Monday, August 31, 2009

162/365 Comfort food

There's nothing like soup as comfort food when you're ill. I fixed a pot of vegetable and noodle soup this week, keeping a few days' worth of leftovers in the refrigerator, and storing three servings in the freezer for future dinners.

Now that's what I call a frozen dinner! Homemade, healthy, inexpensive... sounds great. And it doesn't come with suspicious chicken on the side.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 400 in mixed lighting

161/365 That time of year

I thought it was allergies at first, but when my sinuses stopped up and my nose started running, I knew I had a cold.

I don't know what it is about this time of year, but I seem to always get a cold right around Labor Day. It happened last year, too. When I was still in school, I attributed it to school being back in session. Everyone had been separated for the summer, but then you're crammed into a classroom in each other's space, and that means germs get passed around.

I'm no longer in school, but I work with oodles of people who have kids who are, so the germs may just be moving from one location to another. Regardless of how it happens, this is the time of year that I seem to catch it.

My cold this year was bad enough that I had to miss the Junior Miss program on Saturday night. I was quite bummed to have put in the work all week helping them practice, then miss the final culmination of all that hard work. It's the first Junior Miss local program I've missed in eight years.

Better luck next year, I hope!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 250 in natural light near a window

160/365 A beautiful new lap quilt

I admit I'm spoiled. I've become accustomed to having handmade quilts, crafted with quality fabrics, using cotton batting, and finished with a truly artistic quilting design.

Blame it on my mom. Now that she's introduced me to this kind of quilt, I can't imagine having anything else!

She just finished a lap quilt for me that incorporates the colors in my living room, and I have to say, it's gorgeous! Yes, I'm biased, but even when you correct for that, it's still beautiful.

It's the perfect size -- big enough to cover me from chin to toe when I'm snuggled up with a book on the couch, and small enough that I'm not wrestling with extra feet of fabric that you find in a full-size bed quilt.

The only thing I can think of that will improve it is to make it well-loved and broken in after running through the washing machine a few times.

Some people prefer for their quilts to remain like new and a little stiff. But I'm the opposite: I want my quilts to be soft, malleable, and ready to conform to every book-reading, movie-watching, or nap-taking position. I plan to get plenty of use out of this one!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 1000 in fluorescent lighting

Sunday, August 30, 2009

159/365 Friday night lights

When a home football game is happening at my old high school, you can see it from miles away.

The glow of the lights is easily visible, which you can see above the trees in the middle of this photo. It makes you realize how difficult it is to see -- and catch -- a ball if you're on the field and you look directly toward a light.

If you're into football, I think approaching and driving toward that glow is kind of exciting, even if I'm not at the game itself. What I find especially cool is hearing the band from miles away. Nothing says America quite like that!

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at about 9:30 p.m.

158/365 Dress rehearsal

The Junior Miss girls planned on a long night on Thursday, as we did a dress rehearsal from beginning to end.

With only six contestants, the night was mercifully short compared to the year we had 17 individual talent performances to practice.

This year we had two flutists, one singer, one tap dancer, one cheerleader, and one hip hop dancer. It was the first time in several years that we didn't have any humorous skits or lip-syncing routines.

While preference is usually given to contestants who have obviously practiced over time and honed their talent, I respect the girls who don't have a traditional on-stage talent and have the confidence to pull together something unique. I'd much rather see that creativity than hear the excuses from those who say, "I don't have a talent."

It takes guts to perform on stage in the bright lights. Not everyone can do it.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/4.5 at ISO 1000

157/365 A little fun is always good

Every class of Junior Miss participants mingles differently. Some tend to separate into smaller groups, some contain contestants who don't get along (not surprising for high school girls, right?), and others mesh well as a group and have a lot of fun together.

The last description best fits this year's class. I was really pleased to see how well they got along. They didn't break out into cliquish segments, but stayed as a cohesive, friendly group of six all week.

Their relatively small size -- just six girls -- is certainly part of the reason, but it also says something about the girls.

It made teaching and directing them a challenge, because I had to mandate run-throughs with no chatting on stage every so often, but more than anything, I was happy to get to know a fun, friendly group.

When they're having fun, those of us running the program are having fun, too.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/3.5 at ISO 1600 in mixed lighting

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

156/365 Discarded heels

During the week of practice, the Junior Miss contestants often had to switch back and forth between tennis shoes (to practice their on-stage fitness routine) and high heels (for the portions that required they wear a dress).

You might not think that wearing heels during practice would be necessary, and they always complain about it, but when you get up on that stage -- which always tends to be a little slippery -- you realize that it does take some getting used to.

And it's better to feel silly during a few nights' worth of practicing than to step out and fall flat during the show itself.

Even with hours of practice, this can happen:

How embarrassing! I suppose that's really where the mantra "just smile and keep going" comes in handy.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/4 at ISO 1600

155/365 Local Junior Miss

It's Junior Miss time again, which means my weeknights this week have been filled with practice at the local middle school.

I've been volunteering with my high school's program since the year I participated as a contestant my senior year. It's a great program that carries a message I can believe in.

This year, we have six contestants. They began learning their fitness routine on Monday night, taking a much-needed break afterward to practice a fun opening song. They'll be singing it as a group a cappella to set the tone for Saturday's competition.

We'll all be exhausted at the end of this week!

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/4 at ISO 1600

Sunday, August 23, 2009

154/365 Handling jalapenos

You know that pico de gallo I made over the weekend?

It was so good on Saturday, we couldn't resist making more of it on Sunday. And a word to the wise: eat it fresh, because it's not as good after it's been sitting for a day or two. The strong individual flavors of onion, jalapeno, and cilantro, don't blend especially well after time.

Having read up on handling jalapenos beforehand, we found out that the pros (i.e. the people who've learned from negative experience) recommend wearing gloves while cleaning and cutting the peppers. Otherwise you're liable to end up with burning hands.

I'm not one to second guess that idea, so we played it safe. But we did live on the wild side and leave some seeds intentionally.

I'd take some more right now!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 800 in mixed lighting.

153/365 Pico de gallo

I'm quite behind on posts this week due to a very busy schedule. I apologize if you're sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting anxiously for new photos! Next week should be back to normal.

Over the weekend, Mom and I used some fresh garden tomatoes, jalapenos from a friend's garden, and made pico de gallo for the first time! It was a beautiful sight in the bowl, filled with rich colors. And it tasted mighty good, too.

Where did we get the recipe? Pioneer Woman. She mentioned on her blog that this recipe came from a Mexican friend, so I thought it would be a good place to start for authenticity.

And if you love guacamole, once you've made the pico de gallo, take the next step and make homemade guac!

I could eat this stuff every day. It makes my mouth water now just remembering how great it was.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 320 near a window in natural light.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

152/365 Exotic animals and butterflies

Aren't days off from work wonderful? Even if you love your job, and even if you get a full weekend break every week, having a day off is always a little sweeter.

My most recent days off have been spent working on household projects. But on Friday, I spent the day with Mom doing completely fun things instead.

We started our day with some specific shopping at a restaurant supply store in downtown Indianapolis, vowing afterward that next time we'll take a longer list of items to buy.

After that we had lunch at one of my favorite downtown eateries, Hoaglin's on Massachusetts Avenue. It's a great little cafe with ever-changing local art and always-good food options. We wandered through some nearby shops on Mass Ave after lunch, then headed to the White River Gardens to see the annual butterfly exhibit.

We were a little surprised, though, when we learned that the Zoo and Gardens have now eliminated the option to buy separate tickets for the two venues. Now it's all or nothing for $14.

We didn't want to pay $14 apiece just to see the butterflies, so we took an unplanned walk through the zoo to get our money's worth.

The beautiful weather brought out a lot of activity in the deserts area.

I really wanted to see the meerkats, which were a new exhibit last year or the year before. I'd heard they were an animated and lively bunch. Plus, who wouldn't want to see the living, breathing version of Timon?

Well, they may not have been feeling lively on Friday, but they certainly made me laugh. I think I'd call the activity of these two "chilling."

After doing a quick trip around the zoo, Mom and I meandered over to the White River Gardens butterfly exhibit. If you know me at all, you won't be surprised to see that I couldn't resist this stunning bird of paradise flower.

The actual butterflies that flitted around the garden were beautiful, though their population seemed smaller in number than the last time I visited.

I stood photographing this orange one as it stood sunning itself on a leaf, but I love this shot of it beginning to take flight.

This blue and black butterfly was crawling all over this flower, from one side to the other, enjoying the sweet nectar. I love the striking blue stripes on his wings.

I'd say it was a great way to spend my day off!

Camera: Canon 40D, butterfly and flower photos with 60mm macro lens. Variety of manual settings for a mix of exposures.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

151/365 New kids on the block

I have a great job.

It's great on a regular day, but on Thursday afternoon, we had a pitch-in party celebrating and welcoming all new employees who'd joined in the last year, complete with outdoor games and a session of on-the-spot questioning.

I was considered one of the "newbies" since I've been with the company since the beginning of this year.

What happens when you mix an art director with a cornhole board? A perfectly painted board immediately recognizable as an ear of corn:

Outdoor games, in my book, wouldn't be complete without a rousing game of badminton. I've heard rumors that this net gets set up on a regular basis, but I haven't seen it quite yet.

I'd say this was a great way to officially welcome all of us to the company! Why don't we do this every week?

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 100 and 320 at about 5:00 p.m.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

150/365 Road closed

It's been said that there are two seasons in Indiana: winter and construction.

Well, right now, it's definitely construction season. I feel like I can't drive in a straight line in any direction without being forced to take a detour. And my car ends up coated in a fine layer of dirt and cement dust.

I had just found a new, predictable route to work, too, and this week I had to alter it. Again.


Will it ever be done?

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at about 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

149/365 An upcoming DIY project

I have a long list of projects I want to try, and one of them is a mosaic tile piece.

During my trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado last summer, I fell in love with a big, decorative mirror that had beautiful mosaic work around the frame.

I would have bought it if it wouldn't have set me back a whopping $750.

After that, I resolved I'd give mosaic tiling a try myself. A friend in college made the piece in this photo for me, and it was her first try, so I'm sure I can do it.

There's a funny story behind the creation of this gift. At the time, we lived together in our sorority house, but just down the hall from each other. I accidentally walked into her room as she was just starting to work on it. (Her roommate was supposed to be the lookout, but failed miserably.)

She handled the surprise marvelously, though, by quickly telling me she was making it for a different friend. I chatted with her for at least an hour while she worked, then actually rode with her to Michael's to get more tiles when she ran out.

My jaw dropped and we had a good laugh a week later when I unwrapped the piece I'd watched her create!

Having seen the supplies, the time required, and the process itself, I'm on a mission to find a mirror secondhand that I can tile and decorate. For less than $750, of course.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/60s, f/2.8 at ISO 1600 in natural light by a window at about 8:15 p.m.

Monday, August 17, 2009

148/365 Namaste

I've been practicing yoga for several years, at home with the guidance of an instructor on a DVD. My favorite is Rodney Yee, though Karen Voight has a great routine, too.

Just recently I tried my first in-person yoga class, and I'm completely hooked!

The instructor is experienced and encouraging, but the best part is the class is challenging and changes every week. My muscles have been quite sore in the days following each class, which to me is always a sign of a good workout.

I just have to shake my head when people -- who've never tried it -- roll their eyes and claim yoga isn't a workout. It requires a different kind of strength than can be achieved with standard weight lifting, and though it moves fluidly from one pose to the next, it's definitely not easy.

Last week I balanced in a headstand -- and attempted a handstand -- for the first time since I was a kid, and I'll tell you from that experience that holding up adult body weight is much more difficult!

One aspect of yoga that I enjoy, and seems somewhat counterintuitive, is that it becomes an increasingly better workout as you get stronger and more flexible. That challenge keeps me coming back for more.

And that keeps life interesting.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 320

Sunday, August 16, 2009

147/365 State Fair fare

Call me strange, but I don't look forward to eating at county and state fairs. I know dozens of people who can't wait to get their hands on cotton candy, breaded tenderloins, and piles of fried food. Sure, it's a once-a-year treat, but it just doesn't interest me.

I like elephant ears, though I haven't had one in years. If I had one now, I don't think I'd be able to enjoy it, feeling guilty about the fact that I was just eating fried, sugared dough.

I like cotton candy, though I can take it or leave it.

The thought of fried Twinkies, pizza, Oreos, and the like doesn't even sound remotely good to me.

But this year, I wanted to try something I haven't had since I was a kid -- salt water taffy. And the place to get true, freshly made taffy is the state fair, right?

My review? Tasty! Mom and I bought a bag before the Keith Urban concert, had a few pieces while we waited for the concert to start, then split the remainder of the bag afterward. I felt like a true fair-goer.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 160 in the natural light by a window at about 5:00 p.m.

146/365 The amazing Keith Urban

I don't go to many concerts. I usually spend my big-ticket money on Broadway tours and theater performances instead of music concerts.

In my lifetime, I've been to just three of what I would consider "big" concerts. The first, a gift for my sixteenth birthday, was Ricky Martin. Talk about a high-energy concert! Definitely enjoyable.

The second was just last April, when Mom and I saw Michael Buble at Conseco Fieldhouse. A fantastic concert, well worth the ticket.

And now, I can add a third to my list: Keith Urban! The part that's a little sad is the fact that I've been a fan of country music for as long as I can remember, but last night was the first time I've ever attended a country-music concert. I grew up listening to it, my radio alarm has been tuned to WFMS since I was in elementary school, and no matter how much people look down on it, I continue to love it.

Well, if you're going to go, go all out, right? The part that truly made this opportunity unique is the fact that I won these tickets in a radio contest! It wasn't until I got to Will Call to pick them up that I found out where we would be sitting.

Fifteenth row. Awesome!

That meant I had the chance to get some great photos, even if it meant standing up all night long.

Jason Aldean opened the concert. He's a rising star in the industry, with some recent number-one hits.

Many people in the crowd actually bought their tickets to see Jason Aldean, not Keith Urban.

I don't know what's wrong with them, but to each his own, I suppose.

Jason Aldean was good, though not fantastic. I don't think he's headliner material yet, but he certainly has plenty of fans already.

I, on the other hand, have been a fan of Keith Urban's since before he made it big. He's one of the most talented guitarists in country music, he's an excellent singer, and when I buy one of his albums, I'm confident that it's one I'll enjoy listening to from beginning to end.

If I were to name my favorite country artist, he would be it. And that made last night's concert even sweeter.

He -- and his bandmates -- put on a fantastic show. The icing on the cake was the gratitude and appreciation he showed for his fans. He made multiple trips into the audience, and not just quick little jaunts into the fourth row.

He sang one whole song at the front of the grandstand, which started behind a fence past the first 30ish rows of seats. When he got to the mike, the first thing he said, laughing, was, "So, who has the good seats now?"

Through the rest of the concert he made more trips to the far edges of the grandstand, singing for the people on the fringes of the "cheap seats." He spent verses in the middle of the aisle at ground level, where we were, and when a woman fell in the crowd's enthusiasm to get closer, he helped her up and gave her a hug on his way.

The night was fantastic, higher than my expectations could have ever been. And it makes me feel even better about supporting this fantastic artist.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/5.6 at ISO 200 (first photo) and 1/80s, f/4.5 at ISO 1250 (second and third photos), between 7:30 and 11:00 p.m.

145/365 Thank you, WFMS!

I've been a devoted listener of WFMS since at least second grade.

That's a long time to be a devotee, so it seems fitting that I should be rewarded occasionally, doesn't it?

While I was driving to work on Monday morning, the morning DJs played a game during which they played snippets of three individual celebrities talking, in normal conversation. Each snippet lasted around two seconds. They call it the "Secret Stars."

There are times when I don't have a clue about any of them, or I can only guess one or two. But this time, I knew all three. I waited while caller after caller got the answers wrong, and then I picked up my phone to give it a try, expecting the usual busy signal.

But it rang. It rang about five times, then the lead DJ answered and said, "Hello, WFMS, who's this?"

I gave my name, identified the three celebrities (Adam Sandler, Sharon Osbourne, and Eddie Murphy), and won! I couldn't believe it!

And the best part? I hadn't even really been paying attention to what I was playing for. And it wasn't until Thursday, when I heard them play the game again, that I knew: Two tickets to the Jason Aldean sound-check party before his concert at the State Fair. His new CD.

And, one of the best prizes I could have ever hoped for -- two tickets to Jason Aldean's concert with Keith Urban!

What a fantastic way to start the week!

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at about 12:30 p.m.

144/365 Indiana sweet corn

Mmm, Indiana sweet corn. It's so wonderfully tender, sweet, and juicy. Even the Pioneer Woman was raving about a batch of Indiana sweet corn this week, and she lives all the way in Oklahoma.

I can't say that I've ever had corn in any other state for the sake of comparison, but I do know this is excellent.

Hey, Indiana is known for its corn, so it should be good, right? If we're going to be labeled as rednecks who live surrounded by corn fields, at least let the corn be tasty. Personally, I'd rather be surrounded by corn fields than, say, cotton. Or tobacco. Or Brussels sprouts.

I'll take my fresh-from-the-garden corn on the cob over those any day.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 400 in the light from a window at about 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

143/365 Handyman

I realize that many daughters think their dads are capable of hanging the moon, but I think in my case, it's especially true.

As the years pass by, as I've grown older, I've become more and more aware of how good Dad is at solving problems around the house. Not only does he have an impressive green thumb, but he's been able to fix and maintain things with latches, screws, motors, levers...

A recent example: my bathroom fan wasn't really working, and its ancient, circular installation meant it was allowing air from the attic to seep directly down into the bathroom (smelly and cold in the winter). When it became apparent that not many bathroom fans are made for circular holes anymore, Dad bought a new fan, switched the motor out of it and into the old fittings, and rigged up a damper that would allow the air to be vented out of the bathroom but not from the attic back into the room.

Brilliant, and it works!

Then, in that process, he realized the attic air wasn't circulating properly, so he figured out the problem and set out to replace the soffit vents on the outside of the house. (Which he's doing in this photo.) And the process continues from one project to the next.

I'm amazed by the ways he thinks to fix something, which often involve thinking outside the box. It makes me very proud to have a dad who does more than go to work, come home, and sit and watch TV.

And Chase seems to have inherited those fix-it genes. They're both handy guys to have around!

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at about 8:00 p.m.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

142/365 Evening mammatus clouds

In total contrast with the mood of the previous post, how is this for ominous and foreboding?

On my drive home from work last night, an evening during which scattered thunderstorms popped up all over Indiana, I looked up and saw these mammatus clouds on the northwest edge of a storm. They look a bit like upside-down mashed potatoes in the sky.

Mammatus clouds are one of the earliest odd cloud formations I remember being able to identify. When associated with thunderstorms, they sometimes signify a particularly strong cell, since it takes quite a bit of turbulence to incite their formation.

Yesterday's storms didn't cause any significant damage and weren't noticeably strong, but the atmosphere was obviously rocking!

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 looking southeast at about 5:30 p.m.

Monday, August 10, 2009

141/365 Soft summer green

I have no idea what kind of bush these little flower buds belong to, but they're growing in the flower bed in front of my house and are quite cute!

I first noticed the soft, delicate leaves, but then, with my trusty macro lens in hand, I turned my attention to the teeny buds and love the result.

Each bud is about the size of a BB (as in BB gun) or, if you prefer, the plastic head of a sewing pin.

I love the monochromatic, watercolor-like quality of this photo. It looks soft and peaceful. It's the perfect end to a summer day!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 400 at about 7:00 p.m.

140/365 A veteran's passion

My grandfathers were and are both WWII veterans. My paternal grandfather has been gone since I was in elementary school, so I didn't really get a chance to hear any of his stories. My maternal grandfather, on the other hand, is still here and thriving after nearly 89 years.

But Grandpa is one of those veterans who doesn't relate many war stories. He's not one to boast or take credit for much of anything, whether it's being a decorated veteran or helping to tile a kitchen back-splash.

But when it comes to the American flag, his true patriotic stripes show themselves.

A few years ago, one of his neighbors -- and not one he spoke to on a regular basis -- had a sorry-looking, worn, tattered American flag displayed in front of his house.

This mistreatment of the flag really bothered Grandpa, to the point where he conspired with one of his fellow vets to approach the neighbor and offer to properly dispose of the flag for him. I don't see Grandpa get worked up over many things, but this did it for him.

Ever since then, it's made me more aware of the number of tattered flags forced to hang at their post until long after their shifts should end. While I don't expect everyone to have the amount of passion as my grandfather, we should probably take a little more pride in properly caring for our national symbol.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/1600s, f/2.8 at ISO 100 at about 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

139/365 The profound beauty of sunflowers

I've been waiting for these sunflowers in my aunt's garden to bloom, and boy, are they ever!

Just walking around the perimeter, photographing them from each direction, I found it interested to see that in each phase of growth, the sunflower heads looked very different -- almost like they were from different varieties of sunflowers.

The top photo is in the most advanced stage of growth among these three photos.

The photo below, of the bud not yet opened, reminds me of a venus flytrap or Audrey, the monster plant in Little Shop of Horrors. Don't you think those fine white hairs look like teeth? A little creepy...
And finally, these heads are fairly young. So pretty!

As I often do, I looked up sunflowers on Wikipedia to learn a little more about them. And if I found them interesting before then, I think they're even more so now.

A couple things in particular grabbed me: (1) in the bud stage, sunflowers are heliotropic -- meaning they move to follow the sun across the sky through the day; and (2) the beautiful pattern of spirals that you can see in the middle calculate as Fibonacci numbers. Apparently this allows the most efficient packing of seeds into the space. (And it makes me think of the DaVinci Code.)

Mother nature is amazing, isn't she?

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/500 and 1/640s, f/2.8 at ISO 100 at about 7:00 p.m. in open shade and direct sunlight.

138/365 A lily by any other name

I set out to photograph the surprise lilies that have popped up in the last week, but alas, they were past their prime. So I scooted a foot to the left and focused on these small yellow flowers instead.

Surprise lilies earned their name because they pop up on tall, thin stems, and bloom in pink bunches. What I find really funny is the alternate name they've been given -- Naked Ladies.

Until this last week, I had never heard that name, and I know my eyebrows shot up in surprise when I heard it. I see how the name fits, but for now, I'll just continue to call them Surprise Lilies.

These yellow flowers? I have no idea what they are. And I don't know any funny nicknames.

So we'll just have to appreciate them for being yellow and blooming.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 320 at about 7:30 p.m.

137/365 The things we go through

It doesn't matter how long I've been having my hair highlighted, I always feel silly when the foils are in and the cream is working its magic.

You have to admit it looks funny! It may be all the rage, and I wholeheartedly agree every time Nick Arrojo dyes a person's hair on What Not to Wear, but it still has to be one of the oddest looking beauty practices around.

I sure do like the results, though. I suppose that makes it worth the time spent wearing aluminum foil on my head.

The things we go through for fashion and beauty, right?

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 indoors in incandescent lighting.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

136/365 Loving a $5 deal

If there's one thing I can't seem to avoid, it's the $5 DVD bin/rack at Walmart and Target.

When I pass that display in the aisle, all my willpower goes right out the window, even when I'm pinching pennies and being very good about not buying things I just want. It's a powerful force.

I hear the voices in my head: "Five dollars! That's barely more than the cost of one rental! And if I buy it, I can watch it over and over and over -- so really, the cost per viewing is incredibly low! I'd be crazy not to look!"

My hand reaches out, and I have to dig. I have to see every single title on the rack or in the bin, even when it means digging shoulder-deep in piles of DVDs.

And I usually don't like the kind of shopping that involves digging.

To do this well, you have to have a measure of patience. Or a love of delayed gratification, take your pick. Sometimes it takes years for a movie to be discounted to $5. It has to go through the $19.99 new release wall, then the $10 bin and the $7 bin before it's considered lowly enough to just push off the shelf.

I've even started measuring my rating of movies by how much I'd pay for them. Some people use stars, I use sale racks:

Love love love the movie? I'll pay full price right when it's released so I can have it immediately and watch it over and over and over. It doesn't happen often.
Love the movie (with just one love)? It's worth $10.
Really like it? I'll take it for $7
Like it enough to pull out on a rainy day? $5 it is.
Don't like it at all? I won't even buy it at a garage sale for $0.25.

Over the last few years, because of this discount-movie obsession, I've built a great library of DVDs. I can look through the selection and name on one hand the number of DVDs I've bought full-price, when they're first released.

The number of movies I've bought for $5? That will take my fingers, toes, elbows...

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 400

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

135/365 One happy Bichon

Doesn't he look just plain happy? You can see him smiling, trotting along with his tail perked up.

Oh, to be a dog, with so few cares in the world. Able to find joy in just venturing out to the mailbox. Alongside Mommy, of course.

Because if Mommy isn't there by your side, the fun venture to the mailbox becomes a sprint on the way back to the house to get back to her.

If anyone speaks through body language, it's Buster. Tail up, tail down, smiling with tongue hanging out, anxious panting... when you've been around a dog long enough, you learn to recognize their emotions through cues like that.

Cats, though? I'm clueless. They seem much harder to read.

I like a smiling dog.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/250s, f/5.6 at ISO 100 at about 6:30 p.m.

Monday, August 3, 2009

134/365 Greener shopping

One of the "green" things I'm trying to do lately is use my own bags for shopping. The hardest part? Remembering to grab them in the car on the way into the store.

I have three random cloth tote bags I'm currently using, and this one was actually a gift in college from a girlfriend. She spent a summer in New York, and I flew out one weekend with another friend to visit. For the following Christmas, she printed a photo of NYC on iron-on paper, affixed it to the bag, and dressed it up a bit.

I've used this tote bag for just about everything under the sun. During college, it was my dedicated bag for transporting bathroom essentials back and forth between home and school. And now it's a grocery bag.

My other two shopping tote bags? A college alumni bag that came in my graduation package, and a small bag from TLC, the laser eye center where I had my corrective PRK surgery last year.

It's not the most cohesive set of bags, but they're free, they're reusable, and they cut down on the number of plastic bags that tend to pile up very quickly! Now I just need to tie a string to my finger so I remember them every time.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/60s, f/2.8 at ISO 400 in incandescent lighting

133/365 Customized embroidery on new aprons

When you get used to having custom-made clothes, quilts, clocks, artwork, etc., it makes it hard to go back to ready-made items.

Take my two new aprons, for example. The foundation is just a plain white pocketed apron bought at Sam's Club. But the personal touch? So much more valuable than anything I'd find in a store.

Mom and I (well, I mainly pointed and observed) embroidered these aprons on Sunday afternoon. On the first, we started with a sunshine-yellow thread.

Then added a cherry red.

And a cool aqua blue.

After that, we spiced it up with purple. You can start to see the final design, can't you?

Added some appropriately shaded latte-colored thread.

And finished it off with more red.

In the end I had a super cute tea cup embroidered onto the front of my new apron, and no one else in the world has one exactly like it.

See how that could be easy to get used to?

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 400

Sunday, August 2, 2009

132/365 Canning green beans

The sounds of summer have been hitting my ears quite often in the last week. Two in particular are cicadas humming in the trees and the pressure cooker rattling on the stove.

Mom's green beans are ready, so she spent the weekend canning them in perfect pints and quarts. It's hard, long work, especially since everything seems to ripen at once, but having garden-fresh vegetables in the dead of winter is worth it.

I helped as much as I could, but I'm usually shooed out of the kitchen when the pressure cooker heats up (for safety reasons). Before that stage, though, I love the bright green color of the beans before they go in the cooker. I swiped this jar for a few minutes to photograph it before it was due to be prepped and sealed.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 800 in natural light by a window.

131/365 Herbs and good debating

On Friday night, I got another chance to spend time with friends, just visiting and being together. They came bearing fresh herbs, coasters, canned beans and jam, and dessert. And loads of good conversation.

We discussed race and disorderly conduct, considered the ethics involved in freelance work, and spent at least 30 minutes debating the merits and meaning of The Biggest Loser. We were so busy talking -- until 11:30 p.m. -- that we never moved from the kitchen table to the living room.

That tells me I definitely need to make my kitchen a cozy space.

It was a great way to end the week. I can't wait for more nights just like it.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/60s, f/2.8 at ISO 800 under incandescent lighting.

130/365 Refreshing rainbow sherbet

Apparently I'm on a photographing-food kick, and what's better for that than dessert?

This one? Rainbow sherbet.

Yum, yum, yum. Cold, tangy, fruity, and three flavors in one carton. An excellent, refreshing dessert on a hot summer evening.

But then again, I think that about lots of ice cream flavors. I'll just play favorites for one night. Or two.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/60s, f/2.8 at ISO 800 in natural light by a window.