Monday, November 30, 2009

244/365 Squeaky clean and can't resist

As a general habit, I don't wear perfumes or girlie lotions that smell of anything from lavender fields to citrus groves. Straightforward soap and unscented lotions are the name of my game.

And yet, I can't resist these kinds of stores. They completely suck me in.

Bath & Body Works? Yep. I go in and all of a sudden have a huge desire to own everything that smells of vanilla or lemon. Of course I need yet another half-used hand lotion cluttering the top of my dresser.

B&BW is a common sight in central Indiana, so my really-don't-need-that self-control has become better about resisting the temptation to even enter.

But then we encountered a store called Lush in Chicago. Oy vey. Handmade soaps with natural ingredients being sold by ultra-enthusiastic hip female saleswomen. I was doomed. Just one of these stores exists in Indiana, and it's two hours away in Fort Wayne. But in Chicago, we passed three different locations in four days.

They have piles of fresh soap bricks stacked against one wall, which they'll cut to any size you like. They have tennis ball-sized "bath bombs" that bubble up, smell heavenly, and make your bathwater soft and luxurious. I don't even take baths -- but I want some!

Somehow I managed to escape with just three bars of soap for about $25. But I wanted to keep going and try every one, believe me. Lush's sales strategy is very interesting to watch -- in a store space the size of a large family kitchen, they easily had six sales reps or more on hand. They attach themselves to you, one on one, through the entire shopping experience. They demonstrate the bath bombs, encourage you to try any and every thing, and don't leave you to "just browse."

And yet I didn't really find this oppressive, like I often do with these kinds of sales strategies. Rather than being overly pushy, these women were excited and passionate -- giving you the impression that they'd volunteer their time working there, they love it so much. It's genius. And persuasive.

What soaps did I get? The one pictured above is Porridge, which has chunks of oatmeal to exfoliate. I also got a bar of Honey I Washed the Kids (which smells like honey, yum) and Bohemian, for the fresh lemon scent I can't resist.

I have a feeling I'm going to become good friends with Lush's website.

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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

243/365 Piles of receipts

I generated a lot of receipts over the course of four days in Chicago.

This view is slightly exaggerated because each is folded at least once, but it's still a lot for four days. It wasn't so much that I spent that much on shopping for clothes and accessories, but I picked up the tab for each meal. Four lunches and dinners for two people in four days adds up.

I normally eat the majority of my lunches and dinners at home (or in a packed lunch at work), so it's very unusual for me. After even a short trip like this, I'm ready to just open the refrigerator to find a meal.

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

242/365 Waving grasses

I spent the day after our return from Chicago utterly exhausted. I honestly felt as sluggish as if I'd been drugged, though I know it was just the relaxation of being home, after walking miles (and trekking through hours of shopping) in a relatively unfamiliar city for several days.

I could barely keep my eyes open, and I didn't venture outside for my photo of the day until close to sunset.

This is the top of some (now dried) ornamental grasses. They remind me a bit of the tassel of a corn stalk, but finer and more delicate. They flutter in the slightest of breezes, but the day was lovely and the breeze was calm -- meaning they held still enough for me to capture.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/250s, f/2.8 at ISO 100 at about 4:30 p.m.

241/365 Home from Chicago

This is the extent of the ultra-luxurious train station in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

Twelve plastic red chairs in a cube-like glass shelter.

Mom and I did a test run the weekend before our trip to figure out where the station was, what the potential parking situation looked like, etc. Parking is free (yay!), and consists of about a dozen reserved spaces just 20 yards from the station (another yay), across from the police station (security). No traffic to deal with whatsoever.

When you get out of your car, directions painted on the neighboring brick building point you to the above Amtrak station. The walk takes a grand total of about 20 seconds.

When we arrived (30 minutes early) for our departure, we didn't even have time to go inside the station itself, because we heard the approaching whistle of our train. The train stops right at the station, a conductor hops off, asks for your name, checks if you have tickets or need to buy one (you can buy it on the train itself), and then helps you board.

We boarded, found seats in the middle (no seat assignments), and the train took off again. This all happened in under five minutes.

The whole process felt very foreign, as though we were traveling in a time not only prior to 9/11 (with no security), but a time decades ago. It was incredibly simple and easy.

Considering the fact that it takes about four hours to drive to Chicago from here, which was the length of the train ride, in this case it's a superior mode of travel. Our round-trip tickets for two people totaled $86, we didn't have to worry about driving through downtown Chicago, and we didn't have to search -- or pay -- for parking. I may not want to travel by train on a longer trip across the States, but for a quick jaunt like this, I'd definitely do it again. 

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/4 at ISO 1600 at about 11:00 p.m.

Friday, November 27, 2009

240/365 A lovely walk around Chicago

One of the items on my must-see list in Chicago was the Cloud Gate sculpture at Millennium Park. This sculpture is a huge visual draw for tourists, and I see it online all the time as a fun photography subject.

It's very cool in person -- surprisingly simple but totally captivating and fun. You can walk all around it, underneath it, and right up to it. It looks like a giant, utterly smooth silver jelly bean. 

It reflects the city in thousands of different ways, depending on where you stand. Luckily, we got a beautiful, clear, cool day for this part of our trip. It wouldn't have been nearly as fun in the rain (though, admittedly, I think that would add an unexpected twist to the photos.

Because we were there on a Friday morning in late November, very few people were around. I'm sure this place is completely milling with people in the summer time.

Opposite the Cloud Gate is a very cool pavilion theater designed by Frank Gehry. I'm sure it's a great place to see concerts, when the sky is clear, the stars are out, and the air is warmer than the 50 degrees of our visit.

After walking around Millennium Park, we walked westward toward the Macy's on State Street, a flagship store whose floors of clothing and wares stretch into the double digits. On the walk there, we stumbled upon Mom's worst nightmare:

See the cars parked on the lower levels of this building? Each car's rear end was pointing outward, and I'd love to know why that is -- and how they do it. But Mom just about had a cow thinking of having to park so close to that edge.

We laughed for a long time.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s to 1/650s, f/4 and f/5.6 at ISO 100 between 10:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

239/365 A rainy day in Chicago

Oh, the lovely weather you find in Chicago.

Mom and I spent our second day in the city trying to stay dry. It dawned gray and miserable, steadily raining until the afternoon. And of course, the jacket I chose to take does not have a hood.

One big reason we wanted to venture to Chicago was for the multitude of shopping opportunities to be had. On that rainy Thursday, we focused on shopping up and down the Magnificent Mile, Michigan Avenue, all day. Luckily there are several shopping centers that have multiple stores in one location -- so it's reasonably easy to stay indoors.

We wandered through Water Tower Place (with Macy's), the 900 Shops Mall, which features Bloomingdales (scored an item off the shopping list!), and the Filene's Basement next door (a huge score on the shopping list).

I did not inherit a Marathon Shopper gene, so a trip focused on shopping is not something I care to do very often. My idea of the perfect shopping day involves a dedicated list of needed items, focused searching through stores, and calling it quits when the list is complete. And stores that involve digging through racks and displays admittedly make me cranky.

I had a focused list of needs -- and was very successful, thanks to Chicago -- but I was exhausted and tired of shopping by the end of this trip.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/50s, f/3.5 at ISO 1000 at about 6:00 p.m.

238/365 A trip to Chicago

For four days last week, Wednesday through Saturday, Mom and I took some time off and went to Chicago!

We traveled by train for the first time, so that alone was a bit of an adventure. The fares were fantastic -- $19 to Chicago, $24 home. Compared to $300 plane tickets, I'd say that's a good deal! Rather than boarding in Indianapolis, we chose Crawfordsville instead, which put us a little farther north. [Check back for an upcoming post about that train station.]

Traveling by Amtrak was a little like stepping back in time, especially to a time prior to 9/11. The most striking difference was the fact that we never once had to be screened by security. Amtrak recommends getting to the station 30 minutes before your train departs -- a big difference when you consider that most airlines recommend arriving at least two hours prior to your flight.

The trains were clean, the seats were larger than a plane's, and we had tons of leg room. I'd definitely travel that way again!

On our first afternoon in Chicago, we visited the Field Museum. My favorite exhibit was, hands down, Sue, the T Rex. The Museum had many other dinosaur skeletons on display, but a disappointing majority of them were casts of the original. Not real. It's just not as awe-inspiring when it's man-made material. Sue, on the other hand, was the real thing. Wow.

Also cool was a featured exhibit that focused on diamonds. When an exhibit has dedicated guards stationed throughout, you know the materials are real.

We were so exhausted at the end of our first night that we were in bed and asleep by 9:30 p.m.

Yep, we party hard. 

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/3.5 at ISO 1250

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

237/365 Vestiges of Halloween

Yes, I'm still working on my Halloween candy.

This isn't unusual for me. As a kid, more often than not, my candy ended up forgotten in a desk drawer before I finished it.

Chase used this to his advantage. He'd bide his time, waiting about two weeks for the moment when it appeared I'd lost interest, then swoop in and offer to take it off my hands. He earned a lot of free candy using that method. Smart.

It takes a while for one person to get through a bag of Tootsie Rolls when you eat them four at a time, one serving per day. But I'm almost there.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 500

236/365 Hanging on

I was surprised to look out the window last weekend and see a few petunias still holding on. They're not looking as great as they once did, but I admire their tenacity. I'm still trying to eke out the last bit of warmth from the air, too.

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 640 at about 5:00 p.m.

Monday, November 23, 2009

235/365 Sycamores

I love that though everything is dying right now in late-fall, the sycamore trees offer a little bit of interest in the dreary landscape.

Their white, peeling bark stands out against the blah, ordinary brown. They're most commonly found growing near water, so in this case, I drove to a nearby creek to find some. I'd imagine that if you were wandering lost in the woods searching for water, looking up and seeing this telltale tree would offer a good natural symbol.

I don't often find myself wandering in such a situation, but it's still interesting to be able to spot water by looking up instead of down.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 400 at about 5:00 p.m.

Friday, November 20, 2009

234/365 Swing dancing at Fountain Square

I may have found it.

I went out swing dancing with some friends last week at an open theater in Indianapolis, Fountain Square. The Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra was on hand to play live big-band music, and we danced until after 10:30.

It may be exactly what I've been looking for.

When it comes to dancing, I've never been one to be terribly interested in competing. I've done it, both in clogging and ballroom, but my heart really belongs to pure performance.

I love dancing on stage, whether it's with a team or a single partner. I'm in it to please an audience, not win a trophy.

But finding that kind of an outlet in central Indiana, for ballroom dancing or anything besides clogging, has been a real challenge. Opportunities exist for social dancing and mingling, but (with all due respect) most of the attendees at these events tend to be a little ... older than I.

Judging by the size of the crowd at Fountain Square last week, the dancers on the younger end of the spectrum seem to be flocking to swing dancing. I had a ball, and my friends seemed to as well. I'll definitely be going back.

This looks like it's worth investigating!

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000

Thursday, November 19, 2009

233/365 Available blank canvas

Time for a new self-portrait.

I vowed to practice this technique more this year, since I have a willing model with a schedule that fits mine quite well. And if you haven't noticed, this year is quickly approaching its end.

I find focusing correctly to be one of the biggest challenges in self-portraiture. Yes, I can put an inanimate object in the frame on which I can focus, then move it when I'm ready -- but depending on the setting, it's hard to get something at the right height and position to do so.

So it's a bit of a guessing game. Trial and error. Thank goodness for digital cameras.

For this one, I used a wall in my house, near the front door. That wall will eventually be adorned with a collage of photos and art, but for now, it's a smooth, blank backdrop. Fluorescent lights are casting a shadow on the wall, and I also used my hot-shoe flash bounced off the ceiling. And a tripod, of course.

Fun to do -- but I still have years of practicing to do.

Camera: Canon 40D with 430EX Speedlite, 1/50s, f/5.6 at ISO 500

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

232/365 Curly CFL

I've photographed incandescent light bulbs for this blog before, but this is my first of the compact fluorescent variety.

I like the ethereal, soft quality of how this is lit. Were it turned on, we know it would be a little different, but I like the way the light plays on it here.

To be honest, I try to be conscious of my energy consumption, buying more of these CFL bulbs instead of incandescent -- but I'm not impressed. I feel like they really begin to lose their luster quickly, beginning to fizzle and weaken very soon after I start using them.

At least with an incandescent, it burns brightly until the moment the filament pops. Its death is quick. CFLs die a slow death.

I just hope it improves in the next few years. I hate to see anything suffer.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

231/365 Fresh kiwi

My Farm Fresh Delivery bin this last time contained some wonderful kiwi. I never think of them as a fall/winter fruit, but I guess they are!

At least they're a fresh fruit in California at this time of year. And that makes me wonder about the kiwi I had in April of 2008: that's six months' difference. Where did that kiwi come from? FFD concentrates on providing local and U.S.-produced food, so I know this one came from the States. The standard grocery store isn't quite as conscious, so who knows where the April kiwi originated.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

230/365 One bizarre event

If there's one thing that drives me crazy, it's typos on public signs.

Typos in general are a pet peeve of mine, but when it's on a sign in public, it's ten times worse. And this one has not just one typo in three lines, but two! I think they meant "bazaar" instead of "bizarre" and "vendors" instead of "venders."

Otherwise, that looks like one odd community event.

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 at about 12:15 p.m.

Friday, November 13, 2009

229/365 Woolly worms running wild

I cringe to think of how many woolly worms I've run over with my car in the last few weeks. I see them crawling across the roads all over the place.

Did you know that woolly worms can predict the winter weather ahead? It's true! Legend has it that the amount of brown versus black coloring describes the upcoming season. More black, harsher winter. More brown, more mild.

Totally accurate, right?

So what does it mean when all the woolly worms I've seen in the last decade look exactly like this one?

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens, 1/500s, f/2.8 at ISO 100 at about 1:30 p.m.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

228/365 Another year older

When I get together with my girlfriends, there are more than enough cameras on hand to document the event.

On Saturday night I went into downtown Indianapolis to celebrate one of their birthdays. As November nights go, this one was gorgeous -- the high that day neared 70°F. I don't know if it was the unusual weather or a combination of events downtown, but the place was hopping.

We managed to get a table for seven in less than 30 minutes, which was completely unexpected. Just across the street, the wait for a group of that size at P.F. Chang's was more than two hours.

It's hard to believe that we'll next be celebrating the holidays together... boy, do I have a lot of shopping yet to do!

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

227/365 Clint Black in concert

In a very unusual move, I went to my second concert in one year last Friday: Clint Black at Clowes Memorial Hall!

While Keith Urban is one of my favorite country artists, Clint Black is one of Mom's. I like him a lot, too, so it didn't take much convincing at all to get me interested in getting tickets for this show.

I bought our tickets on the first day they went on sale, and as a former usher at this venue, I knew what seats to ask for. We ended up in the center of the 12th row -- close enough to see every expression on his face.

The acoustics in Clowes Hall are fine-tuned for operatic performances, so the sound quality is really excellent. He performed without an opening act, and we got to hear many of his number-one songs. What really amazed me was how talented a musician he is. Not only does he write his own music and play the guitar, but he's also amazing with a harmonica and proficient on drums.

Mom and I were both impressed and really enjoyed the concert.

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

226/365 Temptation distraction

I'm a little gum-obsessed lately. Extra Fruit Sensations gum, in particular.

You should see inside my desk drawer at work -- I have seven different flavors. Crazy, I know, but when I see a new flavor on the shelf at Target, I have to try it.

The best part is it keeps me from snacking at work. My office keeps pretzels and fruit snacks on hand for us all the time, which is nice, but having fruity, sugar-free is enough of a distraction to keep me away.

It's a bit like having Halloween candy sitting around. Proximity increases likelihood of consumption.

Oh, and my favorite flavors, if you're interested? Strawberry Banana and Sweet Watermelon. Excellent.

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

Monday, November 9, 2009

225/365 Open water and wind

Ah, Lake Michigan.

I don't often get to see expansive bodies of water (central Indiana tends to be landlocked), so just seeing the waters of the Great Lakes is a treat.

I drove up to southwestern Michigan last week with some colleagues for a meeting with a client. Their office is just about 100 yards from Lake Michigan. Luckily, it was a nice enough day that I was able to venture to the edge for a few quick photos before we headed home. (My traveling companions were very generous with their patience.)

The drive from Indianapolis to Michigan on I-65 offers an interesting sight as well: two expansive wind farms.

I'm a definite supporter of collecting energy in this way, and these farms along I-65 are the first I've seen in person. I find it very interesting, mesmerizing... and foreign. The turbines are massive and remind me of something I'd see in a science fiction movie, like Contact (with Jodie Foster).

Here's a photo that really illustrates their scale if you've never seen one before:

Each is bright white, supported on narrow posts, with three blades making up the turbine itself. What's most amazing about this particular farm is the sheer number of individual turbines -- they literally stretch for miles. Hundreds of them dot this landscape.

Indiana doesn't have the most favorable conditions for farms like this, which is part of the reason I've never actually seen one before. The first time we drove by this farm, very few of the turbines were spinning. On this day, all (or close to all) were in motion.

I'd call it a successful day -- good client meeting, and two new photo opportunities.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/500s, f/5.6 and f/8 at ISO 100 between 1:00 and 3:30 p.m.

224/365 Pop tabs

I've been collecting pop tabs for years, ever since the Ronald McDonald House started taking them for donations -- though the last time I actually saw a donation box was years ago.

Nevertheless, it feels completely wrong now to recycle a can with the tab still attached. I feel like I'm doing a disservice to the world or something.

So I collect the tabs, and hold on to the growing collection for years (it's been known to happen) until I find a teacher friend or school-age child who's collecting them at school. Then the cycle starts all over again.

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

223/365 Breaking in the old shoes again

It feels good to put these shoes on again.

They're ballroom dance shoes, and I haven't worn them in a few years. One of my goals for 2009 (otherwise known as New Year's resolutions) was to start dancing again. It's been much too long, and dancing has always been a big part of my life, since the days I started clogging in elementary school.

So something's been missing!

Last week, I took a beginner's swing dance class with two friends who've never danced before. I already knew the majority of what was taught, but I just focused on having fun, refreshing my memory, and getting the technique right. I had lots of fun, and I think they did as well.

I'm looking forward to what is next!

Camera: Canon 40D with 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 800

Friday, November 6, 2009

222/365 Fallen leaves

Most of the beautiful fall leaves have fallen now, so I turned my gaze to the ground instead of overhead -- just to catch the last bit of their glory.

I have to say, although the idea of living somewhere where the yearly average temperature hovers around 75°F sounds lovely, I think I would miss the change of seasons. I've heard from people who've lived elsewhere, in more static environments, remark that the change of seasons helps you feel the passage of time.

I'd never make it in Alaska.

Camera: Canon 40D with 430EX Speedlite fill, 1/125s, f/4.5 at ISO 640 at about 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

221/365 Happy Halloween!

I spent my Halloween a little differently than I originally planned (leaving me with a whole bag of Tootsie Rolls to myself and the neighborhood kids a little deprived), and I had a lot of fun.

Plus, I had an excuse to dress up. I rarely pass up those opportunities.

Instead of answering the door for Trick-or-Treaters at my own house, I dressed up and spent the evening with friends. A small group of us gathered, donned a costume, handed out candy, had dinner, and played Euchre.

I pulled out all my best 1980s garb, applied blue eyeshadow and frosty pink lipstick, and tried (and failed) to tease my bangs in curled '80s style. Apparently I don't possess teasing skills, because I just couldn't get it to work. I don't know how they did it. Instead, I ended up with silky, lovely curls at one of the only times in my life I will ever not want just that.

My costumed friends dressed in a Japanese kimono, silk dress from China (quite the multi-cultural couple!), and (not pictured) as Michael Phelps. The Phelps getup was truly creative, complete with a swim cap, American flag worn as a cape, "medals" around his neck (one of which was actually a compass on a ribbon), and, of course, a faux marijuana joint.

It was probably the best Halloween I've had in quite a while. I'm just shocked that it's now November.

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000 with flash

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

220/365 Candy corn

Yes, Halloween is over, but the remnants of candy are still hanging around.

One of my favorites, of which I get one bag each year, is candy corn. I also bought a bag of Tootsie Rolls this year for Trick-or-Treaters, but I ended up not being home, so I get the whole bag to myself.

I had to laugh when I saw bowls of candy mixes appear on tables all over the office at work on Monday. Most of the people with kids brought the overflow and tried to pawn it off on us.

Self-control, don't fail me now!

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/250s, f/4 at ISO 100 in mixed lighting

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

219/365 Glass candle holders

Years and years ago in those far-gone years of my childhood, I received a candle-making kit as a Christmas gift.

I think I made one candle, then the bulk of the supplies were relegated to a box in the basement for the rest of eternity.

The one part that did get used was the actual glass candle holders. They ended up scattered all over the house, used in various ways. Recently I remembered that I had these, so I embarked on a search and collected each one to use again.

I like the simplicity of the clear glass. It may not be fancy, but it goes with every possible style of decor.

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

Monday, November 2, 2009

218/365 A finishing touch

I finally have a shower curtain.

Not to worry, I haven't been going European (i.e. totally without). I've had a curtain liner up from the beginning, but Mom and I decided to make a custom curtain, and it took us a while to find the perfect fabric.

We found it, it's (pardon my girlie language) super cute, and we got it done this weekend. I love that the fabric (black on white) doesn't overwhelm my tiny bathroom with a big print and bold color. It adds just a subtle finishing touch.

Who knew you could get so excited about a shower curtain?

Camera: Canon 40D with 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/4.5 at ISO 400 in mixed lighting