures from that trip on her Flickr Photostream. We weren't able to join them and my other sister, but with her pictures, I can imagine being there.

Here are some of my favorites:
Cousin Matty:

And Zachary:

Trees in Lover's Key

Funny, because this is exactly what I do..... (written by Teresa)

Michele's Photostream is in my Sidebar, so that you may also enjoy!


New Beginnings? Nope - just the same old, same old

The kids re-started school today after 2 1/2 weeks off. Their Winter vacation started a day early due to an ice storm. I don't know why they didn't go back yesterday like the rest of the world, but I guess that gives them a 4 day week to ease back into things.

Bright and shiny kids for the New Year? Nope:

And I even made cinnamon buns for breakfast!

Here's to the "real" start of 2009!


Monday, January 05, 2009

What will I work on in 09?

Not a list of Resolutions, but rather Projects I hope to work on in 2009.

Get 'er done:
Project 365 - a Photo a Day, which will be posted at my Flickr account and my new blog, Behind the Lens (see the sidebar for updates). Maybe I'll publish the pictures in my own Blurb book.

Use up my Scrapbooking Stash - I attempted this last year, but still spent more than my goal of $50. Let's see if I can do better this year. For more details, check out Cyn's Blog devoted to this topic.

Continue to:
Work on The Word - Balance - [perhaps this means I don't spend as much time on-line trying to increase my Scramble score].

Keep up with the neighborhood Book Club. This month, I get to host, and we are reading A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

Keep up with my running - I had a little setback in December with a nasty cold.

Participate in 12 on 12 - 12 pictures on the 12th of each month.

Whew, I think that is enough for now. Maybe we'll re-visit things in a couple of months to see how we're progressing.....


Saturday, January 03, 2009

First Project of the Year - Complete!

After spending several hours on the computer in PSE, I am happy to declare Project 2009 Calendar complete. These are 8x10 photo composites / digital scrapbook pages I will upload to Kodak Gallery to create 2009 wall calendars. I have 4 copies printed out - one for me, one for Scott, one for my mother and the last one for Scott's mother.

This pretty much completes my Digital scrapbooking requirement for the year! I did find several great Digi-Scrap free stuff at the following links:
The Digital Scrapbook Place

Here are a couple of the pages I created - not too terribly complicated, but they get the job done and are nicer than the templates available at Kodak Gallery.



The calendars are 35% off through January 8 - so I need to start uploading!


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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