July 28, 2009

Not Possible

For the past month, I've been randomly grabbing my stomach flab. I've hoped that gaging the size of my waistline would result in more trips to the gym. You see, I have to fit into a bridesmaid dress this weekend - a bridesmaid dress I was measured for in March. I don't think my weight has changed but I also know I didn't work out nearly as much as I'd planned to. I am second guessing how well this dress will fit. I just hope the poor woman who made it doesn't have to spend any serious amount of time altering it.

I went to gym yesterday and hoped on the scale. It had been a while since I'd done this,so I was fully expecting to weigh in at "why did you eat so much cheesecake this past month." Much to my surprise the scale said I'd weighed five pounds less. So in the past month of sporadic gym visits and no serious change in my diet I've lost five pounds. Huh? I don't trust it. And I think I'll let my dress fitting on Wednesday be the determining factor of my weight gain or loss.

July 26, 2009

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

I dream in photos now. I woke up Saturday morning to remember the tail end of a dream where I was shooting with one of my favorite photographers. I don't remember much of the dream now, just the fact that I was shooting with someone who's style and clarity I hope to emulate some day.

It must have helped though because I had my second paying photo gig this morning. And if do say so myself, I think it went really well. This photo shoot was the result of the first maternity shoot I did, the one that I can pretty much now say started it all.

We went to the same location, but this park never ceases to amaze me. There are just so many good back drops, and the couple I shot was willing to wander all over it and pose for me. They are an adorable couple and were incredibly good sports, even though at one point I asked them to lay on the ground and then changed my mind.

I have to confess at points during the shoot, I was having trouble getting my camera to meter the light correctly. This was my first shoot under sunny skies and that sun at points was really playing tricks on my camera. I kept looking down to see my shots were completely underexposed (too dark, for the non-photo nerds). So I'd correct my camera settings until they looked right on my screen. It wasn't until I got home that I learned I can't always trust my camera's screen. It will almost always make my photos look darker than they appear, especially on incredibly sunny days like today. Sure some of my shots were underexposed but not to the degree my camera's screen showed.

I am heading back to Michigan on Tuesday for my best friend's wedding, so I began to tell the couple I'd edit all the photos today and get them a CD tomorrow. They thought that was absurd given how nice of a day it was. They said they could wait a week or so for the photos. Um, did I mention how awesome they are? They are awesome. I did promise to send them five pictures just to hold them over. But once I started editing, I had a hard time stopping myself.
These are some of the ones I sent them.
Can I just say this photo was their idea, and it may be my favorite of the bunch.

This was my attempt to make the sun work with me. It wasn't exactly what I wanted but I like the effect nonetheless.
And these photos folks are the stuff my dreams are made of.

July 24, 2009

City Girl In The Country

I really am a city girl now. That's what living in Chicago for five years will do. It's not that I've forgotten everything I learned in Girl Scouts. I'm sure if necessary I can still read a compass, build a proper fire and make a mean hobo stew. But I don't really have an occasion or reason to do any of those things. I live in a city. I work in a city and when I travel it's usually to visit other cities.

But man I do love nature. So when I finally get out of my urban jungle it's so relaxing to just sit and watch nature and be. I feel like this every time we go to Mike's sister's place in Wisconsin. She and her family live in what can only be described as the middle of nowhere. They have corn and rolling pastures and more cows for neighbors than people. When Mike and I head up there it's to be as outdoorsy as possible. We always bring our bikes, provided it's not winter.
We biked a little bit last weekend while we were there. The Wisconsin "400" State trail isn't far from their place. We drove to the trail head and biked for a bit, stopping of course so I could take photos here and there.




The trail is a set of train tracks that was converted over to trails. Along the route are old tunnel passages. This particular one that we went through was close to a mile long. We had to walk our bike's through because it's pitch black on the inside. We had nothing but my little light on my bike to illuminate our path. And Mike, at request of his nephew, discovered the openings were good for climbing.


The weather actually wasn't the greatest on Saturday (60s and rainy), but Sunday was beautiful. In between rounds of baseball, I grabbed my camera and snapped shots of the views.

You certainly can't get photos like that in the city.

July 21, 2009

Whole Lotta Love

I live in a musical house. I have my violin. Mike has his guitar. One of us is usually playing our respective instrument at some point on any given evening. And some nights, we'll play together. Not actually together, not as in we know and rehearse songs together. We will each play our own instrument and our own music in a different room. It's a real treat for our neighbors. Bach and Led Zeppelin at the same time!

Mike is a lot better about just picking up his guitar and playing than I am with my violin. His instrument is always sitting in the open in our second bedroom/computer room, whereas mine lives tucked away under our bed. I am not usually surprised when I'm watching TV, brushing my teeth or loading the dishwasher to hear his strumming a room away.

I know most of the songs in his repertoire, but every once in a while he'll surprise me. A few months ago I was vacuuming in the living room and could see him strumming away and singing in the bedroom. I turned off the vacuum and heard he was singing a little ditty called "Amy is Vacuuming." You may not have heard it before so let me tell you how it goes.

Amy is vacuuming. (high chord)
Amy is vacuuming. (low chord)
Amy is vacuuming. (high chord)
Amy is vacuuming. (low chord)

Catchy. I'm sure you'll be singing it all day.

I often try to make jokes at Mike's expense for having grown up in Texas because really, that's all I've got. He constantly makes fun of Michigan knowing by doing so he's demeaning where I'm from. Since Mike was quite the nomad in his youth, I gravitate to Texas being it was the place he spent a considerable amount of his formative years.

Tonight as we were squabbling over some little insignificant nothing, I went to my old throwback and called him a hick from Texas. "Oh yeah," he said. "Well Texas is doing better than any other state these days. Unlike that Michigan."

And then he proceeded to sing me a song called "Shitter Michigan."

When his song was over, I complained the he's always mean, and he's the meanest of the mean meanies and why does he have to be so mean. So he said he'd sing a song about whatever I wanted. I requested a song about how I'm so pretty and how much he loves Oscar. Then he very sweetly sang me a song about how my eyes are so blue and how I'm the girl for him, but I have this cat, and he's oh so fat. And his name is Oscar. But he never once mentioned how much he loved Oscar.

Songwriting may not be his greatest talent, but at least he's honest.

July 19, 2009

Pastoral

In keeping with the theme of my past few posts, I thought I should let you know this is where I spent my weekend.


Yeah. It was nice. I hope you enjoyed your weekend as well.

More photos to follow.

July 12, 2009

How It Should Be


Chicago is a summer city. Its residents wait out endless months of cold, snow, rain and 4:30 p.m. sunsets. And when it's all over, we pat ourselves on the back and head outdoors. Since Chicagoans live for the summer, every single weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day has at least one outdoor street festival.

When I first moved to the city, I went to as many street fests as possible, trying to hit up at least one per weekend. In fact my very first weekend in Chicago, I walked down to my neighborhood's art fair and hung out for the afternoon. I considered it one of my first real city experiences. I've been to the taste, I've lived through the Air and Water Show (twice) and have even ran through the gay pride parade with my nephews in tow. The festivals were fun the first few years, but they started to wear on me.

Most are the same formula with very little variation on the theme: Crowd of 20 somethings + pricey beer + greasy food + cover or 90's one hit wonder band = good time? Each fest centers around its own theme, but most of the time it's inconsequential to anyone's experience. For instance, I can guarantee you that 95 percent of people who have attended the Sheffield Garden Walk have not observed a single flower there. I also can guarantee that 95 percent of the people who've attended the Sheffield Garden Walk have consumed at least one alcoholic beverage. The result of the street fest formula is that they most often turn into drunken meet markets. AKA, not my cup of tea.
I can say with absolute certainty though that I have a new favorite street fest.
Mike and I spent literally all day Saturday at the Folk & Roots Festival. This fest is put on by the Old Town School of Folk Music, which is the same place I took fiddle classes last year. We went to the fest because I wanted to see the Midwest Fiddle Championships. And man there were some amazing fiddlers.


We stayed beyond the championships thought because the next act was so good - father/daughter duo Day and Reyna Gellert. Also, amazing fiddle players.
And then the band after them, Cedric Watson & the Bijou Creole, was really good too. They were a Cajun band that really got the crowd moving.

By that point, we had friends who were planning on heading up to the fest to see the last act of the night. It became official. Mike and I were in it for the long haul.
We left for a bit to get out of the sun, get food in our stomachs and then sat on a park bench to regroup. It was exhausting (the good kind of exhausting) being outside in the sun all day dancing to good music.


Finally, we met our friends and headed back to the fest for the closing act, Black Joe Louis and The Honeybears.

It was truly a Chicago summer street fest at its best.

July 6, 2009

Voyeur

Sunday was a beautiful day, so I started doing the thing I do on Sunday afternoons. My mind kept telling me I had spent way too much time indoors. I needed to get out and after going a little stir crazy, I told Mike "I need to get out of here." He agreed. All my pacing was driving him nuts. He asked what I was going to do. "I'm going on a bike ride." "Where," he asked. "I don't know but I got to get out of here." So I did.

I hopped on my bike and pedaled to the lake shore path - which is honestly one of the best things about living in the city during the summer. I went north. I went as far north as I could go, and I wound up on this beach.

I don't know the name of this beach. I had never been there, didn't even know it existed. I am one of the few because I can tell you it was a pretty popular destination Sunday afternoon. While sitting by the sand, soaking up the sun, my sister called. We talked for about an hour before I made my way back to my bike.

I rode again, this time heading south, even past the street that would take me home. This time, I wound up at a sizable skate park.

I tried not to seem like the random, crazy lady with a camera, but dude, I totally was. I couldn't help it. I wanted to take pictures there. The skaters were an interesting bunch to shoot, the park was full of good angles and I like getting practice with fast moving subjects. And they were fast.

July 5, 2009

This Makes Me Really Happy

According to my BMI, I've always been "overweight." Sure, I always think I could stand to lose 5 to 10 pounds, but that's just because I'm a girl. What girl wouldn't like to weigh less? But to have some supposedly reliable calculation tell me I'm outright "overweight" never sat very well with me.

That's why this article brings me great joy. Really 10 reasons why I should ignore my BMI? That's generous. I only needed one.

Does any one out there fall into the "normal" BMI range? I don't think I've ever met a single person who has.

A View From The Top

Yesterday was a bit of a wash in terms of the Fourth of July weather. Our plans to go to Lake Michigan were thwarted by the overcast skies and showers. They lingered throughout the day, having begun around noon (when we originally planned to go to the lake) and lasting until 6 p.m., about the time our guests started to leave.

We rolled with the punches, and instead of going to the lake our friends came over to my and Mike's place. We grilled, talked and I made everyone eat the food I prepared. I am happy to report my dessert went over very well. Score!

It was a good thing the rain finally did end. Our original plans had included watching the fireworks from our roof. A few years ago, before Mike and I began co-habitating, he watched the fireworks from his roof. I remember him sending me picture messages from his phone that night. It looked like he was sitting in the middle of a fire fight in Baghdad.

Our three story unit puts us at or above most buildings in our neighborhood. On a clear night, we can see from downtown all the way to the north shore suburbs. It was a little cloudy last night, so the view wasn't clear enough to see the fireworks at Navy Pier, but that doesn't mean there weren't fireworks to see.

If anything, the hard thing about watching the fireworks was that we missed so many. We kept constantly turning 360 degrees, and it seemed like every time I turned I'd miss the large firework right behind me.


These videos don't do the real thing justice. They make the action seem like it was much further from us than it was. First up, here's me looking to the east. You can't see them in this video but there were people lighting off fireworks from the parking lot directly below us too.

video
And while looking east, we were missing the fireworks to the west. There were so many that it became hard to tell what might be a show versus any average Joe setting off fireworks he got in Indiana. Thankfully we had Shawn, who became our official "show" spotter.
video
All in all, it was a free show that didn't disappoint. Well unless you ask my cat Oscar, who spent the night hiding under our bed.

July 4, 2009

A First for the Fourth

It's been a while since I documented trying to make a new dish. Given the last time I tried was Christmas, I thought it fitting to try and document something new for the Fourth.

Mike and I are headed down to lake Michigan tomorrow (fingers crossed no rain!) for a cook out with some friends. We've got the burgers, chicken, fruit for fruit salad and I'm making pico de gallo tomorrow. I determined we needed a dessert. (I swear make more than desserts. I must think documenting dessert is more fun.) So after looking at Epicurious, my Betty Crocker Cook Book and magazine recipes I've clipped, I settled on Philadelphia Peaches and Cream No Bake Cheesecake from the Kraft food magazine.

It's not exactly health food, but I don't care. It's the Fourth - a time for fireworks and fat. The thing I love about Kraft recipes is that while they may not be health conscience (think Velveeta as an ingredient), they are always pretty easy to make. There are only seven ingredients in this recipe. And don't worry, I'll give healthier suggestions in parenthesis.
This recipe starts with (low fat) graham crackers. I put two cups of the crackers into a plastic bag and started smashing them for the crust. Once they seemed fine enough, I put the crumbs in a measuring cup. I was shy of the two cups I needed, so I repeated with the smashing and the plastic bag with a few more crackers.

I then put the smashed crackers in the bottom of a 13x9 pan, added a 1/4 cup of sugar and stirred.


Once the graham cracker and sugar mixture was spread in the bottom of the pan, I poured 6 tablespoons of melted butter (margarine) over the top. I then spread around the mixture and made sure it was pressed into the bottom of the pan. With this part of the recipe done, I put it in the refrigerator to cool while I made the "cheesecake."
I started by putting four 8 oz. packages of softened (light) cream cheese in a large bowl. I added 3/4 cup of sugar to the cream cheese.

Next I beat the two together with a mixer until it was blended and smooth.


For the flavor, the packet of peach Jell-o came next. I poured the dry Jell-o powder on top of the cream cheese/sugar mixture. I then stirred it with a wooden spoon.

Next up was the can of peaches (in light syrup).
I took them out of the can and sliced them so they were less than whole but not chopped. I wanted them to be smaller chunks in the cream cheese mixture but not so fine that they weren't visible.
The peaches went on top of the cream cheese mixture, and on top of that a whole tub of (light, sugar free) whipped cream.


After I added these ingredients, I stirred the entire mixture really well until it was a consistency that looked right. I can't really determine if it was right because this is the first time I'm making this recipe. All I can say is it looked good and mixed, so it was time for me to get the graham crackers again.

I took the pan out of the fridge and spread the cream cheese mixture over the graham cracker crust until it was smooth and no crust was showing.

The last and final step was to cover the pan and put the entire mixture in the refrigerator.

The recipe calls for it to refrigerate for four hours. Since I made this at 11 p.m. tonight for lunch tomorrow, I'm just going to let it sit overnight. I'm hoping it won't mess with the recipe. I will let you know how it goes over tomorrow with Mike and the friends I'm trying it out on. My only hope is that it causes no one's face to do this.

Photo credit goes to Mike and the very powerful flash on my camera.