Wednesday, January 31, 2007

emergency brainstorming help needed!

Anyone have any ideas for wording on a Chess related Valentine's Card? Nothing mushy... something friendship related so my son can hand them out at his Chess class on Valentine's Day.


too darn cold

Today we were going to go to the library to see a puppet show but the kids had no interest in going outside while it was only 8 degrees out.... so we stayed in. Since we really haven't created any news today I was going to share two finds with you.

1) We discovered the other day on our cable (Comcast) in the On Demand section there is a section under "kids" called Activity TV and in that section you can find all kinds of fun stuff. Our personal favorites are the Origami and the Paper Airplanes. We've made 4 different planes so far and one of the origami projects (we're going to go out and get real origami paper before we try many more). Its great to actually be shown each step and have the ability to pause and rewind. Fun stuff on a cold winter day.

2) This one I found out about through a Chicago homeschool email loop that I'm on.... Kiddie Records Weekly. We just discovered it today but the kids are totally in love. I've burned several of them to disc so they kids could listen to them on their own. Alex is sitting on his bean bag listening to Bozo (as in "the clown") and the Birds right now and laughing outloud. He seriously thinks he's just discovered some new character. I think these will be fun for in the car or for them to listen to in their rooms when they have some quiet time.

My fun thing announcement of the day is that I showed the Noble Horse Theatre some of the photos I took yesterday and they have asked if they could use them on their website! Cool, huh?

I didn't take any pictures today... nor do I intend too. Its just too darn cold. My fingers just don't function well enough when its below 20 degrees! LOL!

BUT... here are three from yesterday...

For some reason this depresses me.... heat lamps at the "l" stops are available until MARCH 31!!! I've forgotten how long its cold out up here.

Seriously... I have got to get a grip on the angling. My challenge for myself next week is to not angle my shots! LOL!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

So... here's where we went today...

the Noble Horse Theatre. The kids absolutely loved it! They had such a great time watching the show and they loved petting the horses and riding in the wagon after the show. They have already announced that they want to see every show they have there (we saw Quadrille today).

Here are a few of the pics. I had a hard time with their lighting... it was very dimly lit. I started out with my 70-200 2.8 on but rather quickly I switched back to my 85mm 1.8 because I *needed* the 1.8. I got a few decent shots, but I definitely need more practice with these types of situations.

(for some reason they always lit this particular guy above with a wierd green light that was nearly impossible for me to edit correctly)

just a quick recipe to share

My friend Natalie told me about this recipe from the back of the Bisquick box so I decided to try it last night. It was a HUGE hit. Jeff and I both really liked it but we only got three tenders since Clara ate SIX of them and Alex ate SEVEN!!! They probably would have eaten more had there been any. (oh... and I used 5 chicken breast halves instead of the 3 listed). They're really good without a dipping sauce, but I made a honey mustard dip to go with them.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Ultimate Chicken Fingers

Recipe By :
Serving Size : 4 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories :

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
3 chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless -- cut into 1/2 inch strips
2/3 cup Bisquick® baking mix
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 egg -- slightly beaten
3 tablespoons butter -- melted

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line cookie sheet with foil; spray with cooking spray. In 1-gal plastic resealable food-storage bag, mix Bisquick, cheese, garlic salt and paprika.

Dip half the chicken strips into egg; place in bag of Bisquick mixture. Seal bag; shake to coat. Place chicken on cookie sheet. Repeat to use up remaining chicken. Drizzle butter over chicken.

Bake 12-14 minutes, turning halfway through bake time with pancake turner, until no longer pink in center.

"from the Bisquick box"

Oh... and the kids even got to help with this recipe... they loved shaking the bag with the chicken in it.

Monday, January 29, 2007

guess what we did today...

Yep... we went bowling.

Ever wonder where those little dents in the lanes come from?

they could be from Clara... or possibly Alex....

You've just got to love those bowling shoes...

Just some lockers I thought looked cool....

I took quite a few pictures today but I did chicken out on some potentially cool shots. I'm working on getting braver.

Tomorrow has the potential for some really cool photos.... I hope I get some. Check in tomorrow to see where we've been!

Kelley... yes, I had fun with the night shots! I would love to try more soon!

Amy - as for the exposure on the last shots. Honestly, on the spy store shot I bracketed to get the best exposure.

Okay... I'm going to bed.... ever have one of those days where you're busy all day long but you don't really feel like you got anywhere? Well... that was today and it wore me out!


Sunday, January 28, 2007

back on track (sort of)

Okay... so I was a total slacker and took no pictures for 2 whole days!!! Friday I was just a chicken and yesterday I was in a bad mood... we're having internet problems which STILL are not fixed... so if I disappear that may be the reason.

We were out and about a lot today but I waited to take some until tonight. I've had the itch to play with shots of lights at night. Well... on the way to dinner it was too cold (around 18 degrees and it was about a 6 block walk)... we were moving way too fast. On the way home I had all of my shots planned out. What I hadn't counted on was Clara hitting the pavement about 2 blocks into our walk home. She wailed and I do mean wailed (like a siren) the entire way home. Jeff carried her a bit but she's just too big to carry anymore, plus it was icy in spots. Jeff kept telling her that walking would make it feel better but in between wails she was screaming that it wasn't getting better and it wasn't ever going to get better. It was one of those moments where she was being so over the top dramatic that you had a hard time not laughing. Btw, it's fine now and was completely forgotten about once she got warm.

Anyway here are my two quick shots I got on the way home....

I've heard them mention these kinds of places on Law and Order... didn't know that they really existed.

note to self: stop angling the camera so dang much.

Okay... I'm off...


Friday, January 26, 2007

bock... bock...

I'm a big ol' chicken. I took my camera out tonight when I dropped the kids off at the parent's night out deal but chickened out of taking any shots. Then, when Jeff and I went out to dinner I (gasp!) left my camera at home!

Will do better tomorrow... I promise.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

day 4

Well... we didn't leave the house until after 4 o'clock since we were expecting a call (which never came, btw). And since it was like 22 degrees out, we didn't make it far.

First stop... our favorite sidewalk square (okay technically a rectangle). I have no idea why this is here... it appears to be totally random, there are no other painted squares around it and its off on a side street. The kids LOVE it though. We usually pass it on our way to the park. Everytime they take turns drawing an imaginary Chance card and "read" the instructions on it. Usually something like "take a ride on the slide, go straight to the park", etc.

Next is a random building on a street corner. Thought it looked cool... took a picture.. LOL!

The kids thought it looked cool too so Alex took a picture... this is them checking out his picture on the street corner...

Do you like Clara's bag? Its metalic pink and leopard print. She thought it would make a good camera bag... guess who got to carry it home!

Thank you all again for the comments! I'm going to be sad when my week is up (or should I keep going... hmmm). Miranda... I grew up in a town with no stoplight... I think that's why I love city life... such the complete opposite from how I grew up.

Okay... Jeff called and he's on his way home... I should be dinner in the oven!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

ugh... day 3

I started out so well with this whole thing on Monday! And it seems to just all be going downhill since then! Today could have been good HOWEVER we were running sooooo late to class this afternoon that I had no time to even look for things to shoot, let alone photograph them! I took one shot for the el platform....

And this PATHETIC grainy underexposed shot in the subway station. The thing that sucks about shooting in manual is that I miss some shots like this one when my last shot was above ground, in the daylight and now I'm below ground with ugly yellow lighting. My brain just didn't process things fast enough to switch settings (plus the kids were leaving me in their dust trying to get to class on time or at least not any later). I definitely want to try this one again... maybe next week.Finally... to try to redeem myself somewhat I speedily tried to get the right settings on my camera and try the shot again... however, the kids had already rounded the corner and were on their way up the escalator. So I hopped on behind them and took this. Very odd angle, I know. It was a quick shot I just fired off and this is an in camera crop... I have no clue what else to do with it. Oh... and I tried the urban acid action on it, just because I could.

Oh well... there's always tomorrow!! :-)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Day 2 of my challenge

First of all... thank you so much for the kind words about my photos from yesterday... it means a lot to me. I was riding that high when I went out for an afternoon walk with the kids. Unfortunately... I came down *real* fast. First of all... when they found out that I was pretty much going out solely to take photos, Clara asked if they could take photos too (with our little p&s). Okay, sure. But in order to limit too much random snapping (and to help with sharing the camera) we decided on a photo scavenger hunt of 5 items for them to find and photograph. Their list was 1) something red 2) a triangle 3) a mailbox 4) a dog and 5) a cat (this was the "bonus" one). We found 4 of the 5 before we got too darn cold (which is the second reason I came down off of my high from yesterday). I guess the third reason was that I just didn't find as many interesting things as I thought I was going to... but then again I was spending a lot of time looking for triangles and dogs and supervising the sharing of the camera.

So... here's what I got....

You've got to love this house.... look at all of those colors... must have been a bear to paint.

Anyone need a Mighty Man?? LOL!
This next one is the picture that almost wasn't. I basically snapped as we were walking away so I could remember the phone number. I'm really liking it now though...

Very interesting place. Just a little store front where they schedule cleaning services, but what caught our eyes was a huge cat climber thing in the front window complete with two cats (and since cats were on the list, we *had* to stop). They saw us looking through the window and invited us in to pet the cats (and dogs which we hadn't noticed before). Apparently they rescue alley cats and abandoned dogs on the side. They invited us to stop by any time we wanted to come and play with the cats and dogs. See what happens when you're on a photo safari! LOL!

Something I have decided though is that my 85mm is not a good walking about lens. However, I'm spoiled by the sharpness and color. I tried a couple shots right in front of our place with my 28-135 IS and am I nuts to think that the color just isn't the same with it v. the 85mm?? The problem is that I have no clue what lens would make a good sharp walking about lens. Hmmm....

Well... its time to start thinking about what I'm going to fix for dinner!

Monday, January 22, 2007

my challenge

... that I have for myself this week is to take my camera with me each time I leave the house. Everytime we're out and about I always see something cool and kick myself for not having my camera along. Well... this week is going to be different. Now the true issue here is probably not whether or not I have my camera along but whether or not I have the guts to get my camera out and shoot random things while out in public. When I don't have my camera along I'm very confident that I would have taken the shot... however, when I do have my camera I get self conscious and miss the shot rather than draw attention to myself. I'm going to force myself to get over this.

This morning we went to the library.... I was going to take pics of the el coming into our stop. HOWEVER... the trains were running behind so there were lots of people on the platform... I just couldn't do it... I couldn't get my camera out. But... on the way home the platform and the car we rode in was relatively empty... so I had no excuses. I got my camera out.... I took several shots. I even took a bunch on the el.... I had the grand idea of doing panning type shots of Clara looking out the window with the blur of the city passing by. Well... I was concentrating so hard and looking through my camera so much that I made myself "car" sick. Oh man... I really thought I was going to be ill. I put the camera away then! LOL!

Not sure what I may photograph tomorrow... we really don't have any plans to go anywhere... we've got to be home for a few workers to stop by and fix things at the house. Maybe we'll make it to the park or at least for a walk around the block.

Here are my pics from today....

If you want to see these larger... you can see them here.... 2peas.

Well... it's bedtime for the kiddos... gotta run!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

go bears!

Okay.... so I'm not really a football fan (outside of my fantasy football team that is)... but it's hard not to get caught up in the excitement here in Chicago right now! Even Johnny Rockets got into it! We ate lunch there today after church and here are the balloons the kids got...

... only blue and orange balloons available today :-)

Nothing much going on here. We made the trek out to Ikea yesterday. We got this amazingly huge cabinet (did I mention that it's RED??) with a hutch for here next to my desk. We originally wanted the cabinet only but it was a package deal. I'm so glad that it was... once we got it together I realized that I now finally have my changeable photo display area that I've always wanted!!! I had picked up some frames while at Ikea and this afternoon I'm putting together a print order so I can fill the thing. I'll take a pic of it when I'm done.

Well... we're rather boring and I've got prints to pick out and order!

See ya!!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

clara + concrete =

This is the damage from last night's fall.... not too bad... could have been much worse!

These dark winter days are depressing me in regards to photography.... these were shot right in front of our big sliding glass door, ISO 1600, f/stop of 1.8 and STILL only had a ss of 125... sigh.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Strangers with Candy

I know this is probably the first of many, but I had my first strange/creepy city encounter (since our return to Chicago) today on the el platform. A little background... we get on the el at the stop by our house, ride to the next stop, change lines at that stop and then get off at the very next stop. When we got on the el at our stop I noticed this guy who kept looking at the kids, this same guy also got off at the next stop when we did (not a huge deal since this is a transfer point for those lines... lots of people transfer). While waiting on the platform the guy kept looking at the kids, it was beginning to creep me out... THEN he walked up to me and asked "do you mind if I give them some candy?". Ummm... heck ya I mind! I don't know you!!! I was polite and thanked him for asking but it probably wasn't a good idea since we were on our way to class (it was the only excuse I could come up with at that time). He said it was no big deal and that was why he asked me instead of the kids. He did have an unopened bag of individually wrapped candies that he was carrying. He could have been a totally legit, nice guy, but I still find the whole thing rather strange. Time to have the stranger talk with the kids.... AGAIN... sigh.

The kids enjoyed their classes again today. One of the little girls in Clara's dance class asked her to come over for a playdate. The mom gave the standard... "oh wouldn't that be fun, but the mommies will have to talk about it next week at class" response. I'm hoping it goes through though... Clara is really desperate for a friend. Alex just likes to be around other kids... it can be different ones every time he just likes to play, but Clara craves an actual "friend".

Coming home we almost made it, we managed to successfully skate our way across icy sidewalks, jump over big slushy puddles, etc.... UNTIL we got right in front of our place... Clara was skipping/running to the gate, tripped over a bump in the sidewalk and landed on her face on the concrete. You should have heard her scream.... I was honestly scared to turn her over (she was just lying there face down on the sidewalk). I was having flashbacks from when she was about 1 1/2 and she did something similar but her teeth cut through her lips. Thankfully all that she did was scrape the skin off of her nose (the entire length of it). She looked at herself in the mirror after I cleaned it up and announced that it looked like a bee hive. Ummm... not sure about that... but if you say so!

Thank you all so much for the book suggestions... Muppetpinchess, I have heard of the Betsy-Tacy books because they're part of the homeschool curriculum we use (a higher grade than we're at though)... but perhaps I need to do some pre-reading! :-) Annie.... I must say that book you suggested sounds fabulous! I went on Amazon to read the reviews and there seems to be a bit of controversy surrounding that book.... that makes it sound all that more interesting to me! LOL! I'll look for these books on my next trip to the library (which should be this week) provided I finish reading the Phantom Tollbooth in time (we're limited to only 5 books out at a time for the first 30 days of our new library card.... so the kids get two picks each and I get just one).

Okay... I'm done rambling.... I'm going to clean up the kitchen and then head to bed!


ETA: Amy... oops...I forgot to answer you... I'm shooting with the Canon 20D.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

a little snow and a lot of cold!!

It's 14 degrees out and it definitely feels it (just got back in from walking the dog)! I've temporarily misplaced my favorite hat after our outing yesterday. No clue where I put it. Anyway... just a quick note (more later) since the kids and I need to clean house before Jeff's flight gets in mid-day. I tried posting these pics last night but Blogger wasn't cooperating. Just some shots from our snow day yesterday...

Okay... gotta go... I'll be back once my chores are done! LOL!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

here i am!

Yes... I disappeared again. Not sure what happened... possibly nothing did and that's the reason why I didn't write.. there really wasn't anything to write.

As some of you may know, my husband and I do a book club each year... just the two of us. Each of us is responsible for half of the books for the year. We each pick out books we think we would like to read together, buy two copies and then we give them to each other at Christmas. I think this is our fourth year to do this. Anyway... we're already on our second book for this year's book club and I just finished it last night. It was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (Jeff's pick). I have to say it was just an amazing book. It's killing me that Jeff isn't done yet so we can't fully discuss it yet. If you've read it... let me know. I desperately need someone to discuss this book with!!

Right now I'm reading the Phantom Tollbooth to fill the gap between our book club books. You'll probably see that I'll be reading quite a few juvenile novels this year... not only do I enjoy to read them occassionally but also because I get overwhelmed in the BIG Chicago Public Library downtown and have limited myself to the Children's Library within it. I almost picked up The Princess Diaries last week.... maybe next time. Any kid lit suggestions would be greatly appreciated as well.

Okay... I'm going down a very unexciting path here... so I'll sign off and head to bed. Maybe tomorrow will be more interesting.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

back to school

Vacation is over! LOL! Chicago Public Schools started classes yesterday so we started back as well. Yesterday we had a light day, but it was a good day. We started the day by going to the big main library in the loop (Harold Washington Library)... the entire building of the library we used to go to in Plano would fit inside the Children's Library here. We had the entire place to ourselves. We were limited to only 5 books out at a time for the first 30 days after getting a library card. This was disappointing at first but after carrying our books around in my backpack for the next 3 hours I figured out that five books was just fine. After the library we headed up State Street to Marshall Fields for lunch (I refuse to call it Macy's... although after being there yesterday I just might get over that since it has lost that "Field's" feel to it since Macy's took over... anyway... that's a whole other post). Then we did some shopping at Old Navy before heading home. Alex was in a reading mood and read SIX books yesterday! Do you remember my lament a couple of months ago about how the boy wouldn't read... well... things have changed! :-)

Today we had a great school day. We got a lot accomplished. I have to admit that having Clara in the mix all of the time worries me a bit, but it might not be all that bad. I just need to come up with more stuff to keep her busy. This afternoon we braved the 30 degree temp and went to the park to play... needless to say, we had the park to ourselves. Exciting, huh?

I did scrap a page...

details here

Also... I've been looking desperately for a sporty comfy pair of shoes for all of the walking I do now. I've tried on several pairs, but I think these might be the ones...

I love Merrells.... I live in Merrell sandals every summer. I usually wear Dansko's during the winter but they just don't cut it for all of the walking I do. Hmmmm... should I click the "buy now" button???

Sunday, January 07, 2007

guess who....

I just saw running down Michigan Avenue being chased through fake snow by a pack of santas!

Any guesses?

And no, unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me (who knew I needed it while returning stuff to Pottery Barn?).

ETA: What? No guesses? :-)

ETA: Okay... I'll spill... it was Vince Vaughn (but good guesses Teresa and Sharon). They were filming the movie Fred Claus which is due out next Christmas. We got stuck in Pottery Barn for quite some time while they did several takes of the scene. We got trapped not only because they would only let people through at limited times, but also because most of the Pottery Barn staff was gathered up around the front window watching the filming as well. We didn't mind though, it was fun to watch (a couple of times... but according to an extra we talked to they had been at this since 7:00 am and this was around 1:00 pm... ugh). Clara was very confused about the pack of Santas and Alex was fascinated by the fake snow. Fun stuff... I just wish I would have had my camera.

Friday, January 05, 2007


Thank you Amy and Dana for the crockpot recipes! They both sound very yummy and I can't wait to try them!

Random Note - did you know there's a show on cable called Holy Hip Hop? Jeff just discovered it on the guide... haven't watched it. Although I must say I'm intrigued now.

We had a good day today. We spent nearly two hours outside at the park. The kids had fun even if there wasn't any kids their age there (all littles ones there today).

Here's a shot from the park..... Clara is still into color! LOL!

Well... I'm going to head to bed... we're going to take the kids to the Museum of Science and Industry tomorrow... I'm going to need to be well rested!


actions overload

Okay... as I mentioned in my previous post, I finally installed pscs2 over the weekend. I got the itch to play with actions today... however, I'm completely overwhelmed by the choices out there... anyone out like to point me towards some favorites??? I really great color pop would be greatly appreciated... I'm really liking bright colors these days.

More to come later...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Nothing much...

Thank you Michelle for the cookbook suggestion and Meg.. that recipe sounds wonderful! I'll let you know when I try it!

The kids LOVED their classes yesterday (thank goodness). The little girls in Clara's ballet class seem very sweet. They all seemed excited to have someone new in their class and immediately introduced themselves to her. Alex really liked chess. It was a small class yesterday... only two other boys. Apparently there are more enrolled, but with school not being back is session here, they were not in class. He's excited about playing and even had homework which we worked on after dinner.

Today we stayed home all day. Our water dispenser was being delivered and we needed to be home for it. He came early, but shortly after he left, it began to rain. So... after painting Clara's fingernails and toenails... they put on a never ending show with acts in the double digits. They did a really great job, but they insisted on having the lights out and with the rain, it was all I could do to not drift off (especially since I was lounging in one of their big beanbag chairs at the time).

After waking myself back up, I managed to scrap a page! Can you believe that after nearly 9 months after I purchased it, I finally installed PSCS2??? We're getting along well so far... I haven't really ventured into any new territory yet (oh, except for text on a path), but there's plenty of time for that. Can you believe that up until a couple of days ago, I was still using PSE 2.0??

Okay... here's my layout... I used Michelle Coleman's gorgeous Serendipity kit at Scrapartist.

Just some pics of the kids from when we went to Silver Dollar City the Saturday before Christmas.

I decided that this year in scrapping, I need to venture out of my safe little clean line, graphic world and have more fun with my layouts. With that resolution, I think I may need to go shop for some fun felty things (and other stuff) at Amy Martin's Lily Pad or some of the incredibly fun stuff at Funky Playground Designs.

Okay... I need to go to bed before I start shopping right now!


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

resolutions, recipes and a request

Okay... so one of my resolutions this year is to cook more. With Jeff's crazy travel schedule last year I fell into a really bad habit of not cooking "real" meals. Now that we're eating dinner as a family every night I decided that it was a good time to start cooking meals again. Since the kids have class until 5:15 tonight, I thought it was a good night for a crockpot meal. So here's what we're having...

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chinese Style Country Ribs

Recipe By :
Serving Size : 6 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Crockpot Pork

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 clove garlic -- minced
4 pounds spareribs, country style

Combine soy sauce, marmalade, ketchup and garlic.

Brush on both sides of ribs.

Place in slow-cooker.

Pour remaining sauce over all.

Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.


Do you see that "exported from mastercook" message at the top? Mastercook was one of my birthday presents this year. I love that program. I had it years (and several computers) ago. It was a great way to keep all of my recipes organized and it was a cinch to share recipes with people when they requested them. I used to print the recipes out and put them in a binder... but now that my computer is in the kitchen, I don't think I'll print them out... just pull them up on the computer and just read it from the screen.

Okay... now on to my request.... since we'll be doing a crockpot meal every Wednesday... I would love to try some new recipes if anyone has any favorites they would like to share. Thanks!

Well... I guess I should get moving today! Later!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

back to the park

We went back to the park again today... but the kids were being beastly so we only lasted about 30 minutes before we had to leave. Tomorrow they start their classes... Clara's taking dance (ballet) and Alex is taking chess. We'll see how those go. Hopefully some time apart from each other will do them some good.

The highlight of my day was watching most of 84 Charing Cross Road on On Demand today. That truly is one of my all time favorite movies and books.... I can't even begin to count how many times I've seen or read it. If you haven't done either... you must and then let me know what you think.

Okay... I'm rather boring today so I'm heading to bed... just one pic from today to post...


Monday, January 01, 2007

our first day of the new year...

okay... the slide show isn't working properly... I'll watermark the photos and post them tomorrow!