Thursday, March 31, 2011

Last Evening in Florida

Our last night in Florida and we’re going out to eat at a Floridian Institution – Mel’s Diner - known for its food and reasonable prices. Let’s not forget retro styling, which I always appreciate.

Mel's Diner

Even at 5:30 on a Wednesday evening, we had to wait a little bit for a table to open up. The kids didn’t mind – the weather was gorgeous and they could goof off outside.
While We Wait
Afterwards, I realized that the sunset would be really nice and if I could convince the rest of them to head over to the beach, we could watch the sunset along the water. But alas, no one wanted to go with me! Instead, we pulled into a gas station as the sun was starting its descent.
Sunset at the Gas Station
I guess a sunset at the gas station is what I get to enjoy on our last evening in Florida.
Once we returned to my parent’s place, the kids wanted to take one last dip in the clubhouse pool. We allowed them to swim as we supervised (the pool closes at “dusk”, so we may have stretched that rule - depending upon your definition of “dusk”).
Like the moon coming up along the water. Too bad I'm at the pool and not the beach
Taken with my iPhone - I thought the street light looked like the moon coming up along the water.

As we finally left the pool, I took a picture of the final remnants of daylight over the pond.
Rookery Pond


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Florida - Family Pictures

Unfortunately, all family visits must come to an end, and life must go back to their normal rhythm.

We really enjoyed our relaxing vacation in Florida - my mother and father were great hosts!

And as usual, we must have our standard "group picture" - taken in the screened in lanai:
I should have positioned Scott differently - the palm looks like it is growing out of his head!

This one is a little better, although you can see the remote control in my father's hand (Brian held it in the last picture):
Family Take 2

Of course, we have the outtake:
Say Hi to the Camera

And the rejected background:
Rejected Background

A bonus - Erica let me take a picture of her:
With Curls
She spent a lot of time curling her hair and I thought it was so pretty.

And we have a wrap on Spring Break Family pictures


Sunday, March 27, 2011


We've done the parasailing thing before - the first time in 2006, when Erica (7 years old) went up for the first time and had a blast. That year, we even convinced my mother to parasail.

In 2008, a very nervous Brian (8 years old) parasailed for the first time and received high-fives from the flight crew as well as the others on the boat. That year, we convinced my father to parasail with us.

So it's a tradition for us to parasail when we visit Florida on spring break. We always go back to the same company - Ranalli Parasail, located at the Diamond Head Resort on Fort Myers Beach. They offer a 1200 foot ride (the longest / highest ride you can take on Fort Myers Beach) with a great flight crew. In the past, up to three people could take flight on their parasail rig, but now, they have the capability to fly up to six people at a time. This meant that our entire family could go up together.

It was another beautiful day in SW Florida - the air was warm, the breeze refreshing and little clouds dotted the sky. Our family got on the boat at 1pm with another couple and the boat jetted off to the middle of the ocean.

The crew guy who set us up in our harnesses was nice enough to take a picture of us:
Family Fun

The woman from the other couple saw my camera and also offered to take pictures - she has a Nikon D90, so she was familiar with the general operation of mine.

Blue Skies Above
I believe we used this blue and yellow chute in 2008. It's so pretty against the blue sky.

Here we are, ready to launch:
Ready to Launch

And we're flying!
Just a Dot in the Sky
It was really nice to be able to experience the flight as a family - we chatted about what we saw up in the air and when we were dipped into the water, had fun getting each other wet.

A Dip in the Ocean

Back on land, we enjoyed walking a bit along the beach. A lovely day.
Beach Scene

Take a Walk


Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Trip Down Memory Lane

The embedded slide show includes pictures from 1999 to 2003, film that I had developed at Seattle Film Works / PhotoWorks. I received an email from PhotoWorks this week that they were closing, that I had over 1000 pictures with them that they would transfer over to Shutterfly. I didn't realize the breadth of photos I had developed through PhotoWorks, and I am so glad they had all these archives of my film pictures. Pictures from before Brian's birth, all the way to 2003, just before I bought my first digital camera. I plan to have Shutterfly send me the archive DVD of the full resolution files so I can save them on my computer, load them up to my Flickr account, organize and tag them.

Click here to view these pictures larger

I didn't realize when I developed my film with Seattle FilmWorks/PhotoWorks they would provide these archives. Back then, it was very tempting to drop my film off with the Wal-Mart or whoever had the best deal. Being consistent will save me hours digitizing my archives.

Even in today's digital world, I think it is still important to be consistent with your photos. Delete the bad photos, organize the rest, back them up. Choose one photo printing company and print those photos out. I know I've been bad about the "printing the photos out" part, especially since I've been consistently blogging these past three years. I still plan to get my photos into photo books and the like. Receiving these old photos in electronic form has just emphasized that (and most of the photos already reside in scrapbooks).


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Farmer's Market and Wetland Preserve

Saturday morning - and it's Farmer's Market time.

But that's after a nice early morning run as the sun rises -
Morning Pines
It's perfect running weather - mid 50s when I start and mid 60s when I finish - this means shorts and a t-shirt, the first warm weather running of this year.

I go to the Farmer's Market with my parents - they eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. I picked out two mangoes (they were delicious) and a pair of sunglasses (I left mine in IL).

But most of all, I like looking at all the beautiful produce.
Japanese Eggplant

Today's family outing - the wetland preserve - a large wetland area, complete with lake and board walk that winds through the 2500 acre facility. It was a great way to enjoy the evening.

Down the Boardwalk

Crocodile Lake, where we saw a crocodile, sunning himself on dock:
Crocodile Lake

Scott points out the Croc to Erica:
There's a Croc Out There

I didn't capture it well at all (and hence deleted the picture), but on the left side of the lake, there's a grove of trees where hundreds of birds roost at night. In the evening, they fly back to the shelter of these trees. Next time I'll bring my zoom lens to capture this amazing sight.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Tradition - Mini Golf

Friday - March 18
It's our second day on spring break - the weather is perfect. I ran 4.5 miles in the cool of the morning, then relaxed around the pool, and did some reading (I'm reading The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother).

The kids slept in and played in the pool. We have one or two excursions planned, so our main activity will be relaxing.

Today's after dinner activity is a tradition for our family - Mini Golf at Castle Golf.

In the Stocks
I have at least two other pictures of the kids in these stocks - it's fun to see how they change over the years.

As we rounded the back nine, I noticed the moon rising in the sky. Tomorrow is the "super moon", but tonight's moon is really nice, so I snapped a couple pictures.
Moon Rising

As usual, Scott had the lowest score, then me, then Brian and lastly Erica.
Castle Golf
I don't think the kids really care about the scores - just that we had a good time.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Break Recap - Travel to Florida

I can't believe we've been back for a day and I think we want to go back to Florida, where the sun, warmth and ocean breeze soothes the soul. All in all, we enjoyed our relaxing visit with my parents in Fort Myers. We were blessed with perfect weather - and for mid-March, the weather, even in south western Florida can be fickle.

We started our trip Wednesday evening, driving to Indianapolis. With an early Thursday morning flight, I estimated we would have to leave at 2am, so we opted to stay in a hotel close to the airport instead.

Scenes From The Road
I like taking pictures while we drive. My iPhone makes it even more fun.

The kids were so tired, they didn't even go to hotel's pool. Or, maybe that's because we arrived so late and it was closed.

We still had to leave the hotel at 5:30am - that's really early [the equivalent of 4:30am Central Time, and when you factor in the new daylight savings time, our body clocks think it's 3:30am]. Our plane took off right at 7:00, still shrouded by the inky black of night. And I realized my inadvertent genius of selecting seats facing east - we would be treated by a sunrise while airborne.

The only problem - Erica had the window seat. At least I was in the middle, but she's not all that tolerant of her mom leaning over her with that big lens. Add in my camera's need to emit flashes of light while attempting to auto focus at the dark subject and let's just say she was complaining through clenched teeth. I was only permitted to take one exposure, and I opted to manually focus.

Early Morning Flight

The beauty in taking the first flight out to your destination - you can be at the pool by noon (or in our case, by 11am!).

By The Pool


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Belated Birthday / Anniversary for Rascal

I am such a bad Mom - I missed acknowledging Rascal's birthday / anniversary last Friday, March 11. I guess I was a little distracted with all the events of the day. But Rascal deserves better than a lame excuse like that, so tonight, she's getting a special treat - some yummy soft cat food.

Here's Rascal story, how she came to us 17 years ago. I know she may not be here with us next year (but I've been thinking this way for the last 3 years), after all, she's at least 17, maybe even 18 years old now. Scott theorizes she's just staying alive to spite the other cats.

Rascal found us 17 years ago on March 11 when we lived in West Virginia. I still remember that Friday evening I came home, tired after a long week at work. Dusk was falling and I walked out to the mailbox to retrieve the mail when I heard a “meow”, almost like a “hello”. Well, I “meowed” back. A small animal, hidden in the pine trees that lined our front yard, trotted towards me, meowing and meowing. I realized the cat must be a stray, and by “meowing” back I had “invited” the animal in.

We didn’t have any pets at the time, and didn’t want any pets, so I did what any normal person does – I ran inside the house, and turned up the TV, as to block out the constant “meowing” that had ensued outside our breezeway door. When Scott returned home later, the he fired off several questions upon entering the house - “What is that noise? Is there a cat somewhere around the house? Why is the TV turned up so loud?” I acknowledged that there was a stray cat sitting outside our door. Then I opened the door to take a peak at the animal and found this face staring back at me:

OK, not that exact face - she was much younger back then and her eyes very green, but you get the picture.

Wow, what’s there not to love? Of course, we took her in, I went out and bought all sorts of cat paraphernalia, and she cuddled right up on the couch, then onto our laps and into our hearts. I put some signs up in the neighborhood (Found: Grey Tabby Cat), but after the weekend realized she had found us.

The story doesn’t end here, because a couple weeks later, we noticed that our petite little cat was looking a little “porky” in the belly. Hmmm. Yup, she was pregnant. Case in point:


Several weeks later, she escaped down to the basement and gave birth to five little kittens, two which died, three which she cared for until we gave them away. We named the kittens Spanky, Alfalfa and Buckwheat (after the Little Rascals – OK, Scott is the one who named them). Buckwheat looked just like his mom – a brown tiger striped tabby. Spanky and Alfalfa were tiger striped, but a light grey.

Spanky and Alfafa's butt.

I was really sad when we gave away Buckwheat - he was my favorite. I ran into his new owner one afternoon at the park, who recognized me as "The Cat Lady" (not too many Asians in that small West Virginia town) - she carried on and on about how "Max" (Buckwheat's new name) was such a great cat. I was happy for Buckwheat and his new family.

So that's how Rascal became our "family starter kit" and my first "baby". She survived the move to Indiana, and the addition of our two children.

Kids and Rascal
Taken in 2001 with Erica and Brian.

Now she has to put up with two more cats, but she pretty much stays out of their way.


Happy 17th Birthday/Anniversary to our Rascal!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Girls and their Horses

Sounds like a bit of a country song, doesn't it?

These two worked together for 3+ years, and they were so happy to connect with Caesar and Cody at the new barn.

Girls and Their Horses

I took this yesterday (Sunday). We were at the barn again this evening, and Jordan brought her new saddle. Their teacher, Meg helped the girls put the saddle on Cody and then on Caesar. Both girls got to ride their own horses. They were very happy.

A week into horse ownership and so far, so good.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Club Night - The Pioneer Woman's Book

Friday was a busy day! In addition to Scott being out of town, Brian's Rube Goldberg competition, Erica's horse riding lesson, visiting Caesar the horse, it was Book Club night!

This month's book - The Pioneer Woman's (Ree Drummond) Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. It is a light, amusing and easy read (and I read a lot of it on-line at The Pioneer Woman's Blog). Some might call it "fluffy", but I think most of us enjoyed it in one fashion or another. Heather may have been its biggest critic, but she didn't read the book!

I'm a big fan of Ree and her blog, from her funny relating of life on a cattle ranch to her easy, tasty recipes and the beautiful photography [the fact she shoots with Nikon gear seals the deal]. After this book, I know my friend, Kellie, is a new fan.

Host Janice is already a fan (she suggested the book) so for tonight's goodies, she prepared recipes from the Pioneer Woman's Cookbook (using Real Butter):
Book Night Fare
Pictured above - Potato skins

Also served - Hot Artichoke Dip, Mango Salsa and to top things off - Sweet Rolls!

Janice totally rocks!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Rube Goldberg Regional Competition

Brian's class competed today at the Rube Goldberg Regional Competition. Two weeks ago, they took the top prize at the Local competition and today they competed against seven other 5th grade groups.

The event was held in conjunction with the U of I Engineering Open House and the High School Rube Goldberg Competition, so there were plenty of other Rube machines to view. The High School competition allows electricity, with a larger machine footprint (I'm guessing 6' x 6' x 6') and up to 100 steps. Many of the High School entries were very extensive - motorized cars, fans, ramps, elevators and rockets, just to name a few of the elements.

For example, this team's theme of the North Pole:
The North Pole

Arriving early enabled us to watch many of the HS teams assemble their machines - like the above North Pole Team:
Construction Time

And watch many of the teams' preliminary runs through these complex machines - like this Disney-themed machine which incorporated scenes from Peter Pan (Big Ben), Cinderella (the castle), Beauty and the Beast (the flower), The Lion King, just to name a few.

Disney World Rube

I can't imagine how many hours were spent designing and building these contraptions!

And here's another look at our 5th grade machine, a birds eye view -
Birds Eye View - Part 2

While I wish our team won this Regional competition, sadly, we did not. The judges only award a first place, so the rest of the teams all "came in 2nd place". I do know that our kids presented their machine well and it worked during the judging process. The kids did their very best and we are so proud of them!

The Knights


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Taking Ownership

Sunday was the big day - we officially became horse owners.

All I can say is thank goodness Erica knows what she is doing, because the rest of us really have no idea what we've gotten ourselves into.

We board Caesar at a barn a mile away from his previous owners' location, and the previous owners have been so helpful and will continue to work with us and Caesar.

We're getting Caesar ready -
We watched Bonnie administer de-worming paste and we're glad we didn't have to!

Eyeing Me

Caesar received a haircut - his mane is really scraggly and looks better completely shaved off. Once that was done, he was ready to be transported:
Girl and Her Horse

Bonnie and Matt loaded him up in their trailer and drove the short mile to the new stable. Caesar took a walk around the new arena, his new stall and he settled right in.

The next day, we went over to visit:
A Little Sniff

Caesar seems happy and so does Erica.
New Family Member


Monday, March 07, 2011

Scenes from Home, Road and a Last Blast of Winter

On Friday, Brian attended George's birthday party. The rest of us enjoyed a quiet evening at home. Scott has been re-arranging the garage - he wants to park the convertible in the single bay, thinking it won't get it's new paint job "dinged". So this is what the double bay looks like now:
New Configuration
I actually like this configuration - I simply back out straight out the garage and driveway - no turning, no driving on the grass by accident. I didn't take a picture of the single bay because it is a complete mess right now. But I know Scott will get it organized by the time Cappy gets back.

Saturday morning - I went for a run in the light misty rain. I can handle the rain and the cool temperatures, but the wind from the north was a killer. I felt like one of those birds trying to fly into the wind, getting no where fast. I guess it makes you stronger.....

That was early in the morning, because we had to be close to campus by 10:30 to catch the last home basketball game of the season. The Illini blew out the Hoosiers!

After the game, I took Erica to the Farm and Fleet. Yup, it's a Farm store and so much more! We bought horse supplies - a harness, lead rope, lunge line, some brushes, a crop and a whip. Oh, and some horse treats.

Saturday night - I took Erica and her friends to the movies. They saw Beastly and the Justin Bieber movie. Erica definitely has a crush on the Biebster (it's kind of cute because she's not the teeny-bopper type).

Here's the road coming home from the movies -
Lighting the Way

And a little later, we have THIS -
Back to December?

The snow remained on the ground until Sunday afternoon. Then it melted away. I hope that is it for this season.....


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The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code. and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) prohibits the use of digital property to be used without the consent of its owner.

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