Thursday, March 31, 2011

172/365: ORANGE!

I was excited about today's photo assignment:  make a photograph dominated by the color orange.  I love orange!  It's that Illini fever that infected me so many years ago.  Then, I tried to find something to shoot.  I figured no one really wanted to see a shot of my array of Illini spirit wear.  I tried taking a shot of the Bella's spring placemat, but it showed the food stains that I haven't been able to clean off of it.  And then I watched Klucker cook dinner.  Lately step one of cooking dinner has been, "Get Cheez It box out of pantry."  Step two:  Eat Cheez Its while getting onto the kids about putting their stuff away.  Step three:  Keep pushing Cheez It box to the back of the counter so Boo and Bella will actually still be hungry when dinner is done.  Viola!  There was my photo idea, an illustration of the little orange crunchy pillows that we have to buy in bulk at Costco.  It's not easy to keep line them up symmetrically though; they want to twist, turn and spin on the counter.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

167/365: Enough with the Snow Already!

My spring break has come to an end!  The week's weather started out great, with temps in the 70s and 80s until Thursday.  What the heck?!?  Snow the last week of March?  And I'm not talking flurries.  As this is tapering off, we've got over four inches out there.  It's a bit crazy.  By this time, I would have hoped to put my trainer away and be outside for all my workouts.  The only redeeming factor is that the snow gives me a great excuse to have a late March fire in the fireplace.

Friday, March 25, 2011

166/365: Parenting Joy

Being a parent is the hardest job I have.  That being said, it is also the one that offers the most rewards.  There are few things that make my heart sing like it does when I my kids are excited to see me.  Bella had only been away from me for ten minutes when I snapped this photo.  Klucker had taken her to the restroom and when she saw me on her return walk, she started running for me.  I get this kind of reception almost every day.  Both Boo and Bella seek me out first thing every morning for hugs and cuddles.  Whenever they see me in the evening, they run for me yelling, "Mamasita."  It's a feeling like no other.  I know their teenage years will probably lessen their enthusiasm, so I'm enjoying every minute of this while I can.

(Today's photo assignment: Photograph something in motion.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

164/365: Layering

Today's photo assignment was to take a photo that uses layers as a composition tool.  It took some time and effort for me to choose a subject to represent that.  It finally dawned on me to use something that has been incredibly close at hand right now, my job hunting file.  I'm sure it comes as a surprise to those of you who know me well that I'm a bit Type A, and that this endeavor has just brought out those tendencies in me even more.  I have this great plastic accordian file.  (Gotta have the plastic because it's getting toted around a lot and the paper ones wear through quickly.)  In it I have file folders (plastic, too) with my materials, e.g. sample resumes, job postings, hard copies of letters of recommendation, etc.  I also have slid in there my anecdotal notebook where I keep notes as to where I'm sent my materials and with whom I've networked.  Yes, I will admit I may be a little overboard in approach, but it keeps me on track and let's me know what I've done.  The other piece is that it gives me a sense of control in a situation where I might otherwise feel helpless.  A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

163/365: Outdoor Fun

We've been spending a lot of time outside lately.  Boo has decided that it's time to learn to ride his bike without training wheels.  Last year we entered the kids in all the kid races in the area.  They both did great at the Midtown Alley race, but there were very few kids entered.  By the time we got to Gateway Cup, Boo couldn't keep up with the kids who were riding without training wheels.  That, coupled with the fact that I told him he couldn't race anymore with training wheels, may have spurred this interest.  Plus, my deal to him as been that he can get a brand new bike when he can ride on his own.  So every night we come home, he wants to practice.  He's getting better and better.

On the other hand, Bella still has no interest in her bike.  She plays on the swingset or draws on the driveway.  Tonight she followed Daisy dog around the yard.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Race Report: The 2001 Great Forest Park Bike Race

I had a little help corner marshalling.
Today was warm (55), sunny and windy.  I got to the park with good time for warm up, but I let myself get caught up in watching the finish of the Women's 4 race so I didn't get as long as warm up as I would have liked.  That being said, I did get to warm up with my teammates (Yeah!  I finally have teammates) and talk about what to expect from the race. 

There were eleven women in the race--all local so I knew what to expect from them.  We got the whistle and were off.  Forest Park is a pretty simple four corner course with only one "real" corner.  The rest are more sweeping turns.  Between turns three and four there is a false flat that starts to wear on you later in the race, and the sprint always starts early for the race, right out of turn four (about 330 meters). 

The attacks started early, within the first two laps.  The theme of the race was attack, reel it in, then knit.  The attacks primarily came from Chris, Carrie, and Emily, although Teresa and Cindi.  I also launched one about 12 minutes into the race.  I wasn't planning on it sticking, but I felt good and wanted to see if I could shake anyone off of our field.  I stayed away about 3/4 of a lap, Carrie and Emily chased me down.  I sat on with them until the rest of the field caught on.  The first prime came a couple of laps later.  I decided to go for it when we hit turn four.  Carrie passed me at the line to take it.  When I saw her wheel to wheel with me, I sat up.  That's a bad habit I don't need to have.  The second prime came late in the race and I got pinched in the corner and was not in good position.

With two laps to go, the pace picked up quite a bit.  Cindi was on the front with one lap to go, and I was sitting second wheel.  She kept amping up the pace.  We turned the corner, the field fanned out, and the sprint was on.  I did what I could, but simply could not go that hard that long.  Carrie won the race.  Teresa took fourth, I was sixth. 

Physically I felt good throughout the race.  There was only one point that my legs were screaming at me.  Chris attacked, we caught her and Emily immediately countered.  I talked myself through it knowing that once we caught Emily it would slow down a bit and it did.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

160/365: Sausage Fest

Cutting up the beef and pork before grinding time.
Bella decides she wants to help Klucker mix the sausage.
Stuffing the casings.

Even Big Klucker worked this year.  This is a rarely seen sight.

Yes Uncle Jeffrey needs to be report to DFS.
Get your mind out of the gutter . . . I'm talking about making summer sausage!  It's a Klucker family tradition that every spring we make summer sausage.  The goal is to do it in late February or early March.  It needs to be early enough that the meat doesn't spoil while it's smoking.  I learned the Delbert Klucker rule early on in my relationship with my Klucker, if you're not there to help, you don't get any of the end product.  That could mean salsa, sauerkraut, sausage, or mulligan.  I usually take the easiest job of the day which is cutting up the meat to be ground.  It's not a friendly environment for vegetarians.  After cutting, it gets ground and then mixed with seasoning.  The mixing is the worst part because your hands freeze.  This year Bella decided to try that job out.  She didn't last very long.  After that the mixutre is stuffed into casings before being tied and hung in the smokehouse.  It's a labor intensive process, but nothing beats Grandpa Klucker's recipe . . . and trust me that his spirit lives on in the process every year.  At least four or five times during the day someone will reference Papa Del, usually in relation to how much Papa Klucker is becoming like him.

Friday, March 18, 2011

159/365: Habits

Last weekend I painted Bella's fingernails for St. Patrick's Day.  It's been an interesting year for holidays in our family.  As the kids learn more about celebrations and holidays, they want to do more and more.  I've always gotten them Valentine's Day outfits, but this year they needed St. Patrick's Day shirts.  And since Bella is my girly girl, always into make up and appearance, I painted her fingers and her toes green.  As you can see, most of her finger nail polish shows the normal wear that you'd expect from a home manicure for a four year old.  It's chipped, pulling away from her cuticles six days post painting.  That is, always except her index finger.  It's almost completely gone there, scraped off due to excessive moisture and teeth.  Yes, my four year old sucks her finger.

Bella was a binky baby.  She had that thing in her mouth all the time.  We put multiple binkies in her crib so if she lost one in the night, she could immediately find another.  I had back up binkies stashed so we would never be without.  When she was about two and a half, we began to try to break the habit.  I started by poking little holes in the tip of the nipple.  It didn't phase her.  I cut the end off them.  She pulled it out, looked at it, and kept sucking.  Finally, I did what all well-educated, child-centered parents do when trying to break their children of a bad habit, I lied and bribed her.  "The Easter Bunny won't leave you anything in your basket if he sees you still have a binky."  The material girl side of the diva took over and she plunked every binky she could find in the trash. End of story?  Not quite.

Immediately her right index finger went to her mouth and we've been fighting that habit ever since.  She's got little scars built up on the bottom of her finger from her teeth.  In the winter her hands get dried and chapped from being wet.  She actually stopped for a few months, but when Boo went to kindergarten and she was alone at pre-school it started again.  The good news is she only sucks it when she has her woobie in her hands, the bad news is that it's like prying a nut from a squirrel to get woobiy away from her.  My newest plan is to outlaw woobies anywhere in the house except for bedrooms.  That will at least cut down the opportunity.  I don't know where I'll go from there.  With Boo, we taped a glove to his pajamas to stop the thumb sucking and he left it alone.  I can see Bella gnawing at the glove to remove it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

158/365: Ah, how good it feels!

The hand of an old friend.  In terms of old, my little guy and I have only been acquainted a little over six years, but there is something so powerful about taking hold of his hand.  Boo's life is changing so quickly now.  It's amazing to watch him grow and develop.  His mind is constantly working, making new connections, developing inferences.  You can actually watch him take in a situation and try to make sense of it all.  It's incredible. 

With all that going on in his little head, and his body continually growing and developing, he struggles some days to know who he is and what he should be doing.  It's in those moments he quickly reverts to being a little boy.  He'll crawl up in my lap and want a snuggle.  He'll try to get me to sleep in his bed.  He'll grab my hand to show me something that excites him.  I drink in those moments.  Snuggling him tonight, holding his hand while we watch cartoons, are priceless pieces of his childhood.  I dread the soon-to-come day when he discovers that Mommy is not cool and I'm only out to ruin his life.  I don't look forward to the time when a 16 year old cheerleader becomes the most important woman in his life.  So I hold on to him when I can.  I take advantage of his cuddling nature and savor his hugs.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

157/365: The Giving Tree

Today's assignment was to take a picture outdoors without an obvious horizon line.  So I took my camera on my bike ride and shot pictures of trains, fields and all sorts of other things.  I walked around the yard and snapped various shots as well.  And then I came on this one.  It caught my eye because it immediately reminded my of the book, The Giving Tree.  One of my teachers gave me this book as a shower present when I was pregnant with Boo.  I had heard of it, but had never read it.  It a wonderful story about giving all you have for someone you love and the joy it brings you to be able to do it.  It's a great parable for me about being a parent. 

I don't know when this tree lost her leaves and branches.  I'm not sure when she was cut down to a stump, but she sits in our side yard, a good place for the kids to rest while we're working in the garden.  And a good reminder of love.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

156/365: Green!

The green is beginning to appear.
I'm a little curious as to why the assignment of the day for is green with St. Patrick's Day two days away, but I'll go with it.  Primarly, I'm going with it because with the snow we had yesterday, this was the view on my ride today.  Green, green grass.  Where's the snow you may ask?  Gone!  I's crazy.  I won't say it's warm and balmy today, but quite a change from yesterday.  I know I sound like one of the old Monroe County farmers, but I think we're in for a crazy spring and summer after the winter we've had. 

Paying this close of attention to the weather is a relatively new thing to me.  This winter is only the second one where I've pushed the temps and weather to venture outside for my bike rides at least once a week.  It's made me very cognizant of what's happening. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

155/365: Snow in March

The on ramp to the Poplar Street bridge.  I was sitting still when I took the photo.

One of the many wrecks I saw on my lovely commute.

The view from my office.  So much for the "dusting" they predicted.
I know winter isn't officially over yet, but really?  This is too much.  My drive into work was horrid today.  There was a "wintery mix" when I was leaving town, but by the time I hit the bridge it was pure snow and it was falling quickly.  I think if the timing of this storm would have been a little different we may have had a snow day today.  All in all, just craziness.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

153/365: The Role of Technology in My Life

Today's assignment was to take a photo of the role technology plays in my life.  Wow!  That's a big assignment.  I never set out to be a techy geek, and by my standards, I'm not.  I do however, love my technology. 

I think I first interacted with a computer in junior high.  We had an Apple lab; they weren't Macs just quite yet.  And we learned to "program".  That meant I could write code well enough to make pictures appear on the green and black screen.  In high school I learned how to add motion and sound to those pictures.  It was in college that I got a little more advanced--I learned how to word process.  I spent a lot of time with the boys of Sigma Phi Delta.  I would guess almost every guy in the house had a computer, a mix of Macs and PCs.  I learned to work on both platforms based on who was around and had a free machine.  The guys always told me not be afraid to break it because there was nothing I could do that they couldn't fix.  I took that attitude with me as technology advanced.  I've never been afraid to play around and see what happens. 

I think I've passed that spirit on to my kids, or maybe they've come by it naturally because technology has been since a part of their lives since birth.  Nightly it's a race to see who gets to the iPad first.  Whomever doesn't get the iPad goes for my phone.  Mind you it doesn't matter that Boo has my old desktop set up downstairs . . . it's not as cool as the iPad.  It's seemingly intuitive for them and try and try until they figure it out.  I like that.  I value their sense of exploration and lack of concern for making a mistake.  I think we lose that as we grow older.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

149/365: Non-negotiables

When we were looking to buy our house, a had a few non-negotiables:
1.  A garage
2.  Mature trees
3.  A big kitchen

It's funny to me how my priorities changed.  When I was a teenager and in my early 20's, I wanted a house with a big front porch.  That's it, nothing else.  I wanted to be able to sit on the porch after dinner and watch the sunset.  While I would still love to do that, I began to realize the little things that I needed.  The garage was a biggie.  After living in the City and scraping my windshield and digging my car out and sitting on towels because my seat was too hot, I covet a garage.  It was something that would make my life so much easier, and it has.  And thankfully I have not turned into my father in this regard, we can actually park two cars in our garage. 

Having trees around the house was my next requirements.  Today's photo is from our back patio.  While my backyard isn't very big; there's no room for a pool, I have the best view.  We have a creek at the bottom and the hillside is covered in trees.  I think I love it so much because it reminds me of the view from the back of the house where I grew up.  It was as if we came home when we found this house.  I love the view most in the summer when it's covered in lush leaves.  The fall is beautiful as well.

My final requirement was to have a big kitchen.  That one's easy enough to explain.  Think about anytime you have people over, where does everyone wind up?  In the kitchen.  And with my love of baking and Klucker's love of cooking, it was something we readily agreed upon. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

148/365: Red!

The Daily Shoot assignment for the day was simply red.  Now I love the color red.  My laptop is red.  My external hard drive is red.  It's a color I tend to gravitate to in clothing and shoes (I'm in search of the perfect pair of red cowboys boots.  Yes, I loved Footloose.)  But what to photograph?  And then what to write about it?  So as I was fixing dinner tonight, I saw these.  Tomatoes are a sign of summer to me.  I love to come home from work and grab a tomato off the vine and eating it before ever going into the house.  This time of year I suffer through bland, colorless wannabe spectacles.  Mostly I will just buy grape or romas because they tend to have a little more flavor.  I long for late June though.  Even the bitter smell that comes off the tomato plant appeals to me because it signals my mouth as to what is soon to come. 

For now I wait.  In another four or five weeks, I'll get my plants.  I'll start preparing the ground.  And I'll wait like a kid for Santa for the blossoms, then the small green globes, and finally the first hint of red. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

147/365: Smile!

This image makes me giggle and all warm and fuzzy inside.  Nothing is more beautiful to a mom than seeing her child smile.  Bella, while a diva and manipulator, is pretty easy to please in many ways.  She is a girl's girl--you can give her clothes, shoes, or make up and she'll shine.  She also love just about anything that sparkles.  Oh!  And did I mention chocolate?  Yes, my little princess would do quite a lot for chocolate.  And she's not particular like her mother; she will eat ANY chocolate you let her have.  Today's treat is half of a trailmix bagel covered in Nutella.

One of my favorite Bella stories involving chocolate happened two Christmas' ago.  In an attempt to get the kids excited about Christmas and to understand when it was coming, I got them Advent calendar from Trader Joe's.  After a few days, Boo could have cared less.  He'd look at the shape of the chocolate and give it to his sister.  (He's picky like me.)  Bella would gladly accept and wolf down both pieces.  Christmas was still a few weeks away when we had our neighborhood party.  Uncle Jeffrey was kind enough to babysit that evening.  It was about 11 when we came home.  The kids were snuggled down for the night and as we stood in the kitchen I noticed the Advent calendars were up on top of the kitchen cabinets.  At bedtime, after Uncle Jeffrey had tucked Bella in and moved to Boo's room, Miss Bella snuck downstairs.  She climbed up on the kitchen stool (she was two at the time) and proceeded to open day after day after day on the calendars, gorging on the chocolate inside.  I think she got about ten pieces down by the time Uncle Jeffrey caught her.

Training Camp Take Two

Two base camps in three weeks sound like heaven to a cyclist.  My goal for the weekend was to get about 160 miles in on the bike.   Big fail on that goal!  Instead my mileage totaled about 109 miles due to rain. 
Cindi & I getting ready to ride.  Love Cindi in a Big Shark kit!!!
Friday started out great.  Cindi and I left right on time and headed southeast.  No navigation errors, no issues, just a fun, talkative trip.  We made it to Nashville before noon, enough time to change clothes and get out to the Natchez Trace for an afternoon ride.  I would guess we had about 25 head out in small groups.  We were supposed to practice pacelines but that went south fast.  The groups split apart and we did what we could.  I knew Nashville was hilly, but I don't think I mentally grasped that there was nothing! flat.  I felt like I was either climbing or descending.  It was a lot of fun though.  We rode out for about 65 minutes.  On the ride back I was able to catch up with Richard and go at a conversational pace.  He has a beautiful new bamboo bike that he got because his daughter's nickname is Boo. 

The view from the bridge on the Trace.
Friday night was dinner at Fido's.  Yummy sweet potato gnocchi was dinner before heading over to socialize at Blackstone.  I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard.  Cody's stories had us all in stitches, shaking our heads.  I won't divulge details as to protect the identity of the not-so-innocent, but I will say it was fun and we all made it across to the hotel in one piece.
But my evening did not end there.  We had a bachelor party next door to us.  As I walked to my room, I encountered the bachelor, comatose and unconscious in the hallway, with his soon to be brother-in-law.  I politely stepped over the groom and went in to go to bed.  I fumbled for jammies and finally crawled into bed before hearing a knock at the door.  Good sense would have told me not to open the door at 1:30AM in nothing but my jammies, but I often lose my good sense.  There stands the brother in law who proceeds to explain to me that he couldn't get the bachelor up and his sister was going to so mad and a million other trivial details.  I listened for a few moments before shaking my head and telling him "it's not my problem" and shutting the door.
Saturday morning got there far too quickly and it ushered in the rain.  It did not look good for the planned 80 miles on the Trace.  As the skies continued to open, more and more folks backed out of the ride.  There were about 12 of us who started out towards Percy Warner Park.  Within three blocks, two turned back and my feet were starting to schoosh on the downstroke.  By the end of four miles, I could no longer see through my glasses.  I rode about 35 minutes out before crying uncle and heading back.  The only problem was I didn't quite remember how we had gotten there.  Relatively quickly I found the road to the hotel and decided to take it straight back.  There was heavy traffic, but at least I knew where I was.  I warmed up in a hot shower before we headed out to lunch and a mani/pedi.  My thought was that if I couldn't ride, I might as well do something productive.  Next up was a core/stretching class by Amy that I muddled through with my weakling modifications.
And then came Saturday night.  Dinner at Bosco's was first.  Good food, great company, bad innuendos sums it up pretty well.  And then we went to Cadillac Ranch.  Amy was bound and determined that someone needed to ride the mechanical bull.  While I am happy to say I stayed much longer than eight seconds, I must sadly tell you there is no photographic evidence.  Although the photos below do display the talents of some of my teammates who took the challenge as well.  In hind sight, it probably would have been a good move to go home after that, but when has that ever stopped me.  Coyote Ugly was next . . . and it got ugly.  That's all I can say because what happens at team camp, stays at team camp.  Naw, it wasn't that bad…nothing anyone who knows me wouldn't expect, but again, protecting the innocent.  I will just say that after all the years of warning students about the dangers of horse play, I had to go and prove it myself.  Black eye, bloody (possibly broken) nose, and eight of us piling into the cab rounded it all out.   
Sunday morning came even quicker than Saturday morning and my face hurt more than I can tell you.  It hurt to put my glasses on when we went to ride.  I would guess about 25 of us went to ride.  Most of the group split off and met some guys from Grand Fondo bikes.  Seven of us rode West End/Harding out to the trace and did a few miles out there.  It was chilly, damp, and windy, but it felt good to spin.  It wasn't my best quality ride, but we managed to get 47 done. 

Tom's look regarding Cody's story should tell it all.

Cindi conquering the bull.

Our bull riding cheering section.

Bring it!
After a shower and lunch, Cindi and I headed home.  The ride home was much the same as the ride there . . . non-stop talking and stories.  In spite of the lack of mileage, it was a great weekend. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

144/365: Love The Shadow

After a hard, hard winter I can't help but cherish this view.  I spent so many hours inside on the trainer or outside with a cloud-filled sky, a glimpse of the sun just gets me giddy.  With the time change quickly approaching, I hope to be able to see this more and more on a weeknight ride.  Right now it really doesn't matter how cold or windy it is, if the sun is shining, I'm itching to get on my bike.  I know as the weather gets warmer and clear skies are more prevelant, I will lose some of my appreciation of the sunlight.  I will take for granted the warmth of its rays on my face.  I will long for the cooler days of fall.  I will forget how hard it is to climb wearing layer after layer.  I hope this photo will remind me of my love of the light and help me to not take it for granted.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

143/365: In the Eye of the Beholder

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and I would say the definition of art would fit that cliche as well.  What other kinds of art do you appreciate? was the question to guide today's photo.  I took several shots today before settling on this one.  I started by taking a picture of our "art gallery" at home.  I put up magnetic strips in our loft where I can post Boo and Bella's latest masterpieces.  It's been a great way for me to showcase some of the many things they create.

I then started thinking about what I consider art.  There are the traditional genres, drawing, painting, sculpting, but then I started thinking about food.  To me a great cook is an artist.  But it's more than simple presentation, so how do you capture flavor in a photograph.  I also thought about some of the gifted speakers I've heard.  It is an art to be able to deliver a message with a flair that holds your audience's attention.  Then I thought about my father-in-law, and the art of sales.  I swear that man could sell sand to a nomad in the Saraha.  It all goes back to perspective...which seems to be an overarching theme with me as of late as I train to maintain a positive perspective on what's going on in my life. 

In the end, I chose a photo of one of my favorite types of art, writing.  I bet that shocked you!  One of the most beautiful feelings I get is settling down with a book that envelops me to the degree that I'm sad when it's over. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

142/365: It Goes On and On and On

Find a repeating pattern and make a photograph of it.  Wow!  That could have been a loaded photo opportunity if I could have captured some repeating patterns of human behavior.  I decided to refrain from calling anyone out though.  After all, people in glass houses . . . .

So, the cool thing, to me, about this shot is how small the actual area is.  This is a photo of the side of my desk blotter.  The entire grid is only about 5" by 15" and I think I probably captured less than an inch of it on this shot.  It's all about perspective I guess.  That takes me back to repeating patterns of human behavior.  I guess those all are about perspective as well.  Sometimes it's so easy to sit back and identify patterns of behavior in others, but so much more difficult to identify them in yourself.  I have to frequently remind myself to not be a bull in a china shop, to sit back and let things happen instead of constantly trying to be forcing forward motion.  Patience is a virtue I must try to develop . . . I just want it now.